Great Lakes cruises benefit lakeside Michigan towns

News Photo by Courtney Boyd The Viking Octantis cruise ship is seen anchored in Thunder Bay on June 12. To the left, a departing shuttle boat can be seen, bringing tourists to the city for a guided tour of downtown Alpena.

ALPENA — Cruise ship season in the Great Lakes is in full swing, and Thunder Bay has seen its fair share of cruise ships anchoring in its waters.

The cruise ships come from Viking Cruises, a company that has offered Great Lakes cruises for three seasons now.

The cruise line has stopped in cities across states and countries such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Mackinac Island, Detroit, and Toronto.

Alpena has been one of Viking’s destinations since 2022, and, each year, the number of stops in Alpena has increased because of positive feedback.

Jeff Konczak is the owner of many properties in Alpena, such as Biggby Coffee locations, the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center building, Sanctuary Cinema, and more.

He said summer is time for tourism and business in Alpena, and the cruise line helps with that.

“No matter where you are from, you’re coming to northern Michigan to enjoy the weather and the Great Lakes,” Konczak said.

Konczak owns Alpena Shipwreck Tours and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buildings and said passengers from Viking frequently visit the area. He said the company has a partnership with NOAA, which he called a “pretty big collaboration.”

“It’s a big deal to Alpena,” he said. “Alpena has about 10,000 people, but NOAA receives 100,000 people a year, and that doesn’t include Viking (customers). It’s probably the premier destination location in Northeast Michigan, without question.”

Konczak said Alpena Shipwreck Tours will offer two new tours on July 1 — kayak tours and on-the-water lighthouse tours. With cruise line stops in Alpena expected to increase next year, he said he and his wife plan to open an ice cream shop and a gourmet hot dog shop in the near future.

“We’re making investments specifically on that dock,” he said. “Viking is certainly appreciated … but we hope for many more (tourists).”

Viking plans to continue offering its Great Lakes trips to customers. In a news release, the company announced two new itineraries for 2026: the Great Lakes Treasures and the Niagara and Great Lakes Treasures packages. The latter includes Alpena as a stop once again.

“The Great Lakes region is a phenomenal place that is close to home for many of our guests, but one that few have yet to fully discover,” Viking CEO and Chairman Torstein Hagen said in a statement.

“We look forward to introducing more curious travelers to the Great Lakes this season and in future years,” the statement added.

This story was produced by the Michigan News Group Internship Program, a collaboration between WCMU Public Media and local newspapers in central and northern Michigan. The program’s mission is to train the next generation of journalists and combat the rise of rural news deserts.


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