With Victory Cruise Lines adding a second craft this year and with talk of a third ship possibly joining the fleet by 2021, travelling the Great Lakes is about to get a lot more luxurious.
The small-ship cruise line pulled into the Toronto Harbour this week on one of its Great Lakes itineraries, welcoming travel trade to an exclusive gathering and ship inspection.
In addition to the Great Lakes, Victory (which recently joined the Ensemble network as a preferred partner) also offers itineraries in the Yucatan and Cuba.
Only recently entering the Canadian market, Victory is represented in Canada by Exclusive Tours.
READ MORE: Ensemble adds three new small ship partners
Launching in 2016 and offering “classical ships with modern technology,” as described by Victory Cruise Lines President Hans Lagerweij, the Victory 1 and coming in July, Victory 2, offer a series of itineraries in a luxury small-ship setting. While the sister ships - which Lagerweij hinted may be joined by a third craft in the coming years - carry a maximum of 202 passengers, Lagerweij said that most cruises see between 170 and 180 travellers. All cabins are outside-facing and suites are also available, which feature an option for a third or fourth bed.
“You won’t find a pool or casino here,” joked Lagerweij.
The Compass Room aboard Victory 1
The Victory experience
Victory’s ships feature a choice of two restaurants, both offering five-star fare: the indoor Shearwater Restaurant and the al fresco Cliff Rock Bar & Grille, where guests’ dinners are cooked on hot lava rocks. Guests can also enjoy high tea, served in either traditional Viennese or Indian style.
On board, a series of lectures from historians, naturalists and other experts are offered on sailings. While the line mainly appeals to a 55+ crowd, kids and families are welcome (Lagerweij recommends an age of 12 and up for cruisers); however, travellers are advised there are no children’s programs on board.
Operating on an all-inclusive model, Victory’s cruise packages also include land tours in its ports of call, allowing cruisers to enjoy a wide range of on-shore activities.
“There’s no upsell like other cruise lines – we only offer the exciting tours,” Lagerweij said.
Dining at the Shearwater Restaurant
The Great Lakes and beyond
Victory’s Great Lakes cruises cover the entire region with itineraries operating nine to 10 days and including a range of destinations along the lakeshores; in addition to Toronto, notable ports include Chicago, Thunder Bay and Detroit while on itineraries offering the St. Lawrence Seaway, Victory calls in Montreal and Halifax.
Heading south, the line will sail to the Yucatan on 11-night cruises starting in January, visiting all three states of the region; highlights include visits to Tulum, Xcaret, Playa del Carmen and a 'sunrise coffee' experience amidst the ruins of Chichen Itza.
Operating January to April, the Total Cuba itinerary will take guests on a 14-night Miami-to-Miami cruise, overnighting in all major ports in Cuba, with “authentic, in-depth” experiences offered on shore, such as riding in a classic car to the home of Ernest Hemingway and a private performance by Cuban musical ensemble Buena Vista Social Club.
“Our vision is to bring the destination to our guests,” said. “We’re a destination product – it’s not about the ship.”
Travel agent info
For agents, Victory offers commissions of between 12 and 15 per cent. In addition, agents can join a closed Facebook group at Victory Cruise Lines Visionaries.