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Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive?

There are all sorts of cruises, including ocean cruises, river cruises, and expedition cruises. Another type of cruise that is very popular is a Great Lakes cruise in the United States

This fun cruise type is offered by multiple cruise lines. It seems to cost more than other types of cruises, leading many people to wonder, why are Great Lakes cruises so expensive? In this article we will give you the answer to that question and tell you more about Great Lakes cruises.

What Is a Great Lakes Cruise?

A Great Lakes cruise takes you on a tour of some of the biggest and best lakes in all of North America: the Great Lakes. The largest group of freshwater lakes in the world, the five Great Lakes are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. They are all near or on the border between the U.S. and Canada.

With stunning scenery, luxurious quarters, and wonderful destination stops along the way, a Great Lakes Cruise is truly one of a kind. Itineraries often include stops in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Toronto, just to name a few. But while cruises on the Great Lakes are unique and exciting, they come at quite a hefty price.

How Much Do Great Lakes Cruises Cost?

Great Lakes cruises vary in price, but the typical starting cost is around $5,000 per person for an itinerary between 7 and 10 nights. The actual cost can vary depending on stateroom choice. Staterooms on higher decks have better views and therefore cost more, as do suites.

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive?

There are quite a few reasons why Great Lakes cruises are so expensive. Let’s take a look at them and see how they add up.

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive? No Interior Staterooms

The reason that many ocean cruises seem quite cheap at first glance is that they will  list the price as that of an interior room. If you want a room with a view or a balcony (which, let’s face it, most people do–you’re on a cruise!), then the cost can be much higher.

On Great Lakes cruise ships, there are no interior staterooms, so prices start at those rooms with a view. If you compare the cost of exterior rooms on ocean cruise ships with the starting cost of a Great Lakes cruise, you’ll find that the price difference is actually not that drastic.

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive? It’s a Short Season

While river and ocean cruises sail year round, Great Lakes cruises are more limited in terms of when they can sail.

This is because the St. Lawrence Seaway, a system of canals, channels, and locks that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, only opens between late March and early December. To take advantage of the best weather during this season, most Great Lakes cruises sail between May and September only.

This limit on dates makes this cruise type more exclusive, creating a higher demand and therefore increasing the prices. As these summertime cruises often sell out, companies can essentially increase their prices as much as they like and people will still pay.

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive? Ships Are Luxurious

When it comes to ocean cruises, the amenities and atmosphere of the ships can vary widely. Some are more of a lower budget vacation experience, while others are created for luxury cruising.

Great Lakes ships are tailored more to luxury cruising. With great amenities, bespoke interiors, and top-notch service onboard, these ships provide a 5-star cruise experience. In this case you definitely get what you pay for. Great Lakes cruises can be so expensive because of the high quality and service they provide.

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive? Ships Are Small

Unlike ocean cruise ships, which can truly be huge, Great Lake ships are designed to be small so they can comfortably navigate the lakes and interconnecting waterways. To meet the requirements of this, ships cannot be any longer than 740 feet (225.5 meters) or wider than 78 feet (23.7 meters).

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

Operating costs such as fuel, staff wages, supplies, etc, all need to be covered. This means that these costs are being spread between fewer people, and the companies still need to make a profit. 

This combined with the short season during which these cruises operate creates a higher demand, increasing the cost.

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive? They Don’t Have Much Competition.

When it comes to ocean cruises, you’re typically spoiled for choice. There are plenty of companies, each with a wide range of ships and itineraries. This creates a very competitive atmosphere, leading cruise operators to keep costs low so more customers will book with them.

When it comes to Great Lakes cruises, however, that isn’t the case. Since only a handful of operators run them, they don’t have as much competition. This means that costs can remain quite high.

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive? They Come With Extras

Great Lakes cruises often include more than the typical ocean cruise rates. On a Great Lakes cruise, your fare will include gratuities and WiFi, and often drinks packages

That said, if you’re booking a Great Lakes cruise, be sure to double-check what’s included so you can manage your budget onboard.

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive? They Have an Older Demographic

Great Lakes cruises tend to be quite popular among retirees, who have money to spend and don’t mind a higher price for the experience. Because there are plenty of people willing to pay more, these cruises don’t need to lower their prices.

How to Get a Great Lakes Cruise Cheaper?

If a Great Lakes cruise is something you’ve always dreamed of but is a little out of your budget, worry not! Here are some tips that may help you get a good deal on a Great Lakes cruise.

How to Get a Great Lakes Cruise Cheaper? Use a Good Travel Agent

A cruise travel agent often has access to discounts and deals that aren’t available to the general public.

It’s a common misconception that for the best rates you need to book directly with the cruise line. In reality, cruise lines often outsource the booking process to travel agents and give them excellent rates to offer customers. 

How to Get a Great Lakes Cruise Cheaper? Keep an Eye Out for Deals

If you’re able to catch a last-minute deal, you could be in luck! If you’re in a position to be able to travel at short notice, keep an eye out for unsold cabins being reduced to cheaper costs, or sign up for notification emails from travel agents to find offers that might pop up.

How to Get a Great Lakes Cruise Cheaper? Be Flexible With Your Dates

If you can be flexible with the dates you’re looking to travel, then it’s possible to save a bit of money on a Great Lakes cruise.

Traveling a little out-of-season may mean that the weather isn’t quite as pleasant, but if this doesn’t bother you, it may be a great way of grabbing the holiday of a lifetime at a more reasonable price.

How to Get a Great Lakes Cruise Cheaper? Book a Room on a Lower Deck

Although most staterooms on a Great Lakes cruise have the same design, they’re actually not all equal. Cabins on higher decks typically offer better views and therefore come at a higher price. To get a cheaper room, you’ll want to book a stateroom with an ocean view on the lower deck.

It’s also a good idea to aim for a room at the center of the ship. These are often cheaper as they’re subject to more noise disturbance (though this isn’t a huge issue on Great Lakes cruises due to the style of the cruise and demographic onboard the ship). 

We hope this article has helped you understand why Great Lakes cruises are so expensive. If you need help booking one (or any other type of romantic getaway), head to our travel planning page where you can find a trusted travel advisor to assist in planning your dream vacation.
If you’ve decided you’d rather go on another type of cruise, we have lots of articles that can help you pick one. Check out Viking vs. Oceania, Uniworld vs Viking, Viking vs Amawaterways, Uniworld vs Avalon, Uniworld vs. Tauck, Royal Caribbean vs MSC Cruises, Norwegian vs Celebrity,  Norwegian vs Princess, Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean, and Royal Caribbean vs. Celebrity. Or, speak to one of our cruise travel specialists!