MILWAUKEE, Wisc., (SPECTRUM NEWS) -- Milwaukee may not be on par with cities like Miami or Tampa when it comes to cruise ship traffic, but it is a growing cruise destination on the Great Lakes. In fact, Milwaukee was on target to have its biggest year ever in 2020 when it came to the number of ships calling on the city. That was until the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. 

Milwaukee was scheduled to have seventeen cruise ships on the port during the 2020 season, with several stopping by multiple times throughout the year. Like most other cruises around North America, all have been canceled. 

While Port of Milwaukee director Adam Schlicht says the news did not come as a surprise, it is disappointing not only for the port, but the city as a whole. 

“My disappointment is really for those hospitality and tourism partners that have worked diligently with the port over the last two years in our Milwaukee Cruise Collaborative. There is going to be lost revenue and economic impact for those industries," says Schlicht. 

About 4,000 visitors were expected to arrive in Milwaukee by cruise ship in 2020. While this year may be a wash when it comes to cruises, Schlicht is optimistic that COVID-19 won’t have a long-term impact when it comes to becoming a cruise ship destination. 

He says that the port has ship bookings through 2025, and that a much anticipated project that will bring Viking Cruise Lines to Milwaukee in 2022 is still on target. 

Schlicht says the fact that many people may change the way they travel long-term due to COVID-19 could benefit Milwaukee. 

“We believe they are going to be much more likely to look at a Great Lakes itinerary on U.S. and Canadian waters. Offering that close proximity to home in North America will probably have a more high level of appeal as opposed to a more foreign Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise," says Schlicht. 

Each cruise ship that docks in Milwaukee generates between $3,000 to $8,000 for the port, depending on what services are rendered to the ships, according to the Port of Milwaukee. Schlicht says that is among the lowest rates for Great Lakes ports in part because Milwaukee is hoping additional cruise lines will add Brew City to routes.