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Queen of the Lakes

Click on image to see edited/printed version.
Click on image to see edited/printed version.

By Dianna Stampfler

In 2021, nearly 4.4 million vehicles (and even more individual passengers) crossed the five-mile Mackinac Bridge, but only a select number of people had enjoyed the pleasure of motoring under this modern marvel during one of the popular Mackinac Island-based Sip n’ Sail Cruises.

Eight distinct 90- to 120-minute themed trips are being offered this season (through early October) aboard the 81-foot Isle Royale Queen III, owned by Veronica Dobrowolski, Co-Owner and CEO of Arnold Freight Company, and Andrew and Nicole Doud, owners of Doud’s Market, The Mackinac House and the Little Luxuries retail shop.

Running from morning through sunset, these excursions around the Straits of Mackinac, which depart from Mackinac Island, are ideal for small groups, couples and families looking to get out on the water beyond just the quick round-trip ferry rides to and from the mainland.

Two of the most popular trips are the It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere and the Sip n’ Sail Sunset cruises (the latter fluctuating on start time, based on the actual sunset).

These voyages also showcase the musical talents of several regional entertainers who add to the festival environment of the trip. Among those returning this year are veteran singer/songwriters Michelle Chenard and Pete Kehoe, who co-founded the Mackinac Island Songwriters Workshop; Paul Bedour; the Myk Rise Band; Chris Calleja and Mike Ridley, among others.

A History Cruise was added to the line-up last year, featuring local author and historian Phil Porter, retired director of the Mackinac Island State Parks. Passengers aboard these outings also learn about the area’s rich history, from the early Native American settlements to military forts and previous foreign occupations, commercial fishing operations and today’s thriving tourism industry. Only four trips are scheduled this summer, with 4 pm departures on July 19, July 26 and August 9.

The Easy Like Sunday Mornin’ cruise heads out most weeks, traveling past noted landmarks like Arch Rock, British Landing and the West Bluff where the Grand Hotel has stood proudly since 1887. Other cruises including Bloody Mary & Mimosa Bridge Tour, Bourbon Under the Bridge, Michigan Craft Beer Cruise and Great Turtle Voyage run on select dates.

“We have enjoyed the Sip n’ Sail cruises occasionally since they started,” says Kem Green of Des Moines, Iowa, who ventured out again in July 2021. “We noticed an expanded beverage menu, new friendly servers, we still learned new details about the bridge, and just generally had a great time. Veronica and her crew have made several upgrades from when this started, and we’d highly recommend this experience for anyone.”

Every cruise features a fully stocked cash bar, onboard restrooms, a state-of-the-art sound system and plenty of opportunities for making memories and taking photographs. All excursions depart from the Arnold Freight/Coal Dock on Mackinac island.

Passengers can settle in the heated indoor cabins or gather in one of the many outdoor deck areas. Given that the temperature and wind can be significantly cooler on the water than on land, it is recommended that guests bring along a light jacket, wrap or lap blanket.

In addition to the themed cruises, the Isle Royale Queen III can also be chartered for private events like birthdays or anniversaries, wedding parties, retirement celebrations and company outings, including reception style or sit-down catered events.

Prices for the public cruises start at $49 per person, plus tax (passengers under age 4 are free). Space is limited to about 70 guests per trip, to allow more room and comfort for all. Reservations are required; call (844) 906-9006 or visit the website below.

Sip n’ Sail Cruises

Reprinted from the Summer 2022 issue of Michigan BLUE magazine.