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Traverse City pier looks to attract cruise ships

Discovery Center Pier
Discovery Center Great Lakes

The Discovery Pier in Traverse City is hoping to attract cruise ships around the Great Lakes. The United States Coast Guard certified the pier as a cruise port back in December, and the newly formed Traverse City Cruise Consortium is hoping to capitalize on the trend of smaller cruise ships in the Great Lakes.

Mike Wills is one of the board members for the Discovery Pier. He says the pier probably won’t see too much business for a while.

“We actually expect to see two vessels, well the one vessel, twice, end of September early October this year," Wills said. "The frequency of visits will increase as time goes on, but it's going to be about two years before we see much traffic at all.”

He says it takes a while for the cruise companies to add a port to their list of destinations. Wills also stressed that the primary purpose of the pier is public access to the water. He says, as a result, that the pier will not be a full-time host to cruise ships.

“We will limit the number of ships that can come in, and I would expect we'll probably max out somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 visits per year, maybe 30 at the most, and they're one day visits, so [they] come into port early in the morning then they leave in the evening.”

The pier, which used to be a coal dock, currently functions as a fishing pier, a dock for tall boats and fishing charters, and a place where the public can come to enjoy Grand Traverse Bay. Wills says Traverse City offers a lot to cruise passengers, from the Sleeping Bear Dunes to wineries to shopping and dining downtown. 

“It’s a really exciting thing to see a cruise ship coming into this bay. We’ve seen a few ships arrive here, and people flock to the beach to get a glimpse of it, because it’s such an unusual sight. It generates a level of excitement, even for the people on shore.” 

He’s excited about the attention this will bring to the Discovery Pier, saying, “It brings a level of recognition to the Discovery Pier, makes people aware of it and what we are and all the things we offer to the general public.”

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