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Our Great Lakes magical mystery tour


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"And another from uktog! Thank you for generously sharing your time at sea with everyone at Cruise Critic!"

uktog was awarded the badge '"Live from...."' and 5 points.

Today we start our Great Lakes cruise from Toronto final destination is still a mystery staff interchangeably say Chicago and Milwaukee at the hotel. 

As you know our hotel was changed from the Westin to the Canopy by Hilton. We arrived three days ago and have enjoyed two nights in the Westin fabulous location beside so many of the things we wanted to do and very comfortable. Apart from one elevator out of service there was absolutely no sound or evidence of refurbishment going on. We did however discover the Westin was fully booked the day we checked out (would have been AQ check in day) with a large conference that night so maybe the real reason was AQ did not secure a reservation at a good price. 
We enjoyed exploring town and loved our dinner up CN tower.

We found the Westin which you can see in this view from Ward Island perfect for our needs 







We did an early morning market tour with Culinary Adventures who claim to be No 1 in Toronto - they are not - having done many such tours worldwide they are No 1 in the world it was outstanding and we would thoroughly recommend them. I can’t believe how much we nibbled - look at these berries and of course the Peameal bacon sandwiches the local specialty 



We moved to Canopy by Hilton. It’s brand new (so new maintenance have been to our room three times with snagging). Staff aren’t used to dealing with larger numbers but are trying. It’s all high tech electronics in the room for lights, curtains etc. Unfortunately it’s so trendy there aren’t many comfortable chairs in the restaurant (lots of high tops or stool chairs) so if you’re coming here book your dinner reservation in advance on open table and specify a standard seat. 
The other thing to be aware the hotel has no vehicle pull in, taxis have to stop in a moving traffic lane and Uber won’t pick up from the door as a result. If you’re only coming to sleep it’s fine otherwise it’s not a patch on the Westin with little dining nearby (lots of Hortons, Subway McDs etc). It is very close to subway line 2 we will use this morning 

Here is the information we got on checking in which may help others plan 

IMG_0217.thumb.jpeg.5ea2ad3eb28cf4c86b73b2f71bac26d0.jpegI will try and post daily details and answer questions along the way 

Edited by uktog
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Thank you for posting! That one sheet of paper has more information than everything I've received from AQV thus far. It sounds like keeping your reservation at the Westin turned out to be a good decision. 


Beautiful pictures, especially those strawberries. Food tours are so much fun! 



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Hope things get better once onboard.  We stayed at a Canopy once and decided that even for a one-night road trip sleep it's not a good fit for us.  The lobby was very noisy (a big party made if difficult even to walk from check-in to the elevator), the rooms are sparsely decorated and uncomfortable; altogether too trendy, and the food wasn't as good as a Garden Inn.  A Westin would indeed be a nice step up.

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2 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

Hope things get better once onboard.  We stayed at a Canopy once and decided that even for a one-night road trip sleep it's not a good fit for us.  The lobby was very noisy (a big party made if difficult even to walk from check-in to the elevator), the rooms are sparsely decorated and uncomfortable; altogether too trendy, and the food wasn't as good as a Garden Inn.  A Westin would indeed be a nice step up.

I think the issue is the Westin was where we were supposed to be. There was nothing near at the Canopy so many had nothing to do until the 3pm departure. We hopped on the No 2 line just at the corner of the hotel three stops along to the Bata Shoe Museum and spent a few hours. Even found some special 18th Scottish nobleman shoes. 

As well shoes for the car mad grandson. 

My view The Canopy Toronto  is a poor fit for AQV. Guests need comfortable chairs to sit on and reasonable facilities near by. However if you can master the subway - it’s very very easy and felt very safe - you can still make good use of your preboard morning. 
The transfer to the vessel took 40 minutes there was a lot of traffic. Embarkation includes handing over passports (not an issue for us but seemed to be for some) and escorting to your room. 

We are now onboard. There was a small buffet available (we skipped) and are now organising our room. There’s not masses of space but enough storage (we don’t pack light) we just need to work out how we both move around at the same time (or maybe not!!!) 

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Sail away from Toronto, no idea of timings suddenly realised we were leaving (at 6) everything previously said 7 so got caught out for photos


Captain did the announcement during the safety drill except everyone was outside so and speakers weren’t working.
There was no schedule in the room so only just discovered things were happening earlier 

Night 1 menu 


Nice meal, nothing outstanding in the meal BUT someone else did the cooking!  

So far a few little things all stupid but nothing to get worried about 

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There is an everyday offering - I will try and get it in tonight’s menu picture. 
The food was nice, nothing outstanding nothing bad. Little things like no choice how your lamb is cooked and my potatoes were very cool but the fish was hot. I’d give it 3.5/5 - a reasonable effort and no washing up!

Last night we transited the lock system towards Port Colbourne. One lock it was dusk otherwise dark. No point in going to bed early a lot of noise and bumps until about 2300 then unfortunately seemed to have one more through the night that woke us. The bed is very comfortable though! 

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I saw the rack of lamb and got excited, but no choice of how it's cooked? So how did they cook it? Please don't say well done. 


The reverse trip says we enter the canal from Port Colborne at 5 PM, so I'm hoping to see some of the lock activity before it gets dark. I love canals, so if I hear noise and bumps during the transit, I'll probably dash out on deck to see the action!


I hope you enjoy your visit to Niagara Falls!

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Our day on Niagara did indeed tick that bucket list item.

We opted for the Premium tour as this was more extensive and gave us lunch at the Sylon Tower.

The food was fine I just “ate in the view” We also visited a winery (Bella Terra) which was very nice wine. Many guests bought bottles to enjoy onboard. 
The included tour just gives you the boat ride to the falls and back which others enjoyed. We loved our soaking but dried off fast!


Our guide was one of these “marmite” folks you either like or dislike No in between. We felt she talked so much about herself and did not share much of the information we would have wanted about the geology and river management. There was a lot of standing waiting with no explanations- timings seem to have been all wrong. 

However it was a great day and the icing on the cake was the fantastic lakelorian presentation onboard that really gave us all the facts we were craving- though we would have preferred them “at the scene”. 
Captains toast was followed by a good dinner - this time they did ask how we wanted beef cooked and it came out absolutely to our liking.

Hopefully also captured the always available! 

Edited by uktog
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Cleveland was a city that surprised. Some guests onboard said they wouldn’t be getting off it was a dreadful place. We are glad we ignored them. 
The ship is using AQ hop on off buses that travel along with us so we will get to know the drivers. Today the drivers are getting to know the routes as it’s their first time. So there were glitches. 
First everyone had to come off the ship to the immigration building and officially enter the US. (little green roof building at the end of the pier) 

It was a painless process with very pleasant officers- although too many guests did not seem to understand simple instructions so it took longer to clear the ship than planned (yes you may be a US citizen you still have to go!!)

The HoHo did four stops



1.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What can we say except wow, three hours gone in a blink could have stayed longer



2. The International Women’s Air and Space Museum - em well this is a very small collection of artefacts in a foyer of a private airport- not worth the stop made worse by the fact the bus forgot to pull in to pick us up


3. The Rockerfeller Greenhouses- pretty gardens though the ones we drove by themed by country were more interesting 


4.  Downtown- it was Saturday nothing was happening!


We did, however, enjoy our time. If we were back again in Cleveland we would just do the ride around to see the city on the bus, then head back to the rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame where you have all day in and out entry via a wristband.  We would also buy admission to the Lakeside science centre next to it which a lot of people said really was exceptionally good.

One glitch we found is that we returned the vessel just before two and found by the time we had got onboard there was absolutely no lunch facilities open. Unfortunately the only cookies out both contained nuts so my dear husband did have a very long wait until dinner. I do think this is something American Queen that should look at - on the Mississippi there was always something available, but it doesn’t appear to be the case here. 

We heard those who went on the Amish adventure had a wonderful time. 

As far as we can tell the ship is pretty full. The only time the grill has been closed was the second night where they were doing the welcome dinner onboard. 

The entertainment continues to be very good and appropriate to the age of the audience 




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Thanks for posting all those pictures. The menus look great--I will have to do a lot of walking in port to make up for too much food!


I guess the people who didn't want to get off took Cleveland's nickname seriously. Back in the late 60s, early 70s (before the EPA), Cleveland had severe pollution issues, which earned it the nickname "Mistake on the Lake." For a long time, comedians looking for a city name as a punchline used Cleveland. (For a state, they use New Jersey, which I resent!)


I like the map they gave you. My plan is to start with the gardens and greenhouse, then perhaps a little time downtown, and then the R&R Hall of Fame. I researched the Science Center. It looks like a lot of the exhibits are aimed at kids. If time allows, I might visit the ship that's part of the Science Center. And kudos to AQV for providing practical info on the map--pharmacy and post office. I have often complained on ocean cruises that the port maps don't have any useful information other than places to shop.


How often do the buses run? Is admission to the stops on the routes included?



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Buses run every 30 minutes and all the designated stops are admission paid. Three of the four were free stops anyway. The Rock and Roll Hall was paid for

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Detroit - Motortown getting ready to host the Grand Prix which will race through the city next month so lots of preparation going on which was interesting. 

Here AQ don’t offer a hop on hop off more a traditional tour. It was a good one, this time we were on the bus with a good guide. 
Not scheduled she fitted in a stop to the Motown studio so that we could get photos outside and as the tour had started at 08 30 there was nobody around so photos were easy to get.

We then went to see Fisher building which being a Sunday morning none of the shops in it were open but actually again that gave the opportunity to really be able to appreciate magnificence of the building and get fantastic photos.


There are 7000 tons of pure brass in the building as well as some of the finest examples of marble from Italy that are in one building. 






Along the route the guide explained about the murals we went by and was very honest about Detroits challenges but also how they are addressing them. Hard to believe this is all done by spray cans. 



Final stop was the Ford Piquette factory where Henry Ford built the original model T Ford.


The docents were absolutely full of information and the 90 minutes we were in the plant went by in a flash.


In the afternoon they have premium excursions out to Greenfield and to a tile painting workshop, which I believe went well, we had tried to book on the excursions on boarding only to discover they were sold out. However, we instead walked along the river front adjacent to the ship, and it was such a pleasant experience lots of seats and being a Sunday lots of families out with little ones cycling and playing in the sand pits that have been built along the way. It was a very pleasant walk in lovely weather. 

There was a movie linked to a Motown story for those who did not want to venture out and late afternoon the Lakelorian did a good talk about cars and the Ford legacy - it was good to hear the other side of the story. In the morning Ford was an “unblemished hero” but Ian highlighted the negatives as well. I like his balanced talks. 

Dinner tonight was very good, as was the Motown said that the group played in the lounge afterwards. 

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I live in Cleveland - they definitely missed out!  Glad you had a nice stop!  If you are a fan of art museums, we have a great one.  Next time!

We have come a long way from the “Mistake on the Lake.”  Except for the Browns - I am sorry that you were so close to the Factory of Sadness (the stadium).

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Our first sea day. Weather was chilly so even us hardy souls could only manage 30 minutes reading outside. 
There was in our view more than enough activity to keep people busy


And in addition bridge tours were offered. 

The lakelorian talks continue to fascinate us and tonight the band set - Beatles music played as instrumentals all to arrangements they wrote was very good. A shame so few came not sure why as other nights have been quite busy. 

A nice afternoon tea set was offered at 1600 in Maharaja style - next sea day it will be Viennese 


Dinner was again very nice although one starter was a little odd! 

One thing that did impress we had a mid cruise survey and we highlighted something that disappointed us a little (it related to getting us dining seating with the big groups onboard having so much allocated and so few two tops). On arrival at the restaurant we were met by the f and b manager who had sorted it very well for the rest of the trip. So they do bother onboard!!!

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That looks like a good assortment of daytime activities. I sail with HAL a lot, and if you take their daily program and cut out all the promotional talks that the shops and spa offer, you wouldn't have a list as good as this. 


If afternoon tea is like that, I'm going to have to do a LOT of walking in port! I see Tazo tea and Bigelow, neither of which I like. Dare I hope that there's some good black tea, Twinings, maybe?


Thank you so much for taking the time to do this "live from." After having second thoughts this winter, I'm now looking forward to my cruise. 

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Today we went through the Soo Locks at 0700 returning at 1000 so we can say we cruised on Lake Superior. 

Saulte Ste Marie had many stops on offer 


We took the bus almost fully round the route before hoping off.  

The Lake Science Centre was very interesting and what was lovely was it was staffed by first-year students at Lake Superior University, who were so passionate about the conservation of the lake and engaged so well with all the guests.  The large sturgeon are evidently not fully grown yet but are 4 metres already 


In all the other stops it was people at the other end of the generation scale who were so passionate about what we went from the lady in the waterfront houses


to the staff, both at the river museum (lovely theatre opposite being restored


and the historical Society. 

It was hard to stop watching all the level of detail in the replica of the town that the rail road construction represented. It was obviously a labour of love.


Adjacent to the church


(oldest in Michigan and depending on how you date them the site has had worship there making it third oldest in USA) is the tower of history which you would have to pay to go up $8 those who went up it said the view was good but as part of it is an open viewing platform my fear of heights meant we did not we can investment there. 

Back onboard, a pleasant dinner,


and then the show I wasn’t so keen on - the rock guitar, which I don’t think very well with most just the pure enthusiasts for that genre, but it’s good that they offer such a mixture. 

We had misgivings about this cruise and weren’t sure at the start but we are glad we did it and are enjoying it. 

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Your "live from" could sell a lot of cruises! Every day, I look forward to learning more about this itinerary. We're supposed to do the locks in the afternoon, so I will have to plan my time carefully. The Lakes Science Center looks interesting, and something I definitely want to see. Their website shows them open only Friday and Saturday. So AQV arranged for them to be open for the day? 


Thanks for posting the menus. The choices look good. And Gateau Opera! I thought I would have to wait until October on Cunard to have that again. 

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Today was such a gem - Mackinac Island, car free and lovely sightseeing on a sunny but cool day to the sound of the horses gently walking along pulling carriages. The simplicity of the island summed up by this photo- the cutest Amazon delivery ever. 

The logistics for the day are of necessity a little complicated exacerbated yet again by shorex giving out wrong or misleading information which has been the one negative of the trip (it’s happened again for tomorrow with an illogically ordered presentation covering the afternoon first because the presenter doesn’t know how to fix PowerPoint and am and pm confused in timings - all basic but unhelpful and the constant excuse of not being aware of what the tourist people do is not helpful). 

So here’s what happens in Mackinac. 

Everyone has to join a trip at 0830 that’s the only option. You walk to the end of the pier and are loaded onto two horse carriages for 20 people (and you are expected to split up if need be they insist each carriage leaves full) You have a lovely guided tour through town


and up to Surrey Hills where you change to a 30 person three horse carriage.

There is time for a little shopping and restrooms during the changeover. 

The three horse carriage does about an hours drive with narration through beautiful woods


and includes a short stop at the stunning viewpoint at Arch rock. 





You then head down to the fascinating fort where you have c45 minutes (restroom available) and there are cannon firing or musket firing demos depending on when you are there. 



You then change to a horse taxi (2 horse 20  passengers) for a ride to the Grand Hotel.


Here is where the information is wrong. Although the ship pays entry to the hotel and gives you a taxi ticket back to town it only became clear on the day and was not correctly covered in the presentation the previous evening if you want to go into the hotel for a look there is no time unless you stay up there until 1330. This is because 1200-1330 is when they rest the horses (fair enough). 

Those on the tour doing the grand luncheon premium package have that between 1200 -1330 so it works for them. 

What did we do?  Well realising the ships lunch closed at 1330 (another little negative there’s no joined up thinking between catering and excursions in relation to breakfast or lunch timing) we decided not to let these stupid things spoil the day.

(Walking the 20 minutes back was an option we dismissed).


So we sat on the beautiful porch, ordered expensive cocktails and two sharing plates and drank in the beautiful view.


We really enjoyed that and were glad not to have been stuck in the very crowded buffet which we heard very mixed reports about (and spent $100 less!)


Another ride to town we walked along through the very sweet smell of fudge and stopped to sample and watch some being made. 

Back to the ship to sit out and enjoy the view - er no - there were clouds and swarms of flies everywhere  - a spring hazard we hear so we retreated indoors. 

We did see yet again the movie being shown really did tie into the destination which was lovely 


Another good dinner and the Swing Music night ended a lovely day. 

The communication of the logistics could have been far better but we created a very memorable day regardless. 



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