May 31, 2023 0 Comments Boating, Destinations

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive to go on?

The Great Lakes, a group of five very large interconnected freshwater lakes in North America, offer stunning natural beauty, rich history, and cultural experiences. Cruising the Great Lakes has become an increasingly popular vacation choice for those seeking a unique and unforgettable travel adventure. The Great lakes consist of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Ontario.

However, many travelers are surprised by the high cost of these great lakes cruises cost compared to other vacation options. In this comprehensive analysis, we will explore why Great Lakes cruises are so expensive and examine whether they are worth the expense. So why are great lakes cruises so expensive to go on? Read on and we will dig in a bit deeper to show you why.

Great Lakes cruise ship

1. Limited Availability of Cruise Ships

One of the main reasons why Great Lakes cruises are expensive is the limited availability of cruise ships designed to navigate the region. Unlike other popular cruise destinations worldwide, only a handful of ships are equipped to handle the unique challenges of the Great Lakes and there is also a shorter great lakes cruise season as if you’re wondering, do the Great Lakes freeze? They certainly do most years.

Short Cruising Season

Most cruise lines only offer Great Lakes cruises from May to October when the weather is mild and the lakes and water is navigable. Each great lake is different as well.

This means that cruise ships can only operate for a few months each year, limiting the number of cruises that can be offered and increasing the demand for available cabins.

Size Restrictions

Great Lakes cruise ships are generally smaller than ocean-going vessels due to the size restrictions imposed by the St. Lawrence Seaway, a system of canals, channels, and locks that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Ships must be no longer than 740 feet (225.5 meters) or wider than 78 feet (23.7 meters) to navigate the seaway.

This size restriction limits the number of passengers the ship can hold, with the maximum usually being around 400 individuals.

Fewer passengers on a ship mean higher costs due to the economy of scale, as fixed costs such as fuel, staff wages, and supplies must be spread between fewer people.

2. High Demand for Great Lakes Cruises

Great Lakes cruises are highly sought-after by travelers worldwide, and the high demand for these cruises is a key factor contributing to their high cost. Unique experiences and limited availability create a situation where demand for Great Lakes cruises far exceeds supply.

This drives up the price of these cruises, as cruise lines can charge a premium for a product in high demand.

3. Navigating the Great Lakes: Challenges and Costs

Navigating the Great Lakes can be challenging and costly for cruise operators, which is another reason why Great Lakes cruises are so expensive.

Some of the challenges that cruise operators face when navigating the region include:

Shallow Waters and Narrow Channels

The Great Lakes have many shallow areas and narrow channels that can be difficult to navigate, particularly for large cruise ships.

Cruise operators must invest in specialized equipment and technology to ensure their ships can navigate safely in these shallow waters.

Unpredictable Weather

The weather on the Great Lakes can be unpredictable, with sudden storms and high winds that can make navigation difficult and dangerous.

Cruise operators must have plans to deal with adverse weather conditions and invest in safety equipment and procedures to ensure the safety of their passengers and crew.

Regulations and Inspections

The Great Lakes are subject to strict regulations and inspections by government agencies, which can add to the cost of operating a cruise ship in the region. Cruise line operators must invest in compliance measures and inspections to ensure they operate safely and within the law.

4. High-Quality Ships and Services

Great Lakes cruise ships are typically more luxurious than their ocean-going counterparts. They are well-appointed and designed for a premium cruise experience.

High-quality amenities, excellent dining options, and personalized service all contribute to the high cost of these cruises.

No Interior Staterooms

Unlike many ocean cruises, which offer cheaper interior staterooms with no view, Great Lakes cruise ships typically only have exterior staterooms with a view.

This means the starting price per person cost for a Great Lakes cruise is higher compared to ocean cruises.

Higher Crew-to-Passenger Ratio

The smaller size of Great Lakes cruise ships results in a higher crew-to-passenger ratio, ensuring better service and a more personalized experience.

A higher ratio of crew to passengers means that cruise lines can justify charging more for a premium experience.

5. Short and Limited Cruise Season

The St. Lawrence Seaway, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, is only open between late March and early December each year. Most Great Lakes cruises operate between May and September, during the warmer months.

The limited cruise season contributes to the higher cost of these cruises, as there are fewer dates to choose from, creating higher demand and allowing cruise lines to charge more.

6. Less Competition among Cruise Lines

The limited number of cruise ships that can navigate the Great Lakes means there is less competition among cruise lines.

With fewer rival cruise lines operating in the region, companies do not need to be as competitive with their pricing models, resulting in higher prices.

7. Inclusions in Cruise Fares

Great Lakes cruise fares are often more inclusive than typical ocean cruise rates. Many Great Lakes cruises include gratuities, WiFi, and even drinks packages in the fare.

Such inclusions make the overall vacation experience more cost-effective, even if the initial price is higher compared to ocean cruises.

8. Demographic and Market Factors

Great Lakes cruises tend to attract an older, wealthier demographic. Retirees and well-off travelers are often willing to pay a higher price for a unique and luxurious experience.

The targeted market segment contributes to the higher cost of these various lakes cruises, as cruise lines cater to the preferences and expectations of this clientele. Great lakes cruise ships are also a different market completely than ocean cruise ships.

9. Tips to Save Money on Great Lakes Cruises

Despite the high cost of Great Lakes cruises, there are ways to make them more affordable:

  • Be flexible with your dates: Traveling during the shoulder season (April, May, or October) can result in lower prices and fewer crowds.
  • Book a room on a lower deck: Cheaper staterooms are available on lower decks with less impressive views.
  • Use a travel agent: Travel agents can often find better deals and packages than booking directly with the cruise line.
  • Look for deals and discounts: Last-minute deals and early booking discounts can help you save money on your Great Lakes cruise.

10. Is a Great Lakes Cruise Worth It?

The value of a Great Lakes cruise ultimately depends on your individual preferences and priorities as a traveler. The unique and luxurious vacation experience, stunning scenery, iconic cities, and cultural exploration offered by these great lakes cruises, can be well worth the expense for some. However, travelers on a tighter budget may find better value in other vacation options.

While you might still wonder why are great lakes cruises so expensive to go on rather than other types of vacations, the opportunity to explore the region’s many lakes offer breathtaking beauty and rich culture is often considered a once-in-a-lifetime experience that justifies the cost. Careful research and planning can help you find the best deals and make this unforgettable adventure more affordable.