Looking for a different cruise itinerary close to home this fall? How about a colorful "leaf-peeping" cruise on the Great Lakes, America's own inland oceans, about one-fifth of the world's fresh water?
On a voyage from Chicago to Toronto last fall, I looked forward to practicing my rusty German while taking in the breathtaking scenery: from the rolling dunes and grand vistas of Traverse City to Mackinac Island's narrow cobblestone streets and Victorian houses to Canadian wilderness areas and thick -forested shorelines.
Although small by cruise-ship standards, the "3-Star plus" Columbus features a smart, contemporary design. Facilities include a swimming pool and a room with exercise machines facing the water, as well as hair stylists, massage therapists and a doctor. A large lounge features exceptionally good cabaret shows and the Happy Band's bouncy dance music. The public seating areas and cozy wine bar were particular favorites with passengers, who gathered there at every opportunity.
Each deck on the Columbus features a different bold color scheme, so it's easy to find your way around. The 134 outside cabins, 63 inside cabins, and eight suites (with balconies) have plenty of storage space and fully tiled bathrooms with large shower stalls. Other amenities include a minibar, telephone and TV.
On the downside, smoking is permitted in all the cabins. And, on our trip, a gentleman in a wheelchair was not very pleased with the handicaped facilities. Anyone who has limited mobility should definitely check on this.