ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – Escanaba business owners gathered Tuesday afternoon to prepare for the arrival of American Queen Voyages at Little Bay de Noc.
The cruise will make 26 stops at Escanaba’s North Shore Marine Terminal and Logistics from May to October. Each four-story ship can carry up to 200 passengers.
The Delta County Chamber of Commerce and the Escanaba Downtown Development Authority (DDA) hosted a presentation for local business owners, detailing what they can expect.
“There’s going to be quite a few different people in the community than we might be used to,” said DDA director Craig Woerpel. “We want to know how we can welcome them.”
Woerpel says Escanaba is one of just a few stops selected for the voyage–including Chicago, Detroit, and Niagara Falls. The DDA is working with local businesses to give passengers the best experience during their day in town.
“There’s going to be a Native American program, there’s going to be a timber program, they’ll be able to go and visit the craft breweries and wineries in the area,” Woerpel said. “They can go to the Bonifas Art museum; they’ll be able to just walk around the park. They’re here just to visit and have a good time for a day.”
Many businesses will be extending their hours of operation to better accommodate cruise visitors. A bus tour will be optional for passengers to take from Ludington Street to the fairgrounds, with several stops along the way. Special events are in the works for certain stops.
Woerpel says the partnership with American Queen Voyages is expected to have a $1.2 million impact. He also anticipates an increase in the tourism industry beyond this year.
“It’s substantial to bring that many new people into the community, but the gains are that they may come back for a longer visit another time,” said Woerpel. “Also, businesses that depend on tourism will have that as a base to serve other tourists who come into the community.”
Woerpel says he is glad to see ships returning to Little Bay de Noc in some capacity after so many years.
“It’s a historical era for us because we’ve been a shipping community for a very long time,” he said. “There used to be passenger ships in that area of town all the time. So, we’re just kind of going back to our roots.”
The first ship will arrive on Sunday, May 14. The DDA is planning an event to welcome passengers to town. Once more information is available, updates will be found here.
See the full list of American Queen Voyages stops at Little Bay de Noc below. Ships will arrive at 8:00 a.m. and depart at 5:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m.