Cruising the Great Lakes in the Off Season: A Viking Expedition Adventure


5/16/20246 min read

Cruising the Great Lakes in the Off Season - Part 2: A Viking Expedition Adventure

Embarking on a Viking expedition adventure is an extraordinary way to experience the beauty and grandeur of the Great Lakes. In this second part of our series, we will take you on a 7-night journey from Toronto Canada, to Niagara Falls and onward to Milwaukee, exploring the hidden gems of the region during the off season.

Exploring Niagara Falls

Our Viking expedition began in the charming city of Toronto but the real sight seeing begins once you leave this port and head through the Welland Canal to Niagara Falls, where you will witness the awe-inspiring power of nature. The magnificent waterfalls are even more breathtaking during the off season, with their misty beauty enhanced by the peaceful surroundings. Take a boat tour to get up close to the falls and feel the sheer force of the cascading water. Don't forget to visit the observation deck for panoramic views of this natural wonder.

The Welland Canal was very cool, our ship the Viking Octantis and her sister ship the Polaris were built with this canal in mind. There is only one foot on either side of the ship in some areas and you will feel the ship as it bumps its way through this journey. Don't worry, Viking brings plenty of paint and after successfully finishing the canal, they literally re-paint the ship at the following ports.

We reached our port near Niagara Falls in late April and choose the underground tour, behind the scenes through the 130 year old tunnels that descend 125ft down. Off ship was a breeze compared to the mega ships, on hopped on our tour bus with a local guild that was incredibly knowable about the region. We learned all kinds of amazing fact about the falls and the rapid whirlpool where the Niagara river bends. Fantastic guide for sure.

After immersing yourself in the beauty of Niagara Falls, it's time to board your Viking ship and set sail on the Great Lakes.

Traversing Lake Erie

During our over night cruise towards Pointe Peele, our next stop, we did encounter some storm weather. The Great Lakes are known for having some pretty unpredictable weather. Not to fear the Octantis is very stable. Plus I find the stormy nights on a cruise ship rather relaxing, I get rocked to sleep like a baby.

As you cruise across Lake Erie, you'll have the opportunity to explore the charming islands that dot its waters. One of the highlights of this leg of the journey is a visit to Pointe Peele, the most southern tip of Canada. Here, if the weather good and not too windy, you will be able to kayak, ride a zodiac or the jump on the special operations boats fully loaded with shock absorbing suspension seats of a lovely ride, no matter how rough the water seems. Unfortunately, our pre-booked kayak adventure was canceled due to the wind. We did get to ride the special opt. boat and although we did have a shore landing, it was enjoyable to such a vessel.

Continuing your voyage, you'll sail past the picturesque shores of Lake Erie, taking in the stunning fall foliage that blankets the landscape. Keep an eye out for migratory birds that flock to the area during this season, creating a spectacle of nature.


We took the Iridescent architecture tour, this is not one Vikings free tours, but it was amazing. Our local guide happened to be a theater gal and there was signing, great story telling and over all, she was just a hoot! After touring the city and looking at the beautiful Pewabic tile work incorporated into the architecture since it was invented in 1903, we landed at the Pewabic studio/shop, were we got to glaze our own tile that gets fired and sent to your home as a keep sack. The history and studio was fascinating and we could resits buying a couple of lovely items.

Lake Huron

Being early in the season the weather just was not cooperating with our plans...

At Alpena, we had signed up for another, not included excursion. The Great Lakes Martine Heritage tour with a glass bottom boat ride over some ship wrecks. Only this day was freezing (for a native Texan) and rainy, with rough winds. So the boat was cancelled and Viking does a good job about refunding you for missed opportunities like this. We loved the museum and even got to build an under water robot in the center next door. Typically something for the school kids, but we are young at heart. It was a blast.

Mackinac Island was probably my favorite stop as we just made our adventure, which is typically aways our favorite way to travel. You take a tender from the Octantis and get dropped off right smack in the middle of the tourist area. Now, again being about a week before the season starts, many things were not opened just yet. Like the Fort wasn't going to open til the following week, which would have been a nice stop after climbing the steep hill. We wondered around in and found a park where I tried to get pictures of birds. Tried a cafe for a quick lunch and ventured upward.. Up a very steep hill in search of Skull Cave, and rock bridge and local cemetery. It was a great hike exploring and don't worry, the free horse drawn trolly tours take you to these spots if you want to just sit back and relax.

Discovering the Hidden Gems of Lake Michigan

As you enter Lake Michigan, prepare to be enchanted by the hidden gems that await you. Traverse the coastline and visit the charming town of Ludington, known for its lighthouses and sandy beaches. Take a stroll along the pier and watch the sunset over the lake, creating a mesmerizing display of colors.

Further along the coast, you'll reach the vibrant city of Milwaukee. Known for its rich brewing history and cultural attractions, Milwaukee offers a blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. Explore the Milwaukee Art Museum, visit the historic Third Ward, or indulge in a brewery tour to experience the city's famous beer culture.

A Unique Off-Season Experience

Cruising the Great Lakes in the off season offers a unique and intimate experience. The absence of crowds allows you to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region and explore its hidden treasures. From the majestic Niagara Falls to the charming towns and cities along the way, a Viking expedition adventure is the perfect way to discover the Great Lakes in all their glory.

It's the Great Lakes and you run the chance of having bad weather no matter when you travel. We found the savings to be real factor as to why we decided to travel during the off season. We saved over $1000 per person and I have no regrets.

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