By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 27, 2023 at 1:01 PM

The 2023 cruise ship season will officially launch in Milwaukee when Viking Octantis returns to the inner harbor on May 4.

The season is expected to comprise 31 port calls by cruise ships this year – carrying an estimated 12,000 passengers – both at the City Heavy Lift Dock on Jones Island and on the Municipal Pier near Discovery World.

Work on the new South Shore Cruise Dock cruise ship terminal, near the Lake Express Ferry terminal is not expected to begin until next year.

Those numbers are down slightly from last year, when the Port set a record with 13,611 cruise passengers making 33 calls on eight ships, including, among others, the Pearl Mist Cruises Pearl Mist.

This year, Viking Octantis’ sister ship Polaris, launched last fall, will also cruise the Great Lakes and call on Milwaukee. They will be the largest cruise ships operating on the lakes.

Octantis, which carries 378 passengers, is using Milwaukee as an embarkation and debarkation point on the Great Lakes for the second year.

The expedition ship arrives in Milwaukee at the conclusion of Viking’s 65-day "Longitudinal World Cruise I” that was scheduled to depart Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 2 before calling in Antarctica, travelling up the west coast of South America, through the Panama Canal, to Mexico, Florida, up the East Coast of the U.S., and through the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes before arriving in here May 4.

Octantis and Polaris will operate on a number of routes with stops at places like Toronto, Detroit, Duluth-Superior, Mackinac Island, Thunder Bay and various stops in Georgian Bay and other destinations. The ships will pass through the Soo Locks and Welland Canal.

I was lucky enough to experience one of those itineraries last summer and you can read in detail about that journey here and here.

See more about the ship here.

“Milwaukee is a great destination, filled with attractions and hospitality. People from around the globe are taking notice of our city,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

“This is a wonderful example of how local and regional partnerships are creating new excitement and activity in Milwaukee. I’m looking forward to more international cruise passengers traveling to America’s Fresh Coast this year, and beyond.”

Milwaukee Cruise Collaborative, a consortium of hospitality and tourism groups founded by Port Milwaukee, works to promote the cruise and related tourism business in the city.

You can keep track of the cruise ship comings and goings via the Port’s online vessel tracker.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.