DULUTH, MN — It was a brisk and foggy Monday morning in Duluth, but right around 6 a.m., the Viking Octantis peaked through the fog as she made her way under the Aerial Lift Bridge.
The 660-foot long cruise ship can carry 400 passengers and 250 crew members.
Passengers began their trip in Thunder Bay, Ontario before heading to Duluth, the ship’s first stop in the United States.
The city of Duluth had to prepare a brand new customs facility to process the guests coming from Canada, a process that required lots of time and effort.
“To have her out in the lake now and to see the tender vessel coming out. We’re like ‘It’s finally happening!’” said Lucie Amundsen, Communications Director with the DECC.
Groups that helped put together the cruise gathered outside the new facility Monday morning.
“You talk about it, you map it out. We work with customs. The city has been fantastic. All these people and it’s just been an idea and now we’re in reality,” said Amundsen.
The ship is too large to dock behind the DECC without dredging the entire area, so tender vessels brought passengers to shore before they headed to check out the local attractions.
“We’re wandering around your beautiful city this morning trying to stay dry, and this afternoon we’re going on a tour of the railroad museum,” said Larry Johnson, a cruise passenger touring the city with his wife Susan.
Local leaders hope the ships provide an economic boost down the line.
“We’ve got 400 people who are here for a limited amount of time who are getting our buses booked for excursions at our local places or day trips. That’s really exciting,” said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.
Larson hopes the trip can leave a lasting memory.
“For me, there is a piece of driving tourism and revenue for sure. But it is also about how you build in places that are special in your memory,” she said.
Once done in Duluth, the Octantis’ 400 passengers will head to Bayfield and the Upper Peninsula, before passing through the Soo Locks and into Lake Michigan.
Once there, they’ll head to Mackinac Island and Milwaukee.
The 8-day cruise starts at $7,000.
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