ALPENA, Mich. – In the distance where Lake Huron connects to the waves crashing against the rocks on shore, the largest Great Lakes cruise ship made its way to the sunrise side on Monday.
It carries 420 passengers, 170 employees, all 15–thousand tons anchored in the water with many locals waiting to catch sight of the MS Hamburg Cruise Ship.
“Tourism is a big thing here, and this will even make it bigger if we get more of these cruise ships coming in,” said Alpena resident Richard Lefevere.
It’s been a 12-day journey for hundreds of tourists waiting to touch land. Passengers were loaded on to orange boats called tenders. Ship crews boated groups of 50 through the Thunder Bay River to the edge of the loading dock near the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Peter Wagner was one those passengers on the ship, assisting a number of German travelers to tour parts of Northeast Michigan for a day.
“It’s a fantastic experience for us Germans to see the wonderful cities here.” he said, “to meet very nice and friendly people and have such a lot fun here.”
The Hamburg is the only ship from Germany allowed to cross the Great Lakes because it’s small enough to cruise through small towns like Alpena.
“I don’t remember all the places we’ve been,” said Horst Halden, “but we really enjoy where we have been.” Halden traveled with his wife. His family is no stranger to the States. A nephew lives another major city.
The tourists flew to Chicago to start their journey and will dock in Montreal at the end of 21 days.
“When people are traveling they want to purchase souvenirs,” said Anne Gentry, “They want to buy things from the place that they stopped.”
Gentry is the executive director of Alpena’s Downtown Development Authority. She volunteered with the Maritime Heritage Center, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to greet travelers and pass out maps.
The town has worked for quite some time to orchestrate this day to fruition. Gentry said, “I think it shows that we are a viable tourist destination.”
By the time the sun sets, Alpena’s new friends will be on their way. Until next time. The luxury cruise line will return later this month.