Shipping, Business Leaders Share Excitement for Cruise Ships’ Arrival in Duluth May 30th

The 700-foot cruise ships will carry upward of 400 people on the larger vessels.

DULUTH, Minn.- In roughly 3 weeks cruise ships will sail their way into the Port of Duluth Superior for the first time since 2013.

“I think this voyage is filled with a lot of people in the united states but it’s the coastal region so there’s going to be people getting to see Duluth that would normally never, ever see this community,” said Dan Hartman, Executive Director of the DECC.

In a press conference Tuesday, the international Cruise the Great Lakes Organization made up of officials leading the effort to bring cruise ships back shared in their excitement for the first ship to arrive on May 30th.

Before feeling the estimated $600-700,000 annual economic impact caused by the Viking and American Queen Voyages cruise ships, the City of Duluth had to construct a U.S. Customs facility for those passengers before the end of this month.

The customs facility is on the southern side of the old DECC arena and according to Hartman, it’s almost done, as it needs to be finished by the first ship’s arrival on May 30th.

“This effectively opens Lake Superior to cruising that crosses that U.S.-Canadian Border,” said David Naftzger, Executive Director of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers. “Ports like Thunder Bay will benefit, ports like Duluth will benefit and we will see it grow over time to other places in Michigan, Minnesota, Ontario, and so on.”

Next year Duluth will become and embarkation location, where passengers here can board cruise ships to other destinations.

Since vessels are expected to carry upward of 400 passengers at a time, Naftzger said the cruise ships have signed a sustainability pledge.

They pledged to focus on preserving and contributing to local communities, reducing air pollution and carbon emissions, being responsible with their management of wastewater, and recycling, reusing, and locally sourcing as much material as they can.

“You’ve probably heard stories of places like Venice that are overwhelmed by thousands of passengers coming on ocean-going ships 3,4,5,000 people disembarking all at the same time,” Naftzger said, “we want to make sure that cruising in the Great Lakes is sustainable and that we’re building an industry for the long term.”

“People are really craving those close to home destinations that deliver good value and in the case of cruises, letting other people do the driving. Where you can go to multiple places big and small all in one vacation and get a good experience,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deb DeLuca, head of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, said the two cruise line’s total of 9 stops in the area will only benefit the economy of the port and should not have a big impact on the traffic of the 800-900 ships that move through the water.

Hartman added most of the cruising schedule will be on Mondays, so it won’t conflict with the busy tourism weekends Duluth tends to see.

“We’re really excited to welcome Viking Cruise Ships and American Queen Voyages for this summer for a total of 9 stops,” DeLuca said.

The Director of the Port Authority also gave an update on the shipping season, still experiencing global supply chain disruptions from the pandemic — which have only gotten worse due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re likely to see effects here in the Port,” said DeLuca. “They’re both challenges and opportunities but we’re just going to have to see how it plays out. We are also working to establish container trade by maritime and we are likely to see that movement through our port.”

Meanwhile, Hartman hopes work to fix the aging seawall behind the DECC will start this Summer or Fall and continue into next year, though supply chain issues have made the timeline less certain.

Until then, smaller ships will pick up passengers from the cruises elsewhere in the port and bring them to where the vista docks next to the DECC.

Once the seawall is done, Hartman said the real spectacle will be seeing the 700-foot cruise ships dock right next to the Convention Center.

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