Sheboygan's economy and status as a tourist destination will get a boost with the announcement that a cruise ship will stop here several times next summer.
Packages for the week-long cruise aboard the 138-passenger Yorktown, which includes seven stops in Sheboygan next summer from June through August.
Sheboygan will be the ship's only Wisconsin stop.
"We're definitely excited about it," said Sheboygan County Tourism Director Amy Wilson. "It's another way to put Sheboygan on the map."
Having Sheboygan a stop for Great Lakes cruise ships has long been a goal for city economic development leaders, especially since the development of the South Pier area.
One impediment has always been the shallowness of the Sheboygan River, which in the lower river area is only about four feet deep, but will be deepened to 14 feet deep in 2012 by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Yorktown, which has a draft of eight feet, next summer will anchor between the north and south break waters and then shuttle its passengers ashore and back during it's one-day stop, city Development Manager Chad Pelishek said.
After 2012, the 257-foot-long, 43-foot-wide Yorktown, and potentially other cruise ships, will be able to berth along the South Pier.
"This has been a goal of the South Pier district since it was built, to be a cruise ship terminal," Pelishek said.
The Yorktown's one-week cruises begin or end in Detroit and Chicago. In between, besides Sheboygan, its one-day stops are in Bayfield, Ontario, Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, Whitefish Point in Lake Superior, Mackinac Island, Mich., and Holland, Mich.
Base prices for tickets for the seven-day passage range from about $4,000 to $7,000.
The ship sails at night and arrives at each destination in the morning, offloading its passengers, who re-board at night.
"We're working on a welcome wagon to get them into the downtown so they can see what Sheboygan offers," Pelishek said.
Wilson said public transportation also will be made available to take ship passengers to locations outside downtown.
Wilson said also hopes to develop pre-planned packages that ship passengers could purchase.
"We're hoping to do some outreach with local businesses and coordinate with the Harbor Centre Business Improvement District and do some special things," Wilson said.
State tourism data estimates that the economic impact of a single day trip is about $60 per person. With about 1,000 visitors coming to Sheboygan aboard the
Yorktown, that means the direct economic impact will be in the neighborhood of about $60,000, Wilson estimated.
"The impact would rise above that with some preplanned countywide tours," she said.
The bigger impact, however would be if it helped draw other cruise ships to the city.
"In our long range plan, we developed facilities to make Sheboygan a destination port," Pelishek said. "And hopefully this will be the start to help make Sheboygan attractive to others. It should be something good for the future."