MILWAUKEE -- On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Port Milwaukee welcomed the season’s final passenger cruise ship when the M.S. Hamburg arrived with more than 300 passengers, marking a total of 10 vessel visits in the Brew City in 2019 -- more than double the number from 2018.
"Milwaukee is an important and growing port-of-call for Great Lakes cruising, and that means more visitors, more tourism dollars, and greater attention focused on our city," said Adam Schlicht, port director. "I am pleased with this year’s increase and optimistic that we will see even more cruise ship visits in the coming years.”
Port officials estimated cruise ships brought more than 3,200 passengers to Milwaukee in 2019, who toured local attractions and spent money at local businesses, and because Milwaukee is a turnaround port, passengers don't just visit for the day. They start and end their itineraries in Milwaukee, which means additional business activity at the airport and local hotels.
"I think what's going on is, Milwaukee's secret is sort of disappearing," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "I want our secret to disappear. I want people to know how great of a city this is. This has been a banner year for cruise ships here in the City of Milwaukee."
The M.S. Hamburg came from Germany.
"This is the M.S. Hamburg and it's here going through the Great Lakes," said Gary Strothmann, translator and tour guide. "We're getting a lot of people who wouldn't normally come here that are coming. It's really a wonderful thing for Milwaukee. I'm proud to be able to be a part of it."
Passengers were expected to tour Milwaukee's Third Ward, different microbreweries, and explore the downtown area.
"I think they are astonished at how clean Milwaukee is, and what a beautiful city it is," said Strothmann.
While the visit may have been short-lived, city leaders called cruise ship tourism a trend that would continue to grow in Milwaukee.
"We'll see the same number next year, and then we think it will go the following summer, 2021, even more," said Mayor Barrett.
Because these ships are booked a year in advance, city leaders were already aware 2020 would be a busy season, and said talks were already underway with other companies for 2021 and beyond.
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