Wednesday morning’s Keweenaw Alliance Breakfast will feature a panel discussion about cruise ships and the opportunities for area businesses and residents from their return to the Copper Country. The subject has already been brought up on a preliminary basis at Houghton City Council meetings over the past couple months. There are two companies that will be using the canal as a port of call, including Viking, an industry leader that made a name for itself doing river cruises in Europe.
The ships are too tall to fit underneath the lift bridge and will have to dock closer to Kestner Waterfront Park, near where the Copper Range Depot Restaurant is now. Currently that space is occupied by the Isle Royale Queen IV for the winter. Councilor Mike Needham has mentioned that aesthetic improvements for the area should be brought up by the council at some point in the first half of this year.
Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau President Brad Barnett says Viking has been an excellent partner, sharing expected demographics and what their interests will likely be. Barnett says this is not going to be the fruity drink sipping, carefree and relaxed crowd. They expect guests to be active while here, and looking to know more about where they are visiting.
Houghton is one of the midway stops, which Barnett says could be an opportunity for restaurants.
Tickets for the weeks-long cruise that traverses between Milwaukee and Duluth are $7,000. They will have discretionary income to spend, perhaps on some big ticket items. Barnett says businesses will need to be ready to ship those purchases elsewhere around the country, as something like an outdoor bike would be impossible to bring back to the ship to be left in storage.
Barnett says the goal is to leave a favorable impression and entice those who dock here to come back for a longer vacation in the Copper Country in the future.