Cruise ship Octantis draws admirers to Detroit on maiden Great Lakes voyage

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Detroit “A Viking arrived in Motown on Tuesday.

But instead of a Norse warrior bent on plundering, this one is a cruise ship with tourists on an expedition across the Great Lakes.

It is called the Octantis and belongs to the Viking Cruises fleet. And the ship, on its maiden voyage in the St. Lawrence Seaway, stopped in Detroit for its first stop in Michigan on its way up the Detroit River. The ship was nearly sold out with more than 300 guests on board, a company representative said.

A few Metro Detroiters even came down to the riverside to see the Octantis as she took a break from her run.

Steve Lovett, 46, of Royal Oak was among them.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a modern, giant cruise liner in this area, so I had to see it for myself,” Lovett said. “I never thought the day would come when we would see a luxury ship like this here.”

Lovett, who owns a real estate investment firm, is a boating and ship enthusiast and said he’s been following the news about Viking cruises on the Great Lakes for some time. He has taken the company’s virtual tours of the ship and has been tracking Octantis’ GPS signal online since disembarking on her maiden voyage.

“It has a lot of features that you don’t find on Caribbean cruise ships or smaller ships,” he said. He mentioned his special shell that can cut through ice and fins sstabilizers that keep passengers comfortable in all water conditions.

The Viking cruise ship Octantis sails up the Detroit River for a scheduled port call in Detroit, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

“It’s supposed to be one of the best and most comfortable sailboats, as well as one of the toughest and most durable ships, and it’s in this beautiful package.”

He also said he read that the company was building a sister ship to the Octantis, called Polaris, which is expected to set sail next year.

Lovett does not know when he will book his Viking Great Lakes cruise, he said. “I checked and it’s fully booked for the summer months.”

Steven Lovett, Royal Oak, takes a photo of the Viking cruise ship Octantis, docked in Detroit, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Known for its voyages on European rivers, the cruise line announced in 2020 that it offer trips on the Great Lakes. At the time of the announcement, the ship was still under construction and when completed would accommodate 378 guests in 189 cabins.

Barbara Wynder of Detroit made a special trip Tuesday morning to see the ship docked on the river.

“Have you ever seen anything like this in your life,” she asked, standing near the river bank on Tuesday morning. “To see a big cruise ship at the Port of Detroit?”

Wynder

“Do you know what this means for little children?” said Wynder, a retired attorney and business owner who serves as chair of the charter school board at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods. “Our kids should be there to see this!” »

She said a friend who monitors ships on the Detroit River announced that the Octantis would dock in the city on Tuesday on the internet.

“When I saw this I said ‘I gotta see this,'” Wynder said.

She said it was exciting to see the ship on the river and wished she could see it up close.

“I’m in awe of the magnitude (of the ship), its size and how it got here,” she said. “Do you know he had to go through eight (canal) locks before he got to Point Pelee?”

Wynder said that after seeing the Octantis she doesn’t think she will go on a Viking cruise on the Great Lakes, but is interested in one of the company’s trips to Europe, such as a Danube trip. .

The Octantis’ journey began in Toronto and took travelers to Niagara Falls, Point Pelee and Detroit. Next stops after Detroit: Alpena and Mackinac Island, the journey ending in Milwaukee. Prices for trips on the ship start at $5,995.

The Viking cruise ship Octantis docks in Detroit on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Like Wynder, Marty Pelker, 63, of Dearborn was thrilled with the ship’s arrival in Detroit. He and his wife, Anita, made a special trip to see the Octantis at the dock on Tuesday morning. “She knows how much fun I have around the ships.”

Pelker said he thought it was great the cruise line was calling in Detroit. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “When was the last time you saw something like this in Detroit? It’s awesome.

Pelker

Viking cruises are educational cruises and their voyages are about telling a story, he said, and now is a good time for Detroit history.

“We have so much to offer, it’s great that the world wants to see it, especially now that the area is doing something positive downtown and with the river walk and we’re reopening,” Pelker said.

He added that Viking Cruises passengers are usually travelers from all over the world and he hopes they will come to Detroit and spend some money, helping to boost the region’s economy. Maybe, he said, someone on the cruise will see something here and want to invest in Metro Detroit.

On Tuesday, the ship was docked on the Detroit River at the Nicholson Terminal & Dock Company near West Jefferson and West Grand Boulevard.

At 7:30 a.m., she was safely moored next to an old building with a large blue “Boblo Island Detroit Dock” sign painted on her sides facing the water. A large fence surrounded the terminal and access to the wharf was restricted.

On the shore north of the ship, construction workers were busy moving dirt and erecting structures for what appears to be a park in the near future. A pavilion with a cement foundation is already standing.

The Viking ship docked at the Nicholson Terminal instead of the Port Authority of Detroit Wayne County’s public dock, which was built to give cruise ships and other Great Lakes vessels “the ability to dock downtown of Detroit,” according to the Port Authority’s website.

The Port Authority was told late last week that the new Viking ship would be docking elsewhere, said Kyle Burleson, director of port operations, but he didn’t know why.

“We think he can use our facilities,” he said. “We worked with Viking, their ship’s agent who handles all the logistics ashore, as well as the pilots.”

A Viking representative could not speak specifically about the ship’s docking.

The Port Authority carried out tests to ensure that there was enough water at the quay for the ship to be moored there. Officials hope the ship will use the dock later this summer, Burleson said.

Where a ship berths “ultimately is up to the captain of the ship,” he said, adding that “a ship of this size coming into our dock would be a little tricky. they were just more comfortable going to a cargo dock where they know big ships stop all the time.

The Port Authority Dock, which cost $22 million to build and opened in 2011, was designed for what was previously the largest cruise ship on the Great Lakes: the 472-foot Hamburg. The new Viking ship is 665 feet long.

“We will definitely work with them to make sure they have all the information they need to help them understand that this is right for them,” Burleson said.

The Port Authority wharf is welcoming another 50 cruise ships this summer, Burleson said.

Young

Kenneth Young, 41, of Detroit, said he had the day off Tuesday, saw on the internet that the ship was docking in Detroit and wanted to see it for himself.

“I’m used to seeing small boats and cargo ships on the river, but I heard about it and wanted to come see it,” the school bus driver said. “I didn’t think it would be this big. It’s a lot bigger than I expected. Wow. It’s beautiful.”

He said he had never been on a cruise. “The only thing I’ve been on is the Boblo Boat and that was years ago,” Young said.

However, he said he might one day consider boarding one of Viking’s ships.

“I looked at the prices and I’m going to have to save for a few years,” he said with a laugh.

Writer Kalea Hall contributed.

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