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A Panorama of the Detroit Skyline (Photo: Harold Stiver/Shutterstock)
A Panorama of the Detroit Skyline (Photo: Harold Stiver/Shutterstock)
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

Ginger Dingus
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Detroit

Call it Motor City or Motown and you've captured two primary aspects of Detroit's heritage -- cars and music. Credit Henry Ford's automobile assembly line with putting Detroit on the map in the early 1900s. With Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, Motor City thrived. The prosperity of the city and the auto industry were in sync, be it good times or, more recently, bleak. While Detroit's era of car manufacturing has faded, music has remained a resounding part of the city's nightlife. The Motown Sound began in the 1960s with the likes of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. The Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts has hosted legendary musicians for nearly 90 years and is still going strong. Nightclubs offer live jazz paired with a helping of soul food.

Fortunately, urban revival is the city's latest trend, especially along the waterfront. The Detroit Riverfront includes a convenient harbor where Great Lakes cruise ships dock, a park and a network of biking and jogging trails. On the opposite side of the Detroit River, which connects lakes Erie and St. Clair, is Ontario, Canada. It is accessible via the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

What's Detroit's next big boom? Meds and eds, or medical centers, education and technology. Meanwhile, as one tour guide put it, Detroit is like a Swiss cheese with pockets of abandoned neighborhoods. These pockets, or holes, in the cheese are being cleaned up and filled with green spaces and vegetable gardens, making the urban landscape more attractive and livable.

For the cruise visitor, one of the top attractions harkens back to Motor City days. The Henry Ford Museum is a sprawling complex of trains, planes and automobiles that will keep you enthralled for hours.

Shore Excursions

About Detroit


A mecca for automobile fans and lovers of the Motown sound.


Off-the-beaten cruise path, except for a handful of summertime Great Lakes itineraries.

Bottom Line

Detroit's attractions will amaze and entertain cruisers during a day in port.

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Port Facilities

Detroit's $22-million dock and terminal opened in 2011 to help attract cruise ships sailing in the Great Lakes. The terminal building contains offices and event space. It is currently not open to the public. You'll be docked adjacent to Hart Plaza, right downtown. Highlights of the plaza are outdoor sculptures and the Horace E. Dodge Fountain with its 300 waterjets dancing during lighted evening shows.

Good to Know

Instead of Detroit, small ships cruising the Great Lakes might dock in Windsor, Canada. It's just across the Detroit River and easily accessible. Remember to carry your passport if you're headed between cities, even on shore excursions. It might be a short drive, but you'll need your government ID coming and going between Canada and the U.S.

Getting Around

On Foot: The Renaissance Center, a high-rise complex with a hotel, shops and restaurants, is on the waterfront next to the pier. Other than this, few of Detroit's main tourist attractions are within walking distance, and some neighborhoods are less desirable (rundown) than others for walkers. However, if you're looking for a pleasant stroll or jog along the river, the pier area offers a modern, 3-mile waterfront walkway.

By Tram: The Detroit People Mover is a 2.9-mile light rail operating on a single elevated track. It encircles the downtown area, making 13 stops, including Greektown and the Renaissance Center. Even if you don't get off, the ride makes for a good overview of the downtown area, the Detroit River and the Windsor, Canada skyline. The People Mover runs seven days a week, though schedules vary. You can use cash (U.S. coins) to pay the $0.75 fare or buy tokens from machines.

By Taxi: Taxis, Uber and Lyft are readily available. For the few cruises embarking or disembarking in Detroit, a taxi from the airport costs $50-plus and takes about 45 minutes.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

U.S. dollars are used, and ATMs are readily available.


English is the primary language spoken here, though you might hear Canadian accents as Ontario is within sight, just across the Detroit River.

Food and Drink

Detroit's dining claim-to-fame lies in its ethnic diversity, rather than Michelin stars. Head to Greektown for souvlaki (meat grilled on a skewer), Mexicantown for margaritas or Bricktown for soul food. A bit further afield, but still within city limits, is Hamtramck for Polish pierogis (filled dumplings) and sausages.

Pegasus Taverna (558 Monroe Street), long established in Greektown, is open for lunch with such traditional Greek favorites as gyros, moussaka and kebabs. A specialty is the dessert of flamed cheese, called saganaki, prepared tableside. Mexicantown boasts a Sunday food market in summer. An inexpensive Mexican lunch of tacos, enchiladas or burritos can be found at Xochimilco Restaurant (3409 Bagley Street).

The city's most iconic food is the Coney dog, a hot dog topped with chopped raw onions, shredded cheese, chili sauce and mustard. Try one at American Coney Island (114 W. Lafayette Boulevard), or next door at Lafayette Coney Island (118 W. Lafayette Boulevard).


The GM (as in General Motors) Renaissance Center is a mega-complex of seven interconnected skyscrapers in the downtown area, next to the cruise ship dock. With more than 60 shops, this is the place to head if you're looking for something you need to complete your cruise, rather than for souvenirs. An exception is Pure Detroit, a shop selling T-shirts, caps and cookies in the shape of cars.

For something unique, try the historic Eastern Market near Greektown. Along with flowers and food goodies in the Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday farmers markets, the neighborhood offers one-off shops selling items for pets, locally made clothing, specialty soaps, vinyl records and more.

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