Open Jaw Joins Viking Expedition Cruise on North American 'Inland Seas'

Viking Octantis

Viking has not one, but both of its expedition cruise ships sailing the Great Lakes in Summer 2023. That's breaking new ground in cruising - but new ground that for much of the Canadian and U.S. market is really close to home.

Viking's commitment to Great Lakes cruising includes a new itinerary that takes guests, including a group of media from Canada and the U.S., to parts of the Great Lakes that are not easily accessible.

Meeting of sister ships: sailing away from Milwaukee on the Viking Octantis while passing by Viking Polaris

We embarked on the Viking Octantis from Milwaukee, WI, on Lake Michigan, and are sailing into Canada and Lake Huron's UNESCO World Biosphere / cottage country haven, Georgian Bay, onwards through the Soo Locks and into the far reaches of Lake Superior, ending in Thunder Bay.

Grand Hotel in 1887. Historic image courtesy of Grand Hotel.

As Open Jaw has reported, it's the first time in over a decade that a cruise ship has sailed in the most remote of the Great Lakes - with five visits to the Lake Superior North Shore Inside Passage throughout the summer. Our first port of call was in the time-travel-like Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan, where cars are banned, and horses deliver cases of wine as well as visitors to hotels around the island.

The name of the island in Odawa is Michilimackinac and "Mitchimakinak" in Ojibwemowin, meaning "Great Turtle".

When The Grand Hotel opened in 1887, it was billed as a summer retreat for vacationers who arrived by lake steamer from Chicago, Erie, Montreal, Detroit, and by rail with rates of $3.00 a night.

Open Jaw Editor, Lynn Elmhirst in the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

Once in Canadian waters, we start getting into the expedition 'toys’: kayaks, zodiacs, 'Special Operations Boats' and even two, 6-passenger submarines to explore the waters and shorelines.

Here are the ship's crew deploying the sub from the ship's 'Hangar.'

More coming up in Open Jaw as I test drive what it's like to go expedition cruising in your own backyard!

Ship hangar, deploying submarine

Lynn Elmhirst


With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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