Bay City, Michigan is home to a pair of schooners that offer Great Lakes cruises with a slightly different twist. These schooners are all about learning. The ships are often used to teach elementary through high school students about ecology, the earth, and how as citizens they can use and preserve both. Public cruises are also offered on these ships, and as important as educating children to appreciate the Great Lakes is, I’m going to focus on the public cruises here.

Owned and operated by BaySail, the ships Appledore IV and Appledore V are steel hulled, gaff rigged schooners that are very similar to the ships that worked the Great Lakes a hundred years ago. Built within just a few years either side of 1990, the ships employ modern techniques to provide an old world experience.

There are several different Great Lakes cruise packages offered to the public on these ships, everything from stargazing and midnight dinner cruises to history cruises and ecology sails. The history cruises typically start at 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning and end about 2:00pm, and include a guided tour down the Saginaw River and into Saginaw Bay. Local historians narrate along the way, explaining the important features. A lunch is also included in the price of this cruise.

Dinner cruises start about 7:00 in the evening and end by 11:00pm. They include a fine meal that is catered by Fusion 1 Café. A similar meal is provided on the fireworks cruises. Fireworks cruises start about 6:00pm and end by 9:00pm. The actual fireworks generally begin about 10:00 pm, which is about an hour after the cruise ends and guests are invited to stay aboard the Appledore and watch from the deck.
Stargazer cruises begin at 8pm and end at midnight. Cruise ships offer one of the best viewing platforms for stargazing because the ships can easily travel away from lights that might otherwise interfere with viewing. These cruises include a presentation by astronomers from Delta College’s planetarium that introduces poetry, legends, and lessons on celestial navigation. For anyone who has ever wondered how early explorers found their way around the Lakes, this cruise may be perfect. Again, a 3 course meal catered by Fusion 1 Café is included in the price.

For those who take late year vacations, BaySail offers two cruises that are tough to beat anywhere. These are a Windjamming cruise and a series of fall color tour cruises. The Great Lakes basin is famous for fall colors and the Appledores are perfectly equipped to take passengers up the Saginaw River where the fall colors are spectacular. Great Lakes color tour cruises include hot cider, chili, and corn bread lunches.

Autumn in Northern Michigan is a time of increasing wind and the Appledores take full advantage of it with windjamming cruises that are only offered in mid-September. If you’ve ever wanted to be a crew member on a sailing ship, consider these cruises where passengers are encouraged to lend a hand and help operate the ship.

Prices for BaySail’s cruises are competitive with most other cruise lines of this type. A 3 hour dinner cruise is priced at about $70 for adults, and that includes the catered meal. This is comparable with prices for dinner cruises on non-sail powered ships operating out of ports as far away as Chicago.

The most expensive price listed for 2009 was for the fireworks cruise and that was only $88.00 and it also included a 3 course meal.
Another consideration when comparing pricing is in the time spent onboard. The Appledore cruises generally last for 3 hours, and this is longer than some other cruise companies which may be priced a bit lower, but only offer 2 hours cruises.

All in all, the Appledores promise a wonderful Great Lakes cruise experience that can be enjoyed by the whole family. If you find yourself in Eastern Lower Michigan with a few hours to kill, these short Great Lakes cruises are an incredible opportunity to learn about the history of the region and sailing on the Great Lakes in general. BaySail’s offices are located on 5th Street in Bay City, Michigan.

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