GREEN BAY – For more than 20 years, Green Bay wondered when its cruise ship would come in.
The answer, it turns out, is Thursday.
After years of work and near misses, tourism leaders plan to welcome the 100-plus passengers on American Queen Voyages‘ Ocean Navigator when it docks at Leicht Memorial Park at 7 a.m. Thursday. The arrival will mark a milestone in the city’s decades-long effort to attract Great Lakes cruise ships to town.
The passengers will spend the day and night docked in Green Bay. The ship will return to Green Bay two weeks later, on Thursday, June 30, again with more than 100 passengers on board. The hope is to convince more cruise operators to bring more ships to Green Bay in the future.
“We hope these guests are the first of many to come,” Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich said Monday.
Discover Green Bay, the region’s tourism marketing agency, plans to welcome the passengers and ship’s crew when they disembark at Leicht Memorial Park. The community is invited to stop down, meet some passengers and snap some pics of the ship and the activities. Cameron Teske, Discover Green Bay’s vice president of visitor experience, said everyone can help make sure the visitors have a “welcoming, hospitable, exciting day.”
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Here are some answers about what’s going on and when to visit downtown Green Bay, whether to just catch a glimpse of the ship or to welcome new visitors to the community.
When does the ship arrive and depart?
The Ocean Navigator is scheduled to dock at Leicht Memorial Park around 7 a.m. Thursday. Passengers will disembark an hour or 90 minutes later.
The Ocean Navigator is scheduled to leave Green Bay around 7 a.m. Friday. Its journey will ultimately end in Chicago, where the ship’s 14-day cruise began.
Will there be a welcome party?
Discover Green Bay plans to have its mobile visitors center, a revamped ambulance, on-site to welcome guests and provide information about attractions, dining and shopping in the area. Downtown Green Bay Inc. and On Broadway Inc. will be on hand to provide support and assistance about things to do that are within walking distance.
Teske said there will be activities to engage passengers as they disembark and Scray Cheese will be supplying some fresh cheese curds. The public is welcome to stop down but must stay in the grassy area of Leicht Park. The concrete area along the dock will be a restricted area off-limits to the public.
What will passengers do in Green Bay?
Discover Green Bay officials and C&M Presents owner Sue Broberg presented American Queen Voyages with almost three-dozen different attractions and visitor experiences it could offer passengers. Broberg’s company works with tour buses on similar excursions, but this was her first time planning for a cruise ship.
The cruise ship operator selected four sites that it believed passengers would be most interested in: The Automobile Gallery, Neville Public Museum, National Railroad Museum and, of course, a visit to Lambeau Field.
Buses will operate on a loop to allow passengers to visit each site during the morning hours. Broberg said the route specifically chose to travel on Oneida Street so guides could talk about the region’s Native American communities and history.
Some passengers bought a special excursion with their cruise, but the rest will have the afternoon to spend exploring the community.
Why has it taken so long for them to come?
Green Bay has not had the best fortune when cruise ships have planned to come here. More than 20 years ago, high winds on the Bay of Green Bay forced a couple of cruise ships to skip their planned stops.
In 2018, it looked like cruises would come to town, but the ship took longer to repair than planned so it wasn’t available to cruise. In 2019, the cruise operator got bought by American Queen Voyages, which said 2020 would be the year. In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic canceled cruise plans until this year.
How much does the cruise cost?
The next cruise coming to Green Bay, a 14-day journey that departs Chicago on June 19, has staterooms available for $8,000 per guest. The June 2023 cruise to Green Bay has staterooms still available for $7,100 per guest.
The most expensive stateroom, which includes a veranda, is $11,000.
How often are ships coming to Green Bay?
American Queen Voyages has planned stops in Green Bay on two cruises each year in 2022, 2023 and 2024, according to the company’s website.
Tourism and community leaders said they hope the initial stops spur American Queen to include Green Bay to more of its Great Lakes cruises. They hope ships from other cruise lines will begin to come to Green Bay as well.
Stephen Burnett, executive director of the Great Lakes Cruise Association, said the community has already passed a major milestone by bringing ships to town. He said the community will receive a lot of exposure through cruise promotions and the visitors themselves.
“It’s a very powerful way to expose and promote a city. People need to know it’s not just a cruise ship that’s turning up,” Burnett said.
Contact Jeff Bollier at (920) 431-8387 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffBollier.