Detroit River cruises offer a scenic and entertaining summer adventure to visitors and locals alike. The popular Michigan sailings are filled with food, fun and plenty of fascinating sights. What’s more, depending on the type of voyage you select, you could walk away with a fair bit of knowledge about the historic waterway.
About the Detroit River
From fishing to boat races, to laid-back summer sails to brilliant fireworks shows, the Detroit River serves as the backdrop to a litany of family-friendly activities. The picturesque waterway stretches 32 miles, and provides spectacular views of the Detroit skyline and Canada. In fact, the river serves as the international border between Canada and the United States with water flowing south from Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie. The river also divides the booming metropolises of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, so visitors to the Michigan hot spot can double their fun by simply crossing the Ambassador Bridge.
The Detroit River is also the centerpiece for the city’s bustling RiverWalk, which features an eclectic mix of hotels, shops, restaurants and biking trails. Considered the Motor City’s newest gem, the RiverWalk is a tourist magnet and is prominently featured on several popular Detroit River cruises.
Popular Detroit River Cruises
Due to its northern location, commercial cruises on the Detroit River are limited exclusively to the summer months. Most sightseeing adventures run from June until September and typically fill-up fast. If you are looking for a fun, affordable and educational activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family, then consider setting sail on one of these top-rated Detroit River cruises.
Diamond Jack’s River Tours
Diamond Jack’s River Tours offer the perfect blend of history and frivolity. Guests can choose from three different two-hour narrated scenic sailings which navigate the sparkling waters of the Detroit River:
- Detroit Tour: This voyage sails past downtown Detroit’s most recognizable landmarks, including the Ambassador Bridge. You will also be treated to spectacular views of Belle Island and other natural gems set along the river.
- Boblo Island Tour: This sailing cruises around famous Boblo Island. The private island resort is home to a number of scenic wonders, including the legendary Boblo theme park.
- Wyandotte Tour: This tour provides unprecedented views of the southern portion of the Detroit River, including the spot where the river empties into Lake Erie.
Regardless of which cruise you select, you will have to purchase your tickets in person. Seats are sold on a first come, first served basis. Diamond Jack’s does not take reservations. You can only buy tickets as you board the ferry boat. There is no separate ticket booth on the dock or other location that sells seats. While boarding begins about 15 minutes prior to departure time, if you want a good seat, it’s recommended that you arrive 30 to 60 minutes in advance to secure a decent spot in line.
Also, keep in mind that personal snacks and beverages are not allowed on the cruise. However, all the ferries are equipped with snack bars, which sell select drinks, as well as light snacks, such as chips, candy and cookies.
Detroit Princess Riverboat
The Detroit Princess is relatively new to the river, but the company is already making waves for bringing a historic vessel to the popular waterway. The 200-foot long traditional riverboat towers over the water with four decks that can hold more than 1800 people on a single cruise.
The classic riverboat first set sail on the Detroit River in 2005 after being saved from a Texas scrap pile. It took company owners nearly a year to refurbish the iconic vessel. It now features a full restaurant kitchen with eight convection ovens and two walk-in coolers. The boat also includes several dining rooms, as well as a number of indoor-outdoor bars, and entertainment areas.
Unlike Diamond Jack’s tours, the Detroit Princess caters to guests looking to dine and sightsee at the same time. In addition to casual lunch and dinner cruises, the company also offers a wide array of theme sailings, such as Mother’s Day brunch voyages and Motown dinner cruises. Since it can accommodate a large number of guests, there is a better chance of securing a spot on the date of your choice. However, tickets for special theme sailings are available on a first come, first served basis only, which means you must book a date and provide the company with a deposit in order to hold a spot on a particular cruise.
The Detroit Princess is a prime spot to view the Fourth of July fireworks show which explodes in the sky above the river. In addition, the legendary riverboat is known for hosting several dance parties on the water during the summer months. If you are looking for a unique place to relax and enjoy Michigan’s temperate conditions while dining and dancing to your heart’s content, then you might consider booking a spot on the Detroit Princess. Conversely, this cruise option is not as well suited for those looking to get an in-depth history lesson about the surrounding areas.
Before planning a trip to Detroit, be sure to visit the aforementioned cruise companies’ websites to view a complete sailing schedule and to get information about ticket prices and availability. Since the sailings are seasonal, popular dates often sell out quickly.
Also, when prepping for your river cruise, don’t forget to bring along proper identification. This is especially important, if you plan to purchase alcoholic beverages on a river sailing. Guests are required to show a valid picture ID prior to being served cocktails.