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Voyage to the Great Lakes

Program Number: 20422RJ
Start and End Dates:
8/17/2013 - 8/26/2013;
Duration: 9 nights
Location: Michigan/Ontario/Illinois/Ohio
Price starting at: $4,790.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Small Ship Cruising Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 26; 9 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 9 Dinners    
Meal Options: Gluten Free; Vegetarian; Low Fat; Low Salt    

From Lake Michigan’s great sand dunes, lighthouses and historic resort towns to Mackinac Island’s bygone Victorian charms, experience the majestic grandeur found along the shores of the Great Lakes. Navigate through Lakes Michigan, Ontario, Huron and Erie plus rivers and canals for an in-depth experience of America’s inland seas.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one mile per day. Standing for up to two hours at a time, up to four hours a day. Mobility is essential, as small boats and tenders are sometimes used for disembarkation and reembarkation.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Toronto, (Canada) 1 night; aboard Yorktown, 7 nights; Chicago, Ill. 1 night.

Days 1-2:
Arrival Toronto, Canada / embark Yorktown:

An expert-led city excursion reveals the exciting architecture and diverse neighborhoods of this global city. Lodging: Comfortable hotel.

Day 3:
Welland Canal / Niagara Falls:

Make the dramatic passage from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie via the Welland Canal. A series of seven locks designed as a continuous flight of “stairs” elevates the ship 324 feet over the course of 27 miles. If you wish, disembark for an optional excursion to Niagara Falls.

Day 4:
Cleveland, Ohio:

Explore the industrial city of Cleveland including the I. M. Pei-designed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the superb Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Day 5:
Sailing Lake Huron and Lake Erie:

Enjoy a day onboard the ship, navigating the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River and viewing the Detroit skyline from the water.

Day 6:
Mackinac Island:

Get a glimpse of the everyday lives of residents of this Victorian-era haven where cars are forbidden and bicycles share the road with horse-drawn carriages.

Day 7:

Go ashore in Michigan’s scenic northwest, a region blanketed with maple and spruce. From lovely Charlevoix, explore the old port town of Harbor Springs, with its panoramic views of the bay.

Day 8:
Saugatuck, Mich.:

Learn about the fascinating history of this former lumber town that was a prime summer destination for Chicago urbanites at the turn of the century.

Days 9-10: Chicago, Ill. / disembark / departure:

A field trip in Chicago includes the lively sculptures of Millennium Park and the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Lodging: Iconic downtown hotel.


Built and registered in America and staffed by American officers and crew, the Yorktown is the perfect vessel for exploring America’s great coastal waterways. With a draft of only nine feet, it can sail where larger vessels cannot go, and its American registry allows it to operate domestic itineraries unavailable to foreign-flag ships. Passengers enjoy an informal onboard atmosphere and tend to spend much of their time underway enjoying lectures and concerts in the lounge or reading and relaxing on the sun deck.

Meals and Lodgings
   The Westin Harbour Castle
  Toronto 1 night
  Yorktown - At Sea 7 nights
   Palmer Hilton House
  Chicago, Illinois 1 night
 The Westin Harbour Castle
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The Westin Harbour Castle is located on the vibrant waterfront of Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto near the Air Canada Center and CN Tower. Canada's largest city, Toronto is the cultural, financial and entertainment capital of Canada. The Westin Harbour Castle is a green hotel where they pride themselves on their eco-friendly initiatives.
  Contact info: 1 Harbour Square
Toronto, ON M5J 1A6 Canada
phone: 416-869-1600
  Room amenities: Each room has cable television, telephone, air conditioning, climate control, safe, and wireless Internet access (for a fee).
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers restaurants, a bar, air conditioning, pool, spa, gym and wireless Internet access (for a fee).
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: N/A To book additional nights, please call the Road Scholar Amherst office (413) 253-9736.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

Type: Cruise Ship
  Description: The Yorktown is the perfect vessel for relaxed and convivial exploration of America’s great coastal waterways. Built in Florida in 1988 specifically for coastal cruising and certified by the U. S. Coast Guard, the Yorktown flies the American flag and is staffed by friendly and experienced American officers and crew. With a draft of only 9 feet, the Yorktown is able to maneuver in secluded waterways and visit small ports that are inaccessible to larger vessels. And Yorktown’s American registry makes it possible to operate domestic itineraries unavailable to foreign-flag ships. The ship’s cuisine, served in a dining room large enough to accommodate all guests at once, emphasizes American regional culinary traditions. Accommodating only 130 guests in 65 exterior cabins, the Yorktown enjoys an atmosphere of warm and relaxed informality that endears it to repeat and new guests alike.
  Ship Information: Length: 257 feet Beam: 43 feet Draft: 8 feet Cabins: 69 Flag: American
  Contact info: Travel Dynamics International
132 East 70th Street
New York, NY 10021 USA
phone: 800-257-5767
  Room amenities: Most cabins have large picture windows, and each is furnished with comfortable beds, a writing desk, ample storage, a clock/radio/CD player, and has a private bathroom. Your cabin is the perfect place for peace and quiet and for private rest and reflection.
  Facility amenities: The ship offers a dining room, spacious observation lounge, large sun deck, library, and swimming platform. Both the lounge and dining room are surrounded by large picture windows that afford unobstructed views of the passing scenery. The water aboard ship is safe to drink, and bottled water will be provided on group excursions. Cash (USD) and credit cards are the preferred forms of payment aboard ship. For telephone communication onboard, you may use the ship's Maritime service satellite system which will be charged to a credit card. Email access on board: Internet-ready laptop computers will be available for use on board from which personal emails can be received and sent by accessing your own web-based email account. A fee will be charged for each 30 minutes of use. There is also wireless Internet access available for a fee.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Palmer Hilton House
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: An iconic downtown Chicago hotel, the Palmer Hilton House offers its guests the opportunity to relish in the grandeur of tradition while experiencing an infusion of modern elegance. The hotel is located in the lakeshore city of Chicago, known for breathtaking architecture, destination shopping, decadent dining and a diverse selection of world famous attractions. With its stunning interior design and stories of legendary guests, experience Chicago the way that Potter Palmer lived it.
  Contact info: 17 East Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603 USA
phone: 312-726-7500
  Room amenities: Each room features a plush top mattress with fine European style linens, easy to set alarm clock with radio and MP3 connectivity, individually controlled heat and air-conditioning, an iron and ironing board, a hairdryer, standard desk and lamp, television with premium television channels and movies, a telephone, and high speed Internet access (for a fee).
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers a restaurant, bar, lounge, lobby bar, beauty salon, laundry service, safe and High-Speed Internet access (for a fee).
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: N/A To book additional nights, please call the Road Scholar Amherst office (413) 253-9736.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Toronto, Ontario. Meet your Group Leader at 5:00 PM in the Marine Room at the hotel. You will be staying at The Westin Harbour Castle that night.
  End of Program:
Chicago, Illinois. After breakfast on the last day. You will be staying at Palmer Hilton House the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. The TDI Traveler Information Form is required. All participants are required to have a passport in order to embark the Yorktown. TDI requires that participants submit a photocopy of their passport with their Traveler Information Form.
  Parking availability:
Program begins in Toronto and ends in Chicago so parking is not applicable.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Toronto
  From End of Program
  Location:  Chicago, Illinois
Travel Details

From Pearson International Airport to the Westin Harbour Castle


From Airport




Hotel Shuttle


Per Person/One Way:


CAD $26.95, Seniors CAD $24.25
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


40-60 minutes 


The Westin Harbour Castle uses Airport Express as their airport shuttle. There is a shuttle leaving from the airport to the hotel every 30 minutes from 5:20 AM - 12:50 AM everyday.


From the Palmer Hilton House to Chicago O'Hare Airport


To Airport




Public Transportation


Take the Blue Line from the Monroe Station to the O'Hare station at the end of the line. It will cost $2.25 and will take approximately 1 hour.


From the Palmer Hilton House to Chicago O'Hare Airport


To Airport






Take a taxi from the hotel to the airport. It will cost approximately $45.00.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Welcome Orientation
(Saturday, August 17)
 Afternoon: Arrivals in Toronto. Meet your Group Leader in the Marine Room at 5:00 PM at the hotel. Welcome Orientation at the hotel.
 Dinner: Welcome Dinner at the CN Tower.
Accommodations: The Westin Harbour Castle
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Embark Yorktown
(Sunday, August 18)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel dining room.
 Morning: Take in the beauty and history of Casa Loma, a castle in the heart of Toronto. Board a coach for a guided excursion of Toronto that includes trendy Yorkville, the financial district, Chinatown, the Queen's Park Harbourfront, the St. Lawrence Market, and the Old and New City Hall.
 Lunch: Lunch at Joe Badali's.
 Afternoon: Continue your coach excursion. Transfer to the Yorktown for 4:00 PM embarkation. Late afternoon embarkation briefing, introduction of ship staff, and safety drill.
 Dinner: Welcome Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Yorktown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Port Weller / Welland Canal / Niagara Falls
(Monday, August 19)

Note: The afternoon excursion to Niagara Falls includes a walk of approximately 2 city blocks, steps, a ramp of 200 yards, an elevator ride, and another 200 yard walk.

 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Yorktown arrives at Port Weller this morning to begin transit of the Welland Canal. Watch from the decks as the ship navigates Locks 1 through 7, during the dramatic passage from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
 Lunch: Early lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: After lunch, disembark for an afternoon excursion to Niagara Falls, including a thrilling Maid of the Mist boat ride to the base of the falls. Return to the ship in the late afternoon as the ship exits the Canal and enters Lake Erie.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Yorktown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Cleveland, Ohio
(Tuesday, August 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Sitting where the Cuyahoga River meets Lake Erie, Cleveland is home to a monumental downtown and a rich cultural legacy. Over nine million people visit this city on the lake, founded on the wealth of steel and oil barons. Cleveland’s industrial foundation is very much in evidence, though downtown’s steel warehouses and tool-and-die factories now house smart restaurants, cafés, and shops, and its many bridges lead to revitalized neighborhoods. Arrive in Cleveland this morning. Enjoy a morning visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located on Lake Erie’s waterfront in a beautiful I.M. Pei-designed structure.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: This afternoon, choose between two optional excursions. Option 1: Afternoon at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Visit this fascinating museum featuring 30,000 works of art spanning over 5,000 years. Its masterpieces from the world over are showcased in 40 galleries, as well as an in an outdoor gallery and Fine Arts Garden. Option 2: Afternoon at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Founded in 1930, this beautiful garden features an extensive collection of native flora and plants from around the world. Explore some of the Garden’s twenty specialty gardens and exotic indoor biomes, each offering its own sensory experiences. Back onboard, take in a shipboard guest lecture.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Yorktown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Cruising Lake Huron and Lake Erie
(Wednesday, August 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: At sea. Enjoy a day at sea as the Yorktown navigates from Lake Erie through the Detroit River into Lake St. Clair and on to the St. Clair River. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: At sea. Attend a shipboard guest lecture as the ship makes its way toward Mackinac Island.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Yorktown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Mackinac Island, Michigan
(Thursday, August 22)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: At sea. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: Arrive in beautiful Mackinac Island, a Victorian-era haven where cars are forbidden and bicycles share the road with horse-drawn carriages. Enjoy an afternoon field trip through the island by horse and carriage and a visit to Fort Mackinac. Enjoy some free time to explore on your own.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Yorktown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Charlevoix, Michigan
(Friday, August 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: The ship arrives in Charlevoix in the morning. Today, choose between two optional excursions. Option 1: Charlevoix Field Trip. Our field trip of the area focuses on Charlevoix’s history, including local architect Earl Young’s unique “mushroom houses”. Also visit Castle Farms, the former Sears & Roebuck model working farm. Explore the “castle” along with its formal and informal gardens and marvel at its model garden railroad, one of the largest in Michigan. Option 2: Hike in Fisherman’s Island State Park. Travel approximately 6 miles from Charlevoix to Fisherman’s Island State Park, where French explorer, Pierre Charlevoix, first touched down. Take a scenic hike in the park’s interior, over rolling old dunes now covered by maple, birch, and aspen forest, interspersed with bogs of cedar and black spruce. The hike will cover approximately 2 miles and is over level terrain with a few small hills.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: At sea. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Yorktown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Saugatuck, Michigan
(Saturday, August 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Arrive in Saugatuck in the morning. This morning choose between two optional excursions. Option 1: Dune Ride and Field Trip of Saugatuck. This excursion includes a scenic ride through the dunes on specially designed dune schooners and a walking field trip through Saugatuck, focusing on its history and its development as an art center. Option 2: Kayaking on the Kalamazoo River. After a kayak safety and paddling introduction, board kayaks for a scenic 1 ½ - 2 hour paddle on the Kalamazoo River. All equipment will be provided and this excursion is suitable for all ages.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: This afternoon, choose between three optional excursions. Option 1: Culinary Excursion. This excursion features a culinary peek into the village food and village life of Saugatuck. Expanding on the local fruit farms and the once neighboring fishing village of Singapore, the area continues to be a food producing hub on the lakeshore. There will be several stops with tastes that include smoky meats, award-winning wines of the area, hints of spice, delightful oils, richly roasted coffee, and local fruit spreads. The excursion, which will last approximately 2 hours, is easy walking, covering a total of a half mile. Option 2: Free time in Saugatuck, Douglas and Oval Beach. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure to explore Saugatuck and the neighboring town of Douglas. Known as Michigan’s “Art Coast,” the towns feature a wealth of art galleries and unique shops. Our ship is docked right in the center of Saugatuck and a shuttle bus will run between the pier, Douglas and nearby Oval Beach on the Lake Michigan shore. Option 3: Dune Ride (for participants not taking the morning dune ride). Enjoy a scenic ride through the dunes on specially designed dune schooners.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Yorktown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Disembark / Chicago, Illinois
(Sunday, August 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Disembark Yorktown in Chicago, Illinois. Take in the history of Chicago's skyline during an architectural boat ride before enjoying a guided excursion through the Art Institute of Chicago.
 Lunch: Lunch at the Art Institute of Chicago.
 Afternoon: Free time to explore Chicago.
 Dinner: Farewell Dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Accommodations: Palmer Hilton House
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Departures
(Monday, August 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Departures.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Traveller's History of Canada

Author: Robert Bothwell

Description: A readable and admirably concise march through Canadian history from prehistory to today, including a timeline.

Eastern Great Lakes Lighthouses

Author: Ray Jones, Bruce Roberts (Photographer)

Description: With color photographs, lore, history and practical details on visiting the lighthouses of Ontario, Erie and Huron.

Eyewitness Guide Chicago

Author: Eyewitness Guides

Description: This superb guide to Chicago features color photography, dozens of excellent local maps and a district-by-district synopsis of the city's attractions

Fishing the Great Lakes, An Environmental History, 1783-1933

Author: Margaret Beattie Bogue

Description: This sweeping, readable history examines the political squabbles, misguided public policies and commercial exploitation that destroyed the once-abundant fisheries of Great Lakes.

Great Lakes & New York Map, Northeast

Author: Borch Maps

Description: A handy laminated map.

Great Lakes Nature Guide

Author: James MacCormac

Description: Featuring 450 color illustrations of the plants and animals of the region.

Great Lakes Trees and Wildflowers

Author: Raymond Leung (Illustrator), James Kavanaugh

Description: This laminated fold-out reference illustrates almost 150 plants in the Great Lakes region.

Inventing Niagara

Author: Ginger Strand

Description: A witty, well-researched tale of the transformation of a natural wonder into an engineering feat, spectacle and monument.

Know Your Ships

Author: Roger LeLievre

Description: An aficionado's field guide to the ships on the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. The freighter fleets of all the shipping companies are listed, along with the vital statistics for each ship.

Michelin Green Guide Quebec

Author: Michelin Travel Publications

Description: A thorough introduction to the region in the classic Michelin style, featuring brief descriptions of all the major attractions.

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Author: Jon Dunn

Description: From Alaska to Baja California, Nova Scotia and Florida, this guide is the veteran's choice for birding anywhere in the United States. Tabbed for easy access, the color range maps in this sixth edition are outstanding.

Niagara, A History of the Falls

Author: Pierre Berton

Description: Meticulously researched and entertaining, this history of Niagara Falls captures the sideshow atmosphere of the place with its honky-tonk attractions and daredevil feats. An engrossing social history.

North American Indian Tribes of the Great Lakes

Author: Michael G. Johnson

Description: Heavily illustrated, this handy guide presents the Native American tribes of the Midwest, their culture, religion, leaders and role in the fur trade.

Pandora's Locks, The Opening of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway

Author: Jeff Alexander

Description: This detailed history of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which opened in 1959, focuses on the engineering feat's often devastating environmental effects.

Shipwrecks and Lost Treasure Great Lakes, Legends and Lore, Pirates and More!

Author: Michael J. Varhola

Description: Frederick Stonehouse provides the historical forward to these 21 riveting tales of ships that met their end in the treacherous waters of the Great Lakes, including the sinking of the British gunboat H.M.S. Speedy in 1804, the Navy brig U.S.S. Niagara in 1820, the Civil War steamer Island Queen in 1864 and the tanker Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.

The Blind Assassin

Author: Margaret Atwood

Description: Winner of the Booker Prize in 2000, this hauntingly beautiful novel interweaves two disparate strands: one, a murder mystery set in Toronto at the close of WWII; the other, the text of the murdered woman's science fiction novel, which may hold a clue to her death.

The Great Lakes

Author: Wayne Grady

Description: Wayne Grady showcases the nature and ecology of the Great Lakes, hub of industry and agriculture, and home to 40 million people, in this illustrated portrait of the region, including the geological formation, conservation challenges, forests and resources. With hundreds of color photographs and illustrations by Emily Damstra.

The Living Great Lakes

Author: Jerry Dennis

Description: Raised on the shores of Lake Michigan, Dennis weaves the tale of his own month-long voyage on the Great Lakes aboard the Malabar with history and conservation in this outstanding portrait of the region.

The Long Ships Passing, The Story of the Great Lakes

Author: Walter Havighurst

Description: A vivid popular history of the Great Lakes, rich in anecdote, incident and drama. Havighurst recounts the early days of ships and shipping on the Great Lakes from the time of the early French voyageurs through the industrialization of the region at the turn of the century.

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