Set sail aboard Le Champlain for a 11-day expedition cruise to explore the natural and cultural treasures of the Great Lakes of North America, surrounded by flamboyant nature painted in the colors of the Indian summer. Departing from Milwaukee, you will sail on Lake Michigan, a veritable inland sea, and enjoy the stunning panoramas around the largest freshwater lake located entirely in the United States. At Pointe Pelee National Park, designated as a Ramsar site and home to a marsh with a remarkable ecosystem, bird lovers will enjoy watching many endemic and migratory species. Your cruise will draw to an end in Toronto, your disembarkation port.
Discover the history of the Great Lakes of North America
Enjoy exceptional sailing on Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario
Nested on the shores of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, the largest city in the State of Wisconsin, harmoniously combines tradition and modernity. Industrial long ago, the city, known as Brew City because of its old breweries renowned all over the world, is experiencing a certain renaissance. While warehouses have given way to restaurants, bars, theatres, and art galleries in the city center, the district still retains traces of its manufacturing past. Further south lies Chicago, the economic center of the Midwest, with an interesting mix of natural and urban landscapes: its immense skyscrapers, diverse architecture, many parks, and magnificent beaches make the city a popular destination.
Sail the United States’ largest freshwater body, which gave its name to Michigan, one of the four states that border this lake measuring 500 km long and 200 km wide. The first colonists settled in the south at the end of the 17th century, on the site of the current megalopolis of Chicago. Wild landscapes of forests with sparkling colors, cliffs, golden sandy beaches and dunes as far as the eye can see stretch along its 2,600 km of shoreline. In the north, magnificent wind-swept islands rise out of the lake’s emerald waters. At 8 km long, the Mackinac Bridge, which spans the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, is one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.
Close to the banks of Lake Huron in the State of Michigan, Mackinac Island promises a real journey through time. Originally inhabited by Amerindians, then occupied by French and British colonists, this small island measuring only a few km² still retains an atmosphere of yesteryear today, with its Victorian-style buildings and elegant horse-drawn carriages. Fort Mackinac, on the heights of the island, is a reminder of the conflicts that punctuated the history of this strategic place, a former fur trade center. In addition to this scenery from the past, the island offers magnificent fine sandy beaches and is home to one of the oldest National Parks in the United States.
Located to the east of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Sault Ste. Marie is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Separated from its Canadian twin city by St. Marys River, it is famous among other things for its locks, known as either the Sault Locks or the Soo Locks, which enable ships to travel the meters in change in elevation between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. These locks, which date back over 160 years, are considered the most important in the world due to their shipping traffic. Make sure you visit the Museum Ship Valley Camp where you can visit the interior of a former freighter that sailed on the Great Lakes for more than 50 years.
The historical village of Killarney, in Ontario, is located on the north shore of Georgian Bay, on the edge of Lake Huron. It was founded in 1820, making it one of the oldest villages in Canada. At that time, it was a fur trading post. Indigenous people were already very much present in this area, since its Ojibwe name means “canoe passage”. Dominated by the white quartzite ridges of the La Cloche Mountains, Killarney’s surroundings offer visitors a protected natural environment to discover on foot, in a kayak, or during outings in an inflatable dinghy. The pink granite coast and the sapphire-blue waters of the lake are a real treat for the eyes!
The charming city of Parry Sound enjoys an exceptional natural setting in the heart of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, east of Georgian Bay. A holiday destination favored by the province’s inhabitants, the city and its surroundings offer a condensed version of all that the Great Lakes region has to offer: windswept forests of conifers, rocky shores characteristic of the Canadian Shield, beaches of fine sand, clear and calm waters producing magnificent reflections that change with the time of day and luminosity. A real paradise for fauna and flora, the place delights fans of nature and photography.
The town of Midland is located in the south of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron, near the picturesque Thirty Thousand Islands, an archipelago of granitic islands crowned with pine trees. The historical site of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons is nearby. This fenced community from the first half of the 17th century has been recreated to bring its story to life. Originally, it was the headquarters for the French Jesuit mission to the Huron-Wendat people. A living history museum immerses visitors in the life of the first Westerners to arrive in Canada. The region is ideal for myriad outdoor activities, such as bike riding, canoeing, hiking, and bird watching along the Wendat Trail.
Day 7: Sailing along Flowerpot Island | Lake Huron
In the heart of Georgia Bay, discover the magnificent coastal landscapes of Flowerpot Island. Surrounded by crystal-clear water, the site is reputed for its sheer cliffs, its dense vegetation, its rare flora, its heritage lighthouse, and its two strange rock formations that look like flowerpots. A result of the actions of the wind and rain, these pillars of stone detached from the coast are one of the site’s curiosities and gave the island its name. Your ship will sail along these coasts and give you the opportunity to take magnificent photos of this island belonging to the Fathom Five National Marine Park, which is Canada’s oldest National Marine Conservation Area.
A natural border between the American State of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, Lake Huron is one of the five American Great Lakes and one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Comprising the main lake, Saginaw Bay, the North Channel and Georgian Bay, and home to around 30,000 islands, it offers varied coastal landscapes and unique views. From your ship, you’ll thus be able to admire the wild beauty of the wooded and at times craggy coastline of Manitoulin Island, or the spectacular cliffs of the Bruce Peninsular.
Forming a natural line of separation between the United States and Canada, the St. Clair River, which flows from Lake Huron into Lake St. Clair, is a significant element of the Great Lakes Waterway. Used in the 18th century for the fur trade by the French colonists of North America who sailed it on small boats to trade with the Amerindians, it was then travelled by freighters transporting lumber, iron ore and copper from the Great Lakes region to the cities of the Rust Belt.
During your navigation along the Detroit River, an important commercial waterway linking Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair to Lake Huron, you will sail along the largest city in Michigan. You’ll then enjoy panoramic views over the skyscrapers of the former Motor City, jewel of the automotive industry, Fordism and Motown music in the 20th century. You’ll also be able to admire the Ambassador Bridge, which spans the river and enables access to Windsor, on the Canadian shore of the river. This steel suspension bridge, over two kilometres long, was constructed in 1929. This bridge alone carries over 25% of trade between the United States and Canada.
Point Pelee National Park lies at the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland and stretches out over a wooded peninsula extending out into Lake Erie. It is home to one of the few large marshes left in the Great Lakes system. Due to its value in maintaining biological diversity, this rare ecosystem is now protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Located at the meeting point of two migratory corridors, the park is a paradise for bird watchers: more than 350 bird species can be found here. With options ranging from hiking to paddling, and bird-watching in the company of your naturalist guides, the program for this port of call is very much centered on nature.
Located to the south of Lake Huron and connected to Lake Ontario by the Welland Canal, Lake Erie, which owes its name to one of the Amerindian tribes which peopled its banks before the arrival of the French in the 17th century, is remarkable for its unique ecosystem. Its shallow fish-filled waters make it an excellent fishing spot, while its banks, famous for their many migratory birds, attract photographers and ornithology enthusiasts.
Port Colborne is a small port city located in southern Ontario, at the mouth of the Welland Canal. It is well-known for one of the longest locks in the world: measuring 420 meters, this lock, the 8th in the canal, has an observation footbridge and marks the final transit point before the Erie Canal. In addition to the discovery of this tremendous hydraulic infrastructure, this port of call will be your privileged access point to the famous Niagara Falls, renowned all over the world for their spectacular beauty. Located on the river of the same name, which means “water thunder” in Amerindian language, these wonders of nature are among the most powerful waterfalls in the world.
Day 11: Toronto | Disembark
The largest city in Canada and capital of the province of Ontario, Toronto fascinates as much by its incredible diversity as by its size. Make sure you visit the CN Tower, the tallest tower in the western hemisphere, as well as the St. Lawrence Market whose stalls reflect the multicultural wealth of this city known as the global city. Not far from there, the historic Distillery District unveils its brick-paved streets imbued with romantic charm and its myriad of small restaurants, cafés, boutiques, theatres and art galleries. The Royal Ontario Museum and its impressive collections devoted to the world’s natural and cultural history will also be an unmissable stop during this port of call.
For full cancellation policy details, please contact us for a quote.
7 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 7 Dinners
10 Nights Accommodations
Accommodations as listed
Ground transportation as listed
Activities as listed
Meals as listed
Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
Captain’s Welcome Cocktail and Gala Dinner
Gratuities to Onboard Crew
“Open Bar” (pouring wines, house champagne, alcohol except premium brands...list available upon request)
24h Room Service (special selection)
Highly experienced and bilingual (French-English) expedition staff
Park Entry Fees into Protected Areas
Water sports activities (except scuba diving) using the ship’s equipment, when permitted by local authorities and confirmed by ship Master according to safety and sea conditions onsite.
Flight costs (please request a quote)
Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
Optional Excursions - Ponant allows you to pre-book your excursions approximately six to two months prior to the cruise* departure. Please note that this is subject to change. Please contact us for more details.
Any ground services before and/or after the cruise other than the ones mentioned
Laundry Services, Hair Salon, and à La Carte Spa Treatments
Pre or post cruise programs, overland programs or shore excursions
Beverages other than the ones mentioned in inclusions
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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!