The mighty Great Lakes have played a vital role in the history and cultural fabric of North America for centuries... explore their storied waters... and unique cities and towns... that have grown along their shores...
Enjoy a 7-night Great Lakes cruise between Chicago and Toronto aboard the beautiful yacht Le Champlain, plus two-night stays at your choice of premium hotels in these two great anchor cities. You'll sail through Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and Michigan, calling on destinations including Detroit, Mackinac Island, Traverse City and more. Explore urban planning and revitalization in a re-emerging Detroit; celebrate American invention and ingenuity at The Henry Ford in Dearborn; visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; enjoy lunch at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel; ride a dune buggy along the Lake Michigan shore; sample Holland, Michigan's Dutch heritage, tulips and beer culture; experience an architectural cruise, a taste of Chicago in America's "Second City," and much more!
Tour begins: 6:00 PM, Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park or Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. A transfer is included from Chicago O'Hare Airport to your choice of two luxury hotels in the heart of downtown: Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park or Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. Settle in and join us tonight at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park for a welcome reception followed by dinner.
Art Institute or Millennium Park
You have a choice of two sightseeing tours this morning. Visit the celebrated Chicago Art Institute, a palatial Beaux Arts-style building on Michigan Avenue that houses more than 300,000 works of art and an architectural school that has had a profound influence on design in America; the landmark building debuted as part of the Chicago World Exposition in 1893, and a local guide will introduce you to its iconic features and extraordinary history. Alternatively, take a walking tour of Millennium Park (at a leisurely or active pace... you choose), inside the Loop, the central business district; built to welcome the 21st century, the park has become the city's centerpiece with imaginative features like the bandshell Pritzker Pavilion, the Cloud Gate, a reflective sculpture, the Crown Fountain, an interactive video sculpture, and the Lurie Garden atop the world's largest green roof. Spend the rest of the day exploring Chicago on your own. Dinner tonight will be at your hotel.
Architectural cruise & embark ship
In 1871 the Great Chicago Fire burned a swath through the city center, erasing thousands of buildings and leaving more than 100,000 people homeless. But the catastrophe left space for new generations of architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and Mies van der Rohe to fire up their creativity, fueled by the city's fabulous industrial wealth. Get a dazzling, informative look at their legacy today on an architectural sightseeing cruise along the Chicago River, with a docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Learn about Chicago's role in the development of skyscrapers, as you absorb the eclectic styles and histories of its landmark buildings, like the Tribune Tower, the Willis Tower, and the Wrigley Building, and the stories of the architects who built them. Get a taste of the city's famous stuffed, deep-dish pizza at legendary Giordano's Pizzeria. Embark Le Champlain and begin your 7-night cruise as you sail for Muskegon, Michigan.
Dutch treats in Michigan
Head out from Muskegon with your choice of activities. Discover Holland, an enclave of Dutch culture, complete with dikes, canals, tulip gardens, and Dutch architecture, settled by Dutch immigrants in the 19th century. Its array of downtown shops even includes a wooden shoe factory. Visit Windmill Island Gardens, which feature a working 250-year-old windmill brought from the Netherlands; the historical district, and the scenic Hope College campus, established in 1851 by the Dutch Calvinists who built the town; Holland is on the National Register of Historic Places. Or travel to nearby Saugatuck to experience the giant sand dunes that line the shores of Lake Michigan; dunes as high as 200 feet rise along an area of woods and beachfront on privately owned land, where you can ride through the scenic, wind-carved landscape in a modified Jeep vehicle on a fast-paced, exciting ride with an experienced guide*, and learn about its natural history and ecology. Return to the ship and sail for Traverse City on the shore of Lake Michigan's Great Traverse Bay.
Wine & music in Traverse City
Today you have the opportunity to choose from two unique shore excursions as we arrive into Traverse City. Join us at the Music House Museum, a treasure-house of working, antique automated music machines. Among the collection, you'll find calliopes, nickelodeons, player pianos, a 1922 Amarylis (dance organ), a 1924 Wurlitzer theatre organ, air-powered music machines, music boxes, and a reproducing piano used by Rachmaninoff and George Gershwin (though probably not at the same time). There are also recreations of a saloon, a lyric theatre, and a general store on the premises. Alternatively, you may choose to, head north to explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where miles of beaches and forest are dominated by immense sand dunes draped over the headlands, rising 400 feet above the waters of Lake Michigan in an awe-inspiring seascape. Following lunch, pay a visit to Brengman Brothers' Vineyards for a tour and tasting. The area around Traverse City is one of Michigan's primary wine-producing regions, where the sandy soil and lake climate are ideal for the Brengman Vineyards' estate grapes such as Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, Pinot Gris, Chardonnays, and Pinot Noirs; tour the cellars, sample their award-winning wines, and learn about the brothers' sustainable, organic methods of viticulture, which include sheep for weed control and guinea hens for insect control. Tonight sail for Mackinac Island, at the straits where Lake Michigan joins Lake Huron.
Timeless Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island has been a popular retreat since the 19th century when wealthy industrialists built imposing summer cottages here. The island restricts the use of motor vehicles; except in emergencies, the only way to get around is by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage. It also maintains its period look so well that it feels like a small town serenely lost in time. Take your choice of a carriage ride or a bicycle tour around the island, past impeccable Victorian mansions, the picture-postcard main street of quaint shops and confectioners, out to the fringes of forest, marshes and beaches, and Fort Mackinac, a 19th century military outpost. Lunch is at the palatial Grand Hotel that boasts the longest porch in the world (660 feet); since 1887, the hotel has entertained presidents and their wives; Mark Twain was a frequent guest, as was Thomas Edison... who gave the first demonstration of his phonograph on the porch. Don't leave without sampling the Mackinac Fudge!
A day on Lake Huron
Spend the day sailing Lake Huron down the scenic east coast of Michigan toward Detroit. The eastern shore is called the Sunrise Coast, a long parade of beaches, sand dunes, inlets, small towns, and as many as 30 lighthouses. The vast freshwater lake also encompasses 30,000 islands. Enjoy the amenities aboard ship, which include an infinity pool with counter-current swimming system and transparent wall, fitness center, spa, sun deck, and panoramic lounge.
Detroit sights & The Henry Ford
In and around Detroit you have a choice of activities. Get a guided tour of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village – a.k.a. The Henry Ford – in Dearborn... an amazing, award-winning, state-of-the-art museum with interactive exhibits dedicated to innovation, not just in machines, but in trailblazers who shaped the world we live in. In 9 acres of exhibition space you can step aboard the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat; make yourself at home in Buckminster Fuller's autonomous Dymaxion House; discover the science behind Pixar animation and motors that moved the nation; see the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop; Thomas Edison's laboratory, Igor Sikorsky's prototype helicopter, the house Henry Ford was born in, and the courthouse where Lincoln practiced law. Attached to the complex is Greenfield Village, a living museum with costumed interpreters, historic structures, and working steam locomotives. Alternatively, take a guided sightseeing tour of Detroit's famous landmarks, including the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant that produced the first Model T; the Motown Museum, a pair of modest houses where the record company was born in 1959; the Detroit Institute of the Arts; the Renaissance Center; and the award-winning Campus Martius Park, "crossroads of downtown Detroit." Return to the ship for lunch; tonight, sail for Toronto.
Sailing on the Welland Canal
Sail Lake Erie to Port Colborn, then enter the Welland Canal, which links Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The 27-mile canal is a marvel of engineering which allows ships to bypass the Niagara River and Niagara Falls. Through a series of eight locks, your ship rises to a level high enough to cross over the Niagara Escarpment, sometimes called the Backbone of North America, a passage that takes about 11 hours. An onboard lecture on the canal and its history will be provided by expert Howard Shuster. After passing through the cities of Welland, Thorold, and St. Catherines, the ship emerges into Lake Ontario at Port Weller.
Disembark in Toronto & Niagara Falls
Disembark in Toronto, then drive to Niagara Falls, where you'll see the awesome power of the falls up close aboard a private boat (raingear provided). The falls on the border between the US and Canada – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls – pour 6 million cubic feet of water over their crests every minute, cascading down 170 feet and churning clouds of mist with a roar that can be heard for miles, a stirring experience you'll never forget. Then a tour, tasting, and lunch await you in Niagara on the Lake at Chateau des Charmes winery, surrounded by rose gardens. Chateau des Charmes has won awards for its artisan wines, set in a region fast becoming known as an international wine destination. Return to Toronto and check in to your choice of downtown hotels, Fairmont Royal York or the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, and the evening is yours. The city is hip, vibrant, and some of its best restaurants and nightlife are close by.
Take your choice of sightseeing excursions in Ontario's remarkable capital today. A visit to the Royal Ontario Museum offers you the world under one roof, with 40 galleries and a collection of 6 million artifacts of art, culture, and natural history, from dinosaur fossils to African art, Egyptian treasures, South Asian culture, meteorites, giant totem poles, and Canadian history. Or visit the Ontario Art Gallery, housing 90,000 works of art from the first century to the present, including major works by Rodin, Picasso, Goya, Tintoretto, Degas, Rothko, and many more; not limited to paintings and sculpture, its collection includes historic objects, architecture, ship models, medieval illuminations, and video art. Enjoy free time to explore Toronto on your own then join us this evening for a farewell reception followed by dinner at Casa Loma, a castle with Gothic towers and five acres of gardens in the city center, built in 1911 as a fabulous, ostentatious residence for a wealthy financier.
Tour ends: Toronto, Canada. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the Fairmont Royal York or the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto to Toronto Pearson International Airport. Allow three hours for check-in.