The Vista Fleet is like a tour bus on Duluth’s waterways. Like a bus, they take you by points of interest while a narrator explains the key features. Unlike a bus, the courses can be as fluid as the water they travel on.
“We have about four voyages we offer, but it is all based on weather,” said Vista Fleet Vice President Sarah Steinbach. “Depending on the cruise we will go out under the Aerial Bridge, spend a little bit of time out on the lake, weather permitting, and then we will spend the most time out on the harbor.”
Though the cruises vary, there are some highlights most hit. This usually includes the Lift Bridge and seeing some industry along the St. Louis River. Then there are the enormous lakers that carry cargo internationally.
“Ships trump everything,” said Sarah. “It is sort of a standard rule for our staff and crew. We follow closely with the Shipping News. We will get up close to them so people can see. For a lot of people who come from areas where there are no lakes or water, it is pretty phenomenal.”
Different cruises focus on different things. The dinner cruises focus on food, but also on spending time on the lake. Between these special cruises and private cruises, there are many possibilities.
“We actually have multiple routes and types of cruises we offer,” said Sarah. “We offer quite a lot for different people. If they have different interests or if they have a family with short attention spans we are able to separate that out and give them different offerings.”
The Vista Fleet hosts private cruises including those for weddings and corporate events. Sometimes, they host federal environmental groups, which are mostly interested in seeing the St. Louis River. Vista Fleet picks routes based on the wishes of the group, but this is subject to the weather and the advice of the Coast Guard.
The Vista Fleet is different than a tour bus in its comfort level. There are food and beverages, bathrooms, and room to walk around easily. The Vista Fleet has a big book of scripts, each part to be read depending on what they are visiting. The book has been reworked many times over the years. They also do a game with the kids, involving Duluth’s fun facts. Some tours are quieter.
“On dinner cruises, we don’t do back-to-back narration because people are out to enjoy a night out,” said Sarah. “We mostly let them enjoy live music and sometimes musicians that we have on board.”
The Vista Fleet provides many routes and types of cruises for various people with various interests. Vista Fleet does its best to provide the public what they want. One warning is that your route may vary based on the weather (or even be canceled) because Lake Superior can be unpredictable. But that’s what’s so special about being on the big lake. You never know what you’re going to get!
Other photos were provided courtesy of Vista Fleet.