Monday, September 03, 2018

Great Lakes Cruise

Victory I

Just returned from a 10-day cruise of the Great Lakes, organized by the UCLA Alumni Association. We left from Chicago and flew home from Toronto. En route, we visited all five lakes, if only for a couple of hours (i.e., Lake Superior).

Our ship was the Victory I, a 200-passenger vessel much smaller than the massive 4,000-person oceanliners we're used to when traveling with Disney. Onboard "at lake" activities were pretty much restricted to lectures and tours of the galley and captain's bridge. Plus we calculated it took 14 laps of walking around the main deck to equal one mile, compared to the three laps on the Disney Wonder.

Still we had a wonderful time, seeing new sights and talking to folks from around the country. The ship was filled with alums from many different institutions, all of whom were highly educated and lots of PhDs. Meals were open-seating, so we had our pick of breakfast, lunch and dinner companions. Surprisingly, we were among the youngest people onboard. We thought we were special celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary on the second day of the cruise, but were humbled to meet several couples well into their fifth decade of marriage. Everyone had a fascinating story to tell! 

Posts about the major ports-of-call follow below. But first let's start with a quick overview of life on the Victory I.

Arriving at Chicago O'Hare

Leaving Chicago at sunset

Our cozy cabin—no verandas on the Victory I

On vacation!

Third deck hallway—only four decks on the V1

Sailing past Sleeping Bear dunes, among the largest sand dunes
in North America

Traveling through the Sault Sainte Marie (pronounced Soo San Marie)
locks to briefly touch Lake Superior

Little Current on Manitoulin Island, Ontario

Even small towns have radio stations—three-in-one!

Swing bridge, leaving Manitoulin Island—don't have many of these
in L.A.!

Life on the water

Lots of charming lighthouses, this one on Strawberry Island

Good food onboard, including an open-air grill where
everyone cooks own dinner on 800+-degree hot lava stones (before)

And after . . .

Tim wondering what's under the chef's hat during the galley tour

Captain's bridge

Ship's helm (i.e., steering wheel) has been replaced by joysticks (yikes!)

Niagara Falls panorama

The Mighty Niagara

More Niagara

Sailing through Welland Canal en route to Lake Ontario—close shave!

Sunset on the lakes

Mackinac Island

"Mackinac Island Welcomes You"

Our first stop, after sailing an entire day, was Mackinac (pronounced "Mackinaw") Island on the west end of Lake Huron. Although small—only 3.8 square miles—the island is home to the world-famous Grand Hotel, featured in the 1989 romantic time-travel movie Somewhere in Time, plus Fort Mackinac, now an excellent historical museum. Motorized vehicles are prohibited, so moving around the island is done strictly by horse carriage, bicycle and foot. Residents keep their homes as authentic to their 19th-century origins as possible. An absolutely lovely community.

Sunrise, approaching Mackinac Island


One of 700 working horses on the island

Fort Mackinac

Panoramic view of the Grand Hotel

East end of the hotel

Visitors arriving by horse-drawn carriage

World's longest veranda

Fabulous lobby

Brunch at the Grand Hotel

Dining room seats 1200—table for two, please!

Desserts as soon as you enter the dining room door

Seemingly endless buffet 

Evening dress code—lucky we were there for brunch and not dinner!

Beautiful Victorian homes

Our home-away-from-home docked and waiting for our return


Spirit of Detroit

After falling into serious decline in the late 20th century, Detroit is experiencing a major renaissance and was perhaps the biggest surprise of our entire trip. We arrived shortly after breakfast, hopped on a bus to Dearborn, drove past Hitsville U.S.A, the home of Motown Records, and spent most of the day at the Ford Museum of American Innovation, which started out as a car museum in the late 1920s but is now so much more. Once back at the ship, we walked the few blocks into downtown Detroit, so Tim could eat the chili dog he's been dreaming about for years. I also got to see the glorious art deco Guardian Building. Loved the whole day. We'll definitely return . . .

Drive-by: Hitsville, U.S.A., now the Motown Museum—another reason to
return to Detroit

Ford Museum of American Innovation—
still part car museum, though so much more

Chevys, too

One of the most beautiful cars ever built

Fan favorite!

Planes, too

Wright Brothers exhibit

And locomotives

FDR's presidential vehicle

The limo in which JFK was shot

And the chair in which Lincoln was assassinated

The famous bus in which Rosa Parks rode

Lots of incredible—and incredibly beautiful—generator gears

More of the same


Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion house

Dymaxion House interior, looking very much like Disneyland's

Tim and Mo Rooca from TV show Innovation Nation,
filmed at the Museum

Chili dog heaven: American Coney Island Dog, est. 1917

There it is—eat it! (I'm eating a salad in the background.)

Happy hubby

Phenomenal Guardian Building


More beauty

Mural celebrating commerce

Detroit skyline . . . On to Cleveland