Several Great Lakes cruises originate in Chicago and there are several small ship cruises to choose from. One of these is the Odyssey II. Like many other cruises, the Odyssey II cruise departs from Navy pier in Chicago. Operated by the same cruise line that operates the Spirit of Chicago, the Odyssey II is a more luxurious option. As such, it has a dress code that recommends jackets for men.

The menu for this dinner cruise is also better than you would find on the Spirit of Chicago. The 2009 dinner menu calls for main courses of Syrah Braised Center Cut of Beef, Seafood Ravioli Gratinee, Boneless Pork Chops, North Atlantic Salmon or a Mediterranean Vegetable Purse. The first courses and desserts are equally sumptuous and equal or exceed those found in many of the better land based restaurants. The Odyssey II experience includes the opportunity to order any of these fine meals that are prepared fresh on board every day.

Like the Spirit of Chicago, the Odyssey II offers several decks and each one has live music and a dance floor. The live music varies from jazz to contemporary and is performed by individual artists and groups. Odyssey II promises that the music won’t end until the ship returns to port.

The operators bill the Odyssey II as the “largest fine-dining cruise ship on the Great Lakes,” This may be true. At 200 feet long and 55 feet high above the water line, the Odyssey II is one of the larger Great Lakes ships offering dinner cruises. While there are other ships that are slightly larger, they won’t serve as many diners and those ships that will serve a similar number of diners appear to be slightly smaller in size and certainly not as luxurious. The Odyssey II has 3 climate controlled decks and promises skyline views from every table.

The cruise route runs south from Navy pier to the Shedd Aquarium, then back to the north to Evanston or thereabouts and then returns to Navy pier. This affords an excellent view of the Chicago skyline, and for the Midnight cruises the skyline provides an amazingly lit backdrop for this luxury cruise. The cruises last two or three hours–the exact time and route is determined by weather and the particular cruise offering.

Unlike some of her northern counterparts, Odyssey II offers cruises year around, although in the winter the are fewer days when cruises are offered and passengers may need to schedule their vacation or celebration times more around the ship’s schedule. Individuals, couple and groups are all welcome. Reservations are required, and there is a dress code so be sure to call ahead and plan to dress nicely. Lunch cruises start at $44.90 + tax and fees and dinner cruises start at $79.90 +. That is a very competitive price considering the menu and compared to the offerings of other Great Lakes cruise providers. As small ship cruises go, this one is a winner!

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