Viking cruise ships coming soon to Windsor called 'game changer'

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello

Increasingly in recent years, cruise ships have docked at the foot of Dieppe Gardens, but one of the world’s most prominent passenger cruise companies has announced it is building two new ships specifically to venture through the Great Lakes that will include a stop in Windsor.

Viking Cruises last month launched passenger booking for two new ships under construction under its Expedition Voyages program.

The first vessel Viking Octantis is scheduled to begin sailing on the Great Lakes in January 2022, while a second ship the Viking Polaris will be in the water shortly after in August 2022.

The new cruise ships that will stop in Windsor/Detroit were described as a “game changer” for the industry on the Great Lakes which has seen steady growth of passengers in recent years, according to Stephen Burnett, executive director Great Lakes Cruising Coalition.

Presently there are 12,000 passengers that travelled on cruise ships on the Great Lakes, but Burnett expects following the announcement by Viking that could double by 2025.

He believes other prominent cruise lines will copy Viking and launch their excursions in the waterway.

“The potential is great,” Burnett said. “We have had steady growth, but with Viking you have a wonderful recognition of the region. Viking is a world name. To have them decide to come into the Great Lakes puts us on the map in a worldwide sense.”

Currently, cruise ships which stop in Windsor on average carry about 200 passengers, but the new Viking ships will carry 385 and contain amenities far above anything that has been seen previously on the waterway.

Viking focuses on trips that are more “cultural” in nature, Burnett said. Among various amenities, the new ships will have science labs on board and even two six-person submarines that will be used to view shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.

There will be around two dozen professionals on board that will assist with everything from photography to identifying rock formations and birds.

“The guest experience will be tremendous,” Burnett said. “Viking provides a more cerebral view in cruising that really focuses on examining local cultures.”

The cruise company has unveiled four different trips through the Great Lakes with an eight-day Toronto to Milwaukee route including stops at Leamington/Point Pelee and Windsor/Detroit.

Seeing a cruise company like Viking choose the local area as one of its stops for its new “state-of-the-art” cruise ships “offers great potential” for the region as a tourist destination, said Gordon Orr, executive director of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island.

“What this does is generate lots of buzz (in the cruise industry),” Orr said. “You can already see images of the vessel, so that will lead (other companies) to step up their game. Everyone else will look to offer the same kind of experience.

“That will lead to more buzz and provide even more access to our waterway. I think you will see more cruise lines and stops here in the future.”

Cruise passengers visiting Windsor are greeted by the local tourism agency staff when a ship docks at Dieppe Gardens to help direct passengers to various amenities, Orr said.

The Detroit River
Travellers are often transported over to Detroit for visits to such locations as the Detroit Institute of Arts, but also take in sites locally that include the casino, a riverfront walk through the sculpture garden, visiting Windsor’s art gallery and Chimczuk Museum, the streets in Walkerville or destinations further out such as Fort Malden in Amherstburg, he said.

“Windsor Eats is also often hired through tour operators to conduct (restaurant) tours,” Orr said.

For more information on the new Viking cruise ships on the Great Lakes starting 2022 and booking information, visit online at