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The Best of All Five Great Lakes by Small Ship, Only With Road Scholar

Program Number: 21866RJ
Start and End Dates:
8/9/2015 - 8/20/2015; 5/23/2016 - 6/3/2016; 7/16/2016 - 7/27/2016; 8/3/2016 - 8/14/2016;
Duration: 11 nights
Location: Ontario/Michigan/Illinois
Price starting at: $4,579.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Small Ship Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 31; 10 Breakfasts, 10 Lunches, 11 Dinners    
Meal Options: Gluten Free; Low Salt; Low Fat; Vegetarian    

Nearly 15,000 years ago, the last of the great glaciers retreated, leaving us the Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. These vast bodies of water contain more than one fifth of the planet’s fresh surface water. On a small ship exclusively chartered by Road Scholar, voyage to all five Great Lakes, discovering pristine natural beauty and learning the colorful stories of the people who’ve sailed and worked these waterways.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one mile per day; some uneven and hilly terrain. Mobility is essential, as small boats are sometimes used for disembarkation and re-embarkation.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Chicago, 1 night; aboard Saint Laurent, 9 nights; Toronto, 1 night.

Days 1-2: Arrival Chicago, Ill. / embark Saint Laurent:

An expert-led excursion highlights Chicago’s magnificent architecture before a visit the Art Institute of Chicago. Lodging: Historic hotel in the Chicago Loop.

Days 3-4: On Lake Michigan / Mackinac Island, Mich.:

Discover Mackinac Island, a Victorian-era haven where cars are forbidden and bicycles share the road with horse-drawn carriages. Visit Fort Mackinac, built by the British during the Revolutionary War.

Day 5: Transit Soo Locks / Sault Ste. Marie:

Transit the Soo Locks from Lake Huron into Lake Superior. Explore Sault Ste. Marie and visit the Valley Camp Museum to learn more about the world’s busiest locks.

Day 7: Midland:

Step back in time at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, a reconstructed 17th-century Jesuit mission. Visit the SS Keewatin, a large liner that sailed for the Great Lakes Steamship Service for 60 years.

Days 8-9: On Lake Huron / Windsor / On Lake Erie:

Experience Windsor, Canada’s southernmost city and explore the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit with an expert.

Day 10: Transit Welland Canal / Niagara Falls:

Make the passage to Lake Ontario via the Welland Canal, built in 1824 to enable ships to pass around Niagara Falls. Depart the ship for a field trip to Niagara Falls, where you take the “Voyage to the Falls” boat excursion.

Days 11-12: Toronto / disembark / departure:

Complete your adventure by exploring Toronto, a truly global city where 49% of the population was born somewhere other than Canada. Lodging: Comfortable hotel.

Saint Laurent

MS Saint Laurent: This 285-foot small ship is ideal for exploring ports and islands that a larger vessel couldn’t access. It features spacious indoor and expansive outdoor public areas and is outfitted with an elevator (Decks 1 to 4). In addition to delicious meals in the dining room, passengers can enjoy a snack at the outdoor café or a drink at Seascape Tavern.

Meals and Lodgings
   Palmer Hilton House
  Chicago, Illinois 1 night
   Saint Laurent
  At sea 9 nights
   Park Hyatt Toronto
  Toronto 1 night
 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 prior: N/A For additional nights, please contact the Palmer Hilton House at 312-726-7500. Please note that this hotel is not offering any discounted rates on pre-program nights for Road Scholar participants. The Palmer Hilton House will not have a record of your booking for the program nights until 30 days prior to the program departure.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Saint Laurent
Type: Cruise Ship
  Description: The 110 stateroom Saint Laurent is a 4-star, intimate, charming, and fully stabilized ocean-going vessel. Her spacious indoor and expansive outdoor public areas make her an ideal vessel for exploring destinations larger vessels cannot reach.
  Ship Information: Registered in Nassau, Bahamas. Length: 87.27 M Breadth: 15.24 M Draught: 4.12 M
  Contact info: Haimark Cruiseline
1536 Cole Boulevard, Suite 333
Lakewood, CO 80401 USA
phone: 800-798-4223
  Room amenities: Each cabin features a television, complimentary bottled water replenished daily, radio alarm with docking station, hair dryer, individual climate control, personal safe, a robe and slippers, and make-up mirror. Direct dial phones with outside lines are available in the suites and staterooms, but are not included in your program cost. Please be aware that phone calls might be more expensive as the phone service is provided via a satellite. Water on board is suitable for washing and brushing your teeth.
  Facility amenities: Dining: The Seascape Tavern: A casual, cozy English-style tavern where, in the early evening, talented musicians play; Cliff Rock Grille & Bar: Serving light buffet breakfast, buffet lunch, and seated "hot rock" style dinner. Choose your ingredients and watch them cook to perfection on 100% volcanic lava rock. Enjoy your favorite cocktail at the open air bar; Shearwater Dining Room: Savor delicious cuisine in the easy elegance of the main dining room, where a professional wait staff serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily from our chef's menu of regionally inspired dishes. There is a complimentary choice of coffee, bottled water, tea, soft drinks, beer, house-brand spirits, and house wine selections throughout the voyage. Special diets: Haimark Line will make every attempt to accommodate special dietary needs. If you have any special needs, please provide this in writing on your Passenger Information Form. It is the guest's responsibility to provide as much detail as necessary concerning any medically related dietary concerns. Not all dietary requests can be accommodated. Services: This ship features three lounges, laundry services (for a fee), pillow menu, library with books and board games, and salon. Wireless Internet service is available on board ship. As this service is provided via satellite, the connection speeds and signal strength can be inconsistent on board and cannot be guaranteed at all times. Each guest will receive 2 hours of complimentary Internet access (including connecting time); additional Internet access packages are available for a fee. A small supply of wireless tablets are available at the Purser's Office for short term use of checking and sending email.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Park Hyatt Toronto
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Perfectly situated in the heart of the fashionable Yorkville area, the Park Hyatt Toronto represents an elite level of luxury marked by subtle contemporary influence. Encircled by high-end retail stores and five-star restaurants, this hotel is within walking distance to some of downtown’s most renowned sites, including the Royal Ontario Museum.
  Contact info: 4 Avenue Road
Toronto, ON M5R 2E8 Canada
phone: 416-925-1234
  Room amenities: Each room features complimentary Internet access, telephone, television, personal safe, mini-bar, coffee maker, alarm clock, complimentary daily newspapers, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, and 24-hour room service.
  Facility amenities: This hotel features 24-hour room service, business center, currency exchange, dry cleaning and laundry services (for a fee), complimentary shoe shine, yoga kits, fitness center, full service spa, and sauna.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: N/A For additional nights, please contact the Park Hyatt Toronto at 416-925-1234. Please note that this hotel is not offering any discounted rates on post-program nights for Road Scholar participants. The Park Hyatt Toronto will not have a record of your booking for the program nights until 30 days prior to the program departure.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Chicago, Illinois. 5:00 PM on the 7th floor of the Palmer Hilton House. You will be staying at Palmer Hilton House that night.
  End of Program:
Toronto, Ontario. After breakfast on the last day. You will be staying at Park Hyatt Toronto the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. The Haimark Passenger Information Form is required. All participants are required to have a passport with two blank pages. Passport cards will not be accepted.
  Parking availability:
Program begins in Toronto and ends in Chicago so parking is not applicable.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Chicago, Illinois
  From End of Program
  Location:  In Transit
Travel Details

From the Chicago-O'Hare International Airport to the Palmer Hilton House


From Airport




Public Transportation


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


From the Chicago-OHare International Airport to the Palmer Hilton House


From Airport






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


From the Park Hyatt Toronto to the Pearson Airport via Public Transportation


To Airport




Public Transportation


Walk 10 minutes to the St. George station and take the subway to the Kipling station. From there, take the 192 bus to the airport. Taking public transportation will cost $3 CAD and will take approximately one hour.


From the Park Hyatt Toronto to the Pearson Airport


To Airport






Take a taxi from the hotel to the airport. It will cost approximately $55 CAD and will take approximately 40 minutes.

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
(Sunday, August 9)
 Afternoon: Arrival in Chicago. Meet at 5:00 PM on the 7th floor of the Palmer Hilton House. Each group will have their own Welcome Orientation.
Lake Superior Group (blue) will meet in LaSalle 1.
Lake Huron Group (red) will meet in LaSalle 2.
Lake Michigan Group (orange) will meet in LaSalle 3.
Lake Erie Group (green) will meet in Clark 5.
Lake Ontario Group (yellow) will meet in Clark 7.
 Dinner: Welcome Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Palmer Hilton House
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Chicago, Illinois / Embarkation
(Monday, August 10)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Enjoy an excursion in Chicago, learning about the city's architecture.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Explore the Art Institute of Chicago during a guided excursion. In the late afternoon, embark the ship. Embarkation takes place between 3:30 PM and 5:00 PM. Gather on board for cocktails and hor d'oeuvres as we prepare to set sail.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: At sea
(Tuesday, August 11)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: At sea. The only Great Lake located entirely within the United States, Lake Michigan has a surface area of more than 22,000 square miles, making it the fifth largest lake in the world. The name Michigan is believed to come from the native Ojibwe word mishigami, which translates to "great water."
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: At sea. Attend a shipboard guest lecture. After a scenic day of cruising, we'll gather for a festive welcome reception.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Mackinac Island, Michigan
(Wednesday, August 12)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Awaken in the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. After breakfast, we'll go ashore for a horse-drawn carriage ride around Mackinac Island, passing the Victorian-era Grand Hotel, where the movie "Somewhere in Time" was filmed. During this excursion, we'll visit Fort Mackinac, which was constructed by the British in 1780, taken by the Americans in 1796, and reclaimed by the British at the start of the War of 1812.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: Continue your excursion.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
 Evening: This evening, cocktail hour in the outdoor lounge features a captivating presentation by the Grand Hotel Resident Historian.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Soo Locks / Whitefish Bay / Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
(Thursday, August 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: At sea. Relax as the ship transits the Soo Locks from Lake Huron to Lake Superior.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: Arrive to Sault Saint Marie, the oldest city in the Midwest. Sault Saint Marie was originally established as one settlement by the Jesuit monasteries on both sides of the lake. Today disembark in Sault Saint Marie on the US side. We will explore the town of Sault Saint Marie and the locks with a visit to locks visitor's bureau, the river history museum, along with the town's historic water street. Rejoin the vessel in Canadian Sault Saint Marie to continue your journey.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Little Current, Ontario, Canada
(Friday, August 14)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: This morning, we'll cruise through the rugged beauty of Georgian Bay, sometimes called the sixth Great Lake. Our destination is Manitoulin Island, the world's largest freshwater island and home of the Ojibwe people, part of the First Nation of Anishinaabe. Coming ashore at Little Current, we'll board a motor coach and explore the area's rich native and nautical history. At Immaculate Conception Church, we'll learn how the beliefs and customs of the Ojibwe intertwine with those of the Catholic Church. At the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, we'll attend a traditional "smudging" ceremony and "pow wow" and explore the museum and art gallery.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: Back in Little Current, you'll have the option to return to the ship or stay in town for your own exploration.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Midland, Ontario, Canada
(Saturday, August 15)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Founded in 1878, Midland is a summer resort destination and the economic center of Georgian Bay. Here, we'll visit the Jesuit mission of "Sainte-Marie among the Hurons," a living museum that depicts missionary life in the 17th century. Then, we'll explore the S.S. Keewatin, the last remaining Great Lakes Passenger Liner turned into a floating museum, which operated from 1907-1966. After our visit and some free time ashore, we'll set sail for mighty Lake Huron.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: At sea. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: At sea
(Sunday, August 16)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: The second largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron boasts a surface area of 23,000 square miles. Like the other Great Lakes, it was formed at the end of the last ice age as the glaciers retreated. With over 30,000 islands, Lake Huron has more shoreline than any of the other Great Lakes.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: At sea. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Detroit, Michigan / Windsor, Ontario, Canada
(Monday, August 17)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Sailing from Lake Huron to Lake Erie, the Saint Laurent will call on Windsor, Ontario, known as the City of Roses. Here, we'll cross the Ambassador Bridge, a privately owned suspension bridge that connects Windsor with Detroit, Michigan. This bridge is the busiest international trade crossing in North America, supporting $13 billion USD in annual production. Just outside of Detroit, we'll visit the Henry Ford Museum where highlights include: the limousine that carried President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day in Texas, the bus in which Rosa Parks stood her ground and sparked the Civil Rights movement, and the chair from the Ford Theater in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was shot. After our excursion, we'll return to the ship and set sail for our next stop, Niagara Falls.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: At sea. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Welland Canal / Niagara Falls
(Tuesday, August 18)
 Breakfast: Late breakfast onboard.
 Morning: After a leisurely morning onboard, we'll disembark the ship at Port Colbourne on the southern end of the Welland Canal. The original Welland Canal was opened in 1829 and was extended to reach Lake Erie in 1833. The current canal was completed in 1932 and boasts eight locks. As the MS Saint Laurent awaits its turn to transit the locks, we'll drive through the Niagara Wine Region, home to 25 vineyards and over 50 wineries. At Niagara Falls, we'll embark on the famous Hornblower "Voyage of the Falls" for a cruise into the misty spray of Horseshoe Falls.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue your excursion before heading back to the ship.
 Dinner: Back on shore, we'll drive along scenic Niagara Parkway to a charming local restaurant for dinner before rejoining the ship at Port Weller.
Accommodations: Saint Laurent
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Disembarkation / Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(Wednesday, August 19)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Disembark. Passengers must disembark by 9:00 AM. Enjoy an excursion in Toronto.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue your full day excursion before checking in to the hotel.
 Dinner: Farewell Dinner.
Accommodations: Park Hyatt Toronto
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Departures
(Thursday, August 20)
 Morning: Transfer to the airport.
 Morning: Breakfast in the hotel dining room.
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


Author: Carol Shields

Description: A middle aged mother of three daughters lives a contented life as a writer until her oldest child Norah quits college to panhandle on the streets of Toronto. Norah's only communication with the outside world appears to be a sign she wears around her neck that reads "Goodness."

Great Lakes Birds

Author: Raymond Leung (Illustrator), James Kavanaugh

Description: This fold-out reference illustrates almost 150 species in the Great Lakes region. Laminated and pocket-sized, it's a handy item to take along in the field.

Great Lakes Water Wars

Author: Peter Annin

Description: Annin weaves an intriguing tale of behind the scenes compromise and conflict among the states and provinces making a grab for a portion of the water in the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Wildlife

Author: Raymond Leung (Illustrator), James Kavanaugh

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

Great Lakes for Sale, From Whitecaps to Bottlecaps

Author: Dave Dempsey

Description: Dempsey calls for action to stop the diversion of water from the great lakes watershed.

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.

Lake Superior Flavors, A Field Guide to Food and Drink Along the Circle Tour

Author: James Norton

Description: In this review of Lake Superior cuisine, the authors focus on local artisans and important dishes from the four regions they visit: Minnesota’s North Shore, Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Mackinac Island

Author: Terry Phipps

Description: Phipps captures the splendor of the architecture and gardens of Mackinac in this collection of photographs.

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 primer presents the Native American tribes of the upper Midwest, their cultures, religions, leaders and roles in the colonial wars and 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.

Selected Stories

Author: Alice Munro

Description: This collection of 28 short stories represents some of Munro's finest work. A powerful range of emotional, evocative tales set throughout the cities and rural towns of her native country.

Shining Big Sea Water, The Story of Lake Superior

Author: Norman K. Risjord

Description: A swift, illuminating history of Lake Superior, from its geological birth and native inhabitants to early explorers and industries, developers, cities and future challenges.

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 Civil War steamer Island Queen in 1864 and the tanker Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.

The Devil in the White City, Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Author: Erik Larson

Description: This fascinating account of Chicago's 1893 World's Fair interweaves the true stories of Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor, who terrorized its visitors.

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 its 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: Jerry Dennis, known for his writing on fly-fishing and canoeing, interweaves observation, anecdote and history in this tale of the lakes and his month-long voyage aboard the schooner Malabar.

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.

The Middle Ground, Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815

Author: Richard White

Description: White takes in the history of Daniel Boone, George Washington, Pontiac and Tecumseh in this scholarly history of relations between native peoples and Europeans in "pays d'en haut," the region around the Great Lakes.

The Song of Hiawatha

Author: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Description: This Everyman’s Library Classic of Longfellow’s epic narrative poem, set along the south shore of Lake Superior and loosely based on the legends of the Ojibwe and other Native Americans, includes an introduction and the latest scholarship on the classic.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Author: Frederick Stonehouse

Description: Stonehouse presents the circumstances and evidence for the loss of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, which disappeared during a heavy snow storm on Lake Superior in the early evening of November 10, 1975. With no evidence and no witnesses, the captain and crew of 28 are still listed as missing.

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