Great Lakes cruising is having its most successful year ever and a big reason why is a new network of U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities enabling more seamless cross-border travel, according to a statement.
New clearance facilities are now operating in Duluth, Minnesota and Cleveland, Ohio, joining existing facilities in Detroit and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Previously, cruise ship operators had to work individually with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to arrange for agents to process passengers using remote “jump kit” equipment at different locations around the region.
The availability of personnel and equipment was frequently uncertain, making it difficult or impossible for the cruise ship operators to plan itineraries that depend on on-time connections to shoreside transportation and activities. Even when available, the customer experience was highly variable and, in some cases, resulted in hours-long waits.
In response, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers joined with the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation and the American Great Lakes Ports Association to work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop a new four-port customs solution.
Strategically positioned at key Great Lakes cruising ports of call, these customs facilities forms a network that now provides predictability for itinerary planners and an improved passenger experience.
“Our region is a unique two-nation destination for cruise passengers. This is one of our greatest assets and now U.S. Customs clearance facilities are well-placed to support excellent itineraries and market growth,” said David Lorenz, Chair of Cruise the Great Lakes and Vice President of Travel Michigan. “With a record-breaking number of cruise ships and passengers this season, the Great Lakes is taking its place among the top cruising destinations in the world.”
Nearly 150,000 passengers will visit Great Lakes ports this year–up by more than 25% from 2019. Nine ships are cruising the Great Lakes, including ones operated by Pearl Seas, American Queen Voyages, St. Lawrence Cruise Lines, and for the first time ever, Viking.