Port of Cleveland christens 2017 tourism season with arrival of cruise ship


While the Port of Cleveland is well known as the fastest route between the Midwest and Northern Europe — bringing 13 million tons of cargo anually through the Cleveland Harbor, which translates into $3.5 billion in annual economic activity and more than 20,000 jobs — last week marked the arrival of a large cruise ship to Cleveland.

Victory Cruise Lines’ Victory 1 docked at the Port last Tuesday, June 20 as part of its Great Lakes Grand Discovery tour. The stop was the first of at least eight visits this cruising season, says Jade Davis, vice president of external affairs for the Port of Cleveland.

“There are a few different cruise lines that cruise the Great Lakes,” says Davis, adding that smaller cruise lines, like Blount, usually dock in the Flats. “Victory has some of the biggest [Great Lakes] ships. The Victory 1 rises five to six stories above ground, and probably goes just as deep below the water, displacing a lot of water.”

The Victory 1 accommodates 202 passengers with a crew of 84. The Grand Discovery tour embarks from Toronto and stops in Niagara Falls, Cleveland, Detroit, Mackinac Island and Sault Ste. Marie, MI before disembarking in Chicago on a 10-day tour.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection assisted with the cruise passengers, since the ship was coming from Canada.

Davis says Great Lakes cruising has become more popular in recent years, a trend that is similar to the days before interstates and affordable air travel.

"It’s a big trend we saw developing on the Great Lakes,” Davis says. “This isn’t the first time. Steamship cruising was once popular. We and Destination Cleveland reached out to several cruise lines and it worked out really well.”

Passengers visited some of Cleveland’s highlights, including the Rock Hall, the West Side Market, University Circle and the museums and Little Italy, as well as a slew of restaurants. “Lolly the Trolley picked passengers up and whisked them around town,” says Davis.

Davis says he met one couple from Montreal who came up to him and Port of Cleveland president and CEO Will Friedman, quite pleased with the Cleveland stop. “They said they didn’t know why the ship was stopping in Cleveland, but they said they really liked Cleveland,” he recalls. “For a lot of people, it was their first time coming to Cleveland.”

Davis says a few other cruise lines have recently reached out to the Port about making Cleveland a stop, and they are ready to greet additional ships.

“We can have even bigger ships come,” Davis says. “We’re glad to have Victory here in Cleveland, and we’re going to accommodate them. We’re going to everything we can to [bring more cruise lines]. If it means leveling off the docks, we’ll do that. As the industry grows, I see us making more capital improvements to prepare for more and more people.”

Port officials predict that the addition of the Victory 1 stop in Cleveland will bring thousands of visitors to the city this season, giving the local economy a good economic boost.

“It’s going to interesting to see how it grows,” says Davis.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.