In alliance with Smithsonian Journeys.
This cruise is part of a collection of PONANT voyages that are specially-tailored for English-speaking travelers who want to engage with the world. In addition to the usual elements of the PONANT experience, the listed price for these voyages includes transfers to and from the ship, talks and discussions aboard ship by world class experts, and a shore excursion or activity in each port of call that encourages guests to embrace the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the local environment and culture.
Set sail with PONANT aboard Le Bellot for an 8-day cruise to discover the Great Lakes amidst the splendid colours of early autumn.
You will leave from cosmopolitan and dynamic Toronto, Ontario, on the shore of Lake Ontario. Canada’s largest city will charm you with its museums, parks, and gardens.
Le Bellot will then sail the canal connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. From your call in Port Colborne, you will be able to see the impressive Niagara Falls. These three powerful waterfalls, renowned the world over, are an exquisite natural spectacle.
Your next lake, Lake Huron, boasts myriad islands in its northern part, with white rocks capped with conifers plunging into the sapphire waters of the lake. Here you will discover the charming city of Parry Sound, in the heart of the fantastic UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Georgian Bay, and the quaint town of Little Current, gateway to Manitoulin Island, the world’s largest freshwater island.
From Sault Ste. Marie, you will have the opportunity to transit the engineering marvel of the Soo Locks for a foray into Lake Superior, before continuing to Mackinac Island for an exploration of the island’s Victorian past by horse and buggy.
End your voyage by sailing the length of Lake Michigan, a veritable inland sea, following in the footsteps of the region’s indigenous Americans, first settlers, and trappers. Make your way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the United States’ “brew city,” for disembarkation.
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Included in your cruise
For more peace of mind, PONANT organizes your trip before or after the cruise. This package is included in the price of your cruise.
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*Price is per person, double occupancy, is based on availability, and subject to change at any time. The category of cabin to which this price applies may no longer be available.
PONANT has organised the following included programme for you, which starts the day of embarkation.
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Important trip details
Passport valid for at least six (6) months beyond the completion of your trip. Passport must contain at least two completely clear, blank, unused visa pages for each visa required, not including any amendment pages. Visa pages with stains or ink from other pages in the passport are not usable. Guests who deviate from the scheduled embarkation or disembarkation port should research the foreign entry requirements for the port country. Due to government regulations, regrettably, Ponant will have to deny boarding to any guest who fails to obtain the appropriate travel documentation for this trip.
The information below is current but subject to change at any time without advance notice from government authorities. Please consult your respective government agencies for visa and health information.
The evolving COVID-19 health formalities are available in real time by clicking here.
Given the particularly changing international sanitary context, this itinerary as well as the land programmes and shore excursions may have to evolve according to port authorisations and governmental regulations in force at the time of your trip.
Therefore, for even greater peace of mind, we strongly recommend that you book your land programmes and flights before and after your cruise with PONANT.
Health formalities related to COVID-19 will be confirmed to you before your departure.
In this exceptional context, your safety remains our first priority. The effectiveness of our procedures, our cutting-edge medical equipment and the smaller scale of our ships means we can offer maximum safety so that you can relax and enjoy your cruise. The revised passenger circuit and our enhanced hygiene measures can be found on this page: https://en.ponant.com/sail-with-confidence.
Canada: Entry (or transit) by air - The ETA is required for Australian and British citizens, US citizens are exempt. Other nationalities, please contact Canada consulate website for details. http://www.canada.ca/en/index.html. A copy of your visa or ETA must be sent to PONANT at the very latest 45 days prior to your cruise date. In case the ETA is sufficient to enter Canada, we also ask you to keep a copy of your ETA with your passport throughout the duration of your trip.
Warning about the use of drones: the use of drones aboard PONANT ships, whether they are sailing at sea, at a port of call or anchored, is strictly forbidden. The use of drones on land in the Arctic and Antarctic regions is also strictly forbidden by international polar regulations. In other regions, it may be possible to use drones on land if permission has been obtained from the relevant authorities of each country and each region travelled through, as well as a pilot’s licence that should be obtained from your home country. Passengers are responsible for obtaining these permits; they should be able to present them at all times. Passengers who do not obtain these authorisations expose themselves to the risk of legal proceedings.
USA: Depending on your nationality, an ESTA or Visa may be required. Please contact USA consulate website for details. A copy of your visa or ESTA must be sent to PONANT at the very latest 45 days prior to your cruise date. In case the ESTA is sufficient to enter the USA, we also ask you to keep a copy of your ESTA with your passport throughout the duration of your trip.
Ideal clothes for life on board:
During the days spent on board, you are advised to wear comfortable clothes or casual outfits. The entire ship is air-conditioned, so a light sweater, a light jacket or a shawl may be necessary. When moving about in the public areas of the ship and the decks, light but comfortable shoes are recommended.
In the evening, you are advised to wear smart-casual attire, especially when dining in our restaurants where wearing shorts and tee-shirts is not allowed.
Depending on the itinerary and the program of your cruise, an Officer’s Evening with a white dress code may be organized. Therefore, we encourage you to bring a stylish white outfit for the occasion (otherwise black and white).
During the cruise, two gala evenings will be organised on board. Thus, we recommend that you bring one or two formal outfits.
A small shop is available on board offering a wide range of outfits, jewellery, leather goods and many accessories.
A laundry service (washing/ironing) is available on board, but unfortunately there are no dry cleaning services. For safety reasons, your cabin is not equipped with an iron.
OUTFITS ON BOARD:
In your hand luggage, remember to bring any medicines that you need, and possibly a small spare bag of toiletries (in case of delay in the delivery of your baggage by the airline). Remember to always have your travel documents with you in case you need them: hotel vouchers, cruise vouchers, return flight tickets... Never leave them in your hold luggage.
All our cabins have a safe. We recommend not to go ashore with valuable jewellery.
Smithsonian Journeys is the travel program of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, consisting of 19 museums, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. Drawing on Smithsonian's resources dating back 175 years, these sailings will feature notable experts and experiences that embrace local cultures and dive deeper into a destination’s history, cuisine, language, environment, and wildlife. For more than 50 years, Smithsonian Journeys has been rooted in and focused on cultural immersion and discovery – with a goal of inspiring guests to become global citizens through travel.
Frederick Stonehouse is the author of over thirty books on maritime history, many focusing on the Great Lakes, including the best selling The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He has been a consultant for both the U.S. National Park Service and Parks Canada and has been an "on-air" expert for National Geographic and History Channel as well as many regional media productions.
Awards include the 2006 Association for Great Lakes Maritime History Award for Historic Interpretation, Historical Society of Detroit’s 2007 Historian of the Year, 2017 Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society C. Patrick Labadie Special Acknowledgement Award, Northern Michigan University 2014 Distinguished Alumna Award, 2018 “Governor’s Special Tribute” (Michigan), and 2019 Historical Society of Michigan Follo Award.
His knowledge of sailing our itinerary as a Coast Guard licensed mariner and academic credentials provide a unique perspective for our voyage. Forty years of Great Lakes shipwreck diving and searching adds a practical viewpoint of Great Lakes maritime history. Several of his books relate directly to waters we sail and ports visited.
Fred teaches Great Lakes maritime history at Northern Michigan University and is an active consultant for numerous maritime projects and programs. He is past President of the National Board of Directors of the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association and past Vice Chair (Policy) of the Michigan Port Collaborative. Fred makes his home in Marquette, Michigan.
Language spoken: English
Kirt Kempter is a Fulbright Fellow and Ph.D. graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, where he conducted his dissertation research on Rincón de la Vieja volcano in Costa Rica. For the past 11 years, Kirt has worked for the New Mexico STATEMAP program, studying the geologic history of northern New Mexico. Kirt is also an instructor for the NASA astronaut training program, teaching NASA's 2009 astronaut candidates geologic mapping techniques in northern New Mexico. Since 1993, Kirt has led numerous journeys for the Smithsonian Institution, from Iceland to Antarctica.
Language spoken: English
Subject to withdrawal in case of force majeure
18 September 2022 Toronto
Embarkation 18/9/2022 from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Departure 18/9/2022 at 6:00 pm
The largest city in Canada and capital of the province of Ontario, Toronto fascinates as much by its incredible diversity as by its size. Make sure you visit the CN Tower, the tallest tower in the western hemisphere, as well as the St. Lawrence Market whose stalls reflect the multicultural wealth of this city known as the global city. Not far from there, the historic Distillery District unveils its brick-paved streets imbued with romantic charm and its myriad of small restaurants, cafés, boutiques, theatres and art galleries. The Royal Ontario Museum and its impressive collections devoted to the world’s natural and cultural history will also be an unmissable stop during this port of call.
19 September 2022 Port Colborne
Arrival 19/9/2022 early morning
Departure 19/9/2022 midday
Port Colborne is a small port city located in southern Ontario, at the mouth of the Welland Canal. It is well-known for one of the longest locks in the world: measuring 420 metres, this lock, the 8th in the canal, has an observation footbridge and marks the final transit point before the Erie Canal. In addition to the discovery of this tremendous hydraulic infrastructure, this port of call will be your privileged access point to the famous Niagara Falls, renowned all over the world for their spectacular beauty. Located on the river of the same name, which means “water thunder” in Amerindian language, these wonders of nature are among the most powerful waterfalls in the world.
19 September 2022 Sailing Lake Erie
Located to the south of Lake Huron and connected to Lake Ontario by the Welland Canal, Lake Erie, which owes its name to one of the Amerindian tribes which peopled its banks before the arrival of the French in the 17th century, is remarkable for its unique ecosystem. Its shallow fish-filled waters make it an excellent fishing spot, while its banks, famous for their many migratory birds, attract photographers and ornithology enthusiasts.
20 September 2022 Sailing through Detroit
During your navigation along the Detroit River, an important commercial waterway linking Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair to Lake Huron, you will sail along the largest city in Michigan. You’ll then enjoy panoramic views over the skyscrapers of the former Motor City, jewel of the automotive industry, Fordism and Motown music in the 20th century. You’ll also be able to admire the Ambassador Bridge, which spans the river and enables access to Windsor, on the Canadian shore of the river. This steel suspension bridge, over two kilometres long, was constructed in 1929. This bridge alone carries over 25% of trade between the United States and Canada.
20 September 2022 Sailing St. Clair River
Forming a natural line of separation between the United States and Canada, the St. Clair River, which flows from Lake Huron into Lake St. Clair, is a significant element of the Great Lakes Waterway. Used in the 18th century for the fur trade by the French colonists of North America who sailed it on small boats to trade with the Amerindians, it was then travelled by freighters transporting lumber, iron ore and copper from the Great Lakes region to the cities of the Rust Belt.
21 September 2022 Sailing Lake Huron
A natural border between the American State of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, Lake Huron is one of the five American Great Lakes and one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Comprising the main lake, Saginaw Bay, the North Channel and Georgian Bay, and home to around 30,000 islands, it offers varied coastal landscapes and unique views. From your ship, you’ll thus be able to admire the wild beauty of the wooded and at times craggy coastline of Manitoulin Island, or the spectacular cliffs of the Bruce Peninsular.
21 September 2022 Parry Sound
Arrival 21/9/2022 early morning
Departure 21/9/2022 midday
The charming city of Parry Sound enjoys an exceptional natural setting in the heart of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, east of Georgian Bay. A holiday destination favoured by the province’s inhabitants, the city and its surroundings offer a condensed version of all that the Great Lakes region has to offer: windswept forests of conifers, rocky shores characteristic of the Canadian Shield, beaches of fine sand, clear and calm waters producing magnificent reflections that change with the time of day and luminosity… A real paradise for fauna and flora, the place will delight fans of nature and photography.
22 September 2022 Little Current
Arrival 22/9/2022 early morning
Departure 22/9/2022 late afternoon
A small port town located along the North Channel of Lake Huron, Little Current is considered to be the gateway to Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. The town’s emblematic construction, the Little Current Swing Bridge built in 1913, provides the only land access to the island, peaceful lands whose name means “the island of spirits” in the local dialect. A real haven of peace, sheltering wild nature and some hamlets, the place is ideal for outdoor activities such as horse-riding and hiking.
23 September 2022 Sault Ste. Marie
Arrival 23/9/2022 early morning
Departure 23/9/2022 late afternoon
Located to the east of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Sault Ste. Marie is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Separated from its Canadian twin city by St. Marys River, it is famous among other things for its locks, known as either the Sault Locks or the Soo Locks, which enable ships to travel the metres in change in elevation between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. These locks, which date back over 160 years, are considered the most important in the world due to their shipping traffic. Make sure you visit the Museum Ship Valley Camp where you can visit the interior of a former freighter that sailed on the Great Lakes for more than 50 years.
24 September 2022 Mackinac Island
Arrival 24/9/2022 early morning
Departure 24/9/2022 midday
Close to the banks of Lake Huron in the State of Michigan, Mackinac Island promises a real journey through time. Originally inhabited by Amerindians, then occupied by French and British colonists, this small island measuring only a few km² still retains an atmosphere of yesteryear today, with its Victorian-style buildings and elegant horse-drawn carriages. Fort Mackinac, on the heights of the island, is a reminder of the conflicts that punctuated the history of this strategic place, a former fur trade centre. In addition to this scenery from the past, the island offers magnificent fine sandy beaches and is home to one of the oldest National Parks in the United States.
24 September 2022 Sailing Lake Michigan
You will sail the United States’ largest freshwater body, which gave its name to Michigan, one of the four states that border this lake measuring 500 km long and 200 km wide. The first colonists settled in the south at the end of the 17th century, on the site of the current megalopolis of Chicago. Wild landscapes of forests with sparkling colours, cliffs, golden sandy beaches and dunes as far as the eye can see stretch along its 2,600 km of shoreline. In the north, magnificent wind-swept islands rise out of the lake’s emerald waters. At 8 km long, the Mackinac Bridge, which spans the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, is one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.
25 September 2022 Milwaukee
Arrival 25/9/2022 early morning
Disembarkation 25/9/2022 at 7:00 am
Nested on the shores of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, the largest city in the State of Wisconsin, harmoniously combines tradition and modernity. Industrial long ago, the city, known as Brew City because of its old breweries renowned all over the world, is experiencing a certain renaissance. While warehouses have given way to restaurants, bars, theatres and art galleries in the city centre, the district still retains traces of its manufacturing past. Further south lies Chicago, the economic centre of the Midwest, with an interesting mix of natural and urban landscapes: its immense skyscrapers, diverse architecture, many parks and magnificent beaches make the city a popular destination.
Niagara Falls — actually a group of three waterfalls on the Niagara River between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario — has enthralled visitors with their beauty and power for generations. Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side of the border, is the largest of the three and is the most powerful waterfall in North America. The falls are also among the most romantic, photographed, and painted landscapes in the world, attracting the attention of artists from the Hudson River School to modern filmmakers, and becoming a favorite destination for honeymooners ever since Aaron Burr's daughter vacationed here in 1801 with her new husband.
From the pier in Port Colborne, travel by motorcoach through the fertile agricultural valley of the Niagara River. You will pass through Chippawa, site of an important battle in the War of 1812, before driving along the rim of Horseshoe Falls as you make you make your way to Hornblower Landing. Here you board a specially designed vessel for an exciting 20-minute excursion that brings you within feet of Horseshoe Falls and its misty spray.
Georgian Bay is home to the largest freshwater archipelago in the world. Known locally as ‘The Thirty Thousand Islands', the geology of the archipelago is a complex intertwining of bays, inlets, sounds, islands and shoals, lying along the southern edge of the Precambrian Canadian Shield. The topography supports a rich variety of forests, wetlands, and rocky habitats, supporting an abundant biodiversity.
This excursion consists of a cruise through the heart of this marvelous natural treasure aboard the Island Queen, 132-foot cruise ship, specially designed to operate in these waters. The ship features comfortable seating and large viewing windows, spacious outside observation decks, wheelchair accessible washrooms, a snack bar, and a bar. Passengers are free to move about during the cruise.
In the course of the cruise, your experienced captain will bring the ship close to some of the islands so you can appreciate how remarkably varied they are — some boasting lush forests, others little more than barren rock. As the ship meanders past granite shoals and into narrow channels you will discover why this unique ecosystem has earned a UNESCO designation as a World Biosphere Reserve.
Located on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Killbear Provincial Park is home to a vast variety of landscapes, ranging from rocky outcroppings to soft sandy beaches and thick green forests. It is also home to a rich diversity of shoreline ecosystems, created by the fluctuating water levels of the Great Lakes.
On a one and a half hour walking tour through the park, learn about Killbear’s gneiss rock (not granite), once buried deep under a mountain range that rivalled the Himalayas in size. Also learn to read the signs of glacial scouring on the rock, as you explore the park and its mix of beaches, rugged shoreline, windswept pines and views of the ‘The Thirty Thousand Islands', the world's largest freshwater archipelago.
Continue to the Visitor Center for splendid views of Georgian Bay and for its exhibits explaining local flora and fauna, as well as the history and geology of the area. The center has adopted a live Massasauga rattlesnake and an Eastern fox-snake, both classed as species at risk, as the unofficial mascots of Killbear. You are free to explore the Visitor Center on your own.
The Cup and Saucer Trail, so-named because of the shape of its rock foundation, is located about 11 miles from the port of Little Current. It offers panoramic views from 230-foot-high lookout points spread along the trail. The property is managed by the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, a non-profit corporation whose mission is to preserve the natural beauty and resources of the Ontario Niagara Escarpment.
Board your coach at the pier for a scenic 30-minute drive to the foot of the trail. The hike takes about one hour to reach the summit and another hour to hike back down to the parking lot. At 1,160 feet, the Cup and Saucer is the highest point on Manitoulin Island, and the views of the forests and lakes below are simply incredible. Your visit in late September should coincide with the peak of autumn colors.
On your return to the base of the trail, you will be treated to a selection of Canadian wines, beers, and cheeses, along with locally smoked rainbow trout and whitefish — all elegantly served in glassware on white linen tablecloths.
Manitoulin Island is the world’s largest freshwater island and home to the thriving Native American community of the M’Chigeeng First Nation. This excursion provides an introduction to this community and to the traditions they celebrate.
Your exploration begins after a brief drive that brings you to the Immaculate Conception Church, a spiritual focal point that incorporates beliefs and customs from both the native Ojibwe culture and the Catholic Church. Across the street from the church is the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, established in 1974 in an effort to maintain the Ojibwe language and cultural heritage. Tour this state-of-the-art museum and art gallery, and browse the gift shop where you can observe traditional crafts like bead working and the art of making dreamcatchers.
Following a smudging ceremony (cleansing and healing ritual) in the amphitheater, your visit culminates with a traditional ceremony of dance, drumming, and song. Called “Pow-Wow” by the Native American people, it is a way for them to honor their culture and heritage, as well as a secular tradition helping to gather people from different countries together.
The excursion concludes with a 30-minute return drive to Little Current, where you are invited to stroll the beautiful waterfront boardwalk and visit the quaint downtown shops.