The SS Badger is a trip that everyone should try to experience this summer. It's one of the cheapest cruises you'll find! After taking the Ludington to Manitowoc, Wisconsin trip just after Memorial Day weekend, I can say that this is well worth the money. The SS Badger is the only remaining coal-powered ferry in existence. Walking on board is walking into a floating, operational museum. The boat reeks of history and character. The ship was originally used as an ice cutter and even ferried in the winter. People worried about waves or Titanic voyages can take solace in knowing they are in a vessel built like a tank.
Because my voyage was shortly after the ferry began running for the summer, there were a few problems encountered. Freak accidents caused delays or weather made the passage slower. However, if one did not have any obligations, it was a casual, relaxing trip even with the delays.
One feature where the Badger excels is in customer service. They treat the passengers well. When our trip was delayed by 5 hours, all the passengers were given a free dinner buffet.
Be sure to play "Badger Bingo" while aboard the ship. It is free to play and can be exciting with the family. Prizes include gift shop items including mugs, glasses, totes, sailor hats, magnets, and the like. The emcees like to crack jokes and keep the passengers entertained. Not many people took full advantage of this accommodation. The seating is also comfortable around the ship. Kids can watch cartoons, folks can catch up on sports, or catch a good snooze.
The best hotel accommodation on Manitowoc's side is the Best Western. They have ferry rates which keep it reasonable. Best Western is the closest, and perhaps safest, to the Badger. One simply walks down the river to the next bridge and then back up to the mouth of the river. It's about a half-mile trip. Bikes and backpacks are worth the expense and make the trip a little easier. The trip is a long distance for older people but manageable for average people. The best option is to go to Manitowoc on a Mini-Cruise and stay one night at the Best Western. You see the town and enjoy the hospitality in a perfect amount of time.
The ferry is lifeblood to the town and everyone is friendly with tourists. More posts will follow for restaurants, shops, and activities within biking distance of the Badger and Best Western. There is more activities in Manitowoc than you may think. The town is one of Wisconsin's best kept secrets.
I urge many Michiganders to take this trip in 2012 as it is difficult to see if it the ferry will be running past 2012. In 2013, harsher EPA requirements will force the Badger to swap out the coal power for something more "earth-friendlier." Because of this incredible cost to convert the power to something "green", it may be difficult to fund the transfer. Now is the best time to see it. Coal power makes the trip unique and re-enacts history.
The journey is a special family experience as the ship caters to kids of all ages. Manitowoc's location is always relatively cool in the summer. It may be 90 degrees but there is always a cool breeze coming off the water. It's a great way to get away from the summer heat. The trip provides fresh air, beautiful views, and lasting memories. It's the best local cruise you'll ever find.