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Tour boat, speed boat in Michigan City to offer Lake Michigan cruises this summer
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Tour boat, speed boat in Michigan City to offer Lake Michigan cruises this summer

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Lake Michigan tour boats are returning to Michigan City for the first time since 1949, setting sail from port starting June 2.

New Buffalo, Michigan-based Harbor Country Adventures will offer sightseeing tours along the lake in the Emita 2, a 67-foot-long, double-decker tour boat similar to those at Navy Pier, and in the Sea Rocket speedboat that will zip along at 50 miles per hour. Owner Victor Tieri, a Lowell resident, said he plans to offer 90-minute cruises past the Indiana Dunes — with tour guides explaining sights such as the 1933 Chicago World's Fair's Homes of Tomorrow in Beverly Shores — seven days a week through Labor Day.

"A lot of people have never really experienced the lake from the water side," he said. "It's a different view, being on the water."

He's looking to capitalize off summer tourism at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Michigan City, as well as to offer Northwest Indiana and south suburban residents a lake cruise alternative to Navy Pier that's closer to home.

"The main deck is enclosed, and the upper deck is wide open for people to take in the scenery," Tieri said. "We'll serve late snacks and a full-service bar on the vessel. A couple of times a month, we'll do promotional special events like Blues, Brews and Barbecue, microbrewery tastings, Wine on the Waves. There's nothing else like it in the area"

Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer said he hoped the tour boats would become another major lakefront attraction and the city plans to "market the heck out of it."

The main tour boat, which seats up to 150 people, will offer four cruises a day, which will cost $30 for adults and $16 for children. That includes sunset cruises from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On weekends, the Emita 2 will sail from 9:30 p.m. to midnight as a party boat with a DJ or live band for a 21-and-older crowd.

"All things being equal, and you want to grab a beverage with friends on a Friday, what better place than going to see a band on the top deck of a boat on the lake?" Tieri said.

Alternately, sightseers could pay $30 for adults or $22 for children to go on a 40-minute tour in a speedboat that seats 12 people.

"It's a fast boat flying across the lake, while the tour boat is more of a slow cruise with cocktails or lemonade," he said. "They're completely different experiences."

The operation will employ more than a dozen workers and be based at Millennium Plaza just south of Washington Park on the Michigan City lakefront. People can reserve tickets online up to 10 days in advance or walk up and buy tickets.

"Beyond the obvious size of the port, Michigan City stood out because it's a maritime city with a rich history," Tieri said. "It's a pro-business town with new restaurants, hotels and the Blue Chip Casino."

He's looking to heavily promote the new attraction, such as with billboards along Interstate 80/94, the Indiana Toll Road and Ind. 49 in Porter County, and has been working with local convention and visitors bureaus to get the word out.

In future years, the boat tours will be offered daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and on weekends in the fall. Harbor Country Adventures could ramp up the number of tours during the busy summer tourist season if the cruises prove popular enough, Tieri said.

He also plans to rent the boats out, such as for school, corporate or civic group outings. Discounts will be offered to first responders, active military and groups of more than 10.

For more information, visit harbourcountryadventures.com or call 269-231-5867.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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