The Viking cruise ship Polaris has made a stop in Alpena weekly since the season began in May. Today, the ship made its final run to northeast Michigan for the season.
On an overcast Monday afternoon, tourists from all over the world saw a presentation at the National Marine Sanctuary and experienced downtown Alpena.
“Still kind of getting accustomed to the fact that it’s a lake and you can’t see the other side of it, because we don’t have them this size in the UK, so it’s nice to see so many different places,” said Molly Wallis, an expedition guide on the Viking Polaris. “It’s amazing to get a different perspective on different areas.”
More and more people are starting to take trips on the Viking Polaris and having the chance to make a stop in Alpena. The cruise ship grew in popularity this year, only sending out one ship for eight stops in Alpena in 2022, but increasing to two ships and 20 stops in 2023.
“This is the first I think Viking has been in the Great Lakes, and again, they added a ship, so they have two ships going this summer, and I think people after COVID were just ready to get out doing things,” said Stephanie Bender, a dock leader with Great Lakes Shore Excursion. “All the ships have been full, it’s been really busy, so it’s been good.”
For the tour guides, it was their first experience in Alpena, as well, and they had the opportunity to learn about the Maritime Center and their efforts to preserve the Great Lakes.
“It’s very interesting;” said Deborah Pininger, a kayak guide on the Viking Polaris. “Also we got to go on the boat to see the shipwrecks, so that was pretty cool and interesting for us to see the history of all the wrecks here in the Great Lakes.”
Once they learn about the Great Lakes, they get to teach other people who are experiencing them for the first time about them as well.
“A lot of them don’t realize the amazing natural world right on their doorstep which is really nice, and I always say to people with conservation, if you can see what needs conserving, obviously people are more inclined to conserve and help in that kind of way,” said Wallis.
The Viking ship Polaris will increase its stops in Alpena next year again, from 20 stops to 26.