It’s Been a ‘Banner Year’ for Great Lakes Cruises

This season brought more than 13,600 cruisers to Milwaukee.

Wednesday marked the final Milwaukee visit from a Great Lakes passenger cruise vessel this season.

The 400-person Hamburg’s departure ends a season that saw 33 port calls by various cruise ships that brought more than 13,600 passengers to Milwaukee. This compares with the 10 stops made during the 2019 season, before Great Lakes cruising halted for two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can confidently say that it has been a banner year,” Port Milwaukee Director Adam Tindall-Schlicht said. “Milwaukee has become the turnaround port of choice for international cruise lines operating in the Great Lakes and that is something to celebrate.”

In 2018, fewer than 1,000 passengers traveled on cruise ships through the Great Lakes to Milwaukee, Tindall-Schlicht noted.

Port staff also handled 16,000 items of luggage tied to the cruise ships that visited Milwaukee, he said.

The Hamburg was among eight cruise ships that designated Milwaukee as a port-of-call this year. The ship is operated by Plantours, a Bremen, Germany-based cruise company and boasts a rich history, visiting Milwaukee Harbor across many years, Tindall-Schlicht said.

Photo by Rich Rovito

“As all of us know, Milwaukee is a great destination that’s filled with attractions and hospitality and that’s what cruise ship passengers have found here in 2022 and what they will find in Milwaukee in the years to come,” Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said. “People from around the globe are clearly taking notice of Milwaukee and the growing passenger numbers speak for themselves.”

Johnson proposed in his 2022-23 executive budget a financing package for the redevelopment of the South Shore cruise dock, an investment he said is critical to growing Milwaukee’s recreation and tourism market and accommodating additional cruise ship traffic.

“While the passenger count is growing, the cruise ships coming to Milwaukee are getting bigger and bigger, too, and that’s a great thing,” Johnson said.

Cruise passengers generated an economic impact of about $3.1 million for Milwaukee, Visit Milwaukee President and CEO Peggy Williams-Smith said.

“Once the vessels docked, the cruisers got to experience some of the best experiences and tours that Milwaukee has to offer,” she said. “That is where it creates true economic impact in our city.”

Several efforts are ongoing to promote the passenger cruise business in Milwaukee and throughout the Great Lakes. Port Milwaukee is the founder of the Milwaukee Cruise Collaborative, a local group promoting the city as a cruise destination. The collaborative, which includes a cross section of the local hospitality industry, has planned, promoted and prepared for increased Great Lakes cruising passengers.

The Port is also a participant in the Cruise the Great Lakes initiative of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers. The Port recently signed onto a Cruise the Great Lakes pledge committing to promoting environmental stewardship practices and efforts.



Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.