They were about to cruise in style. Cramming the railings of three of the steam cruiser Seeandbee’s four decks, they waved hands and hats, and then set off from the Cleveland depot for Buffalo. The 500-foot-long Great Lakes cruiser, which docked at the Ninth Street pier in Cleveland, could carry 1,500 passengers. It was built for and owned by the Cleveland & Buffalo Transit Co. and, appropriately, steamed a regular route between the two cities.
Decorated on the interior with copious mahogany and outfitted with a large ballroom, dining room, lobby, lunch counter, buffet and more than 500 staterooms and parlors, the ship expanded the definition of luxury — Great Depression be damned. An ad for a July pleasure cruise from Cleveland to Chicago said the trip included a masked ball, shuffleboard, bridge, concerts and dancing, in addition to seeing the Great Lakes sights of Mackinac Island, Michigan. The price of $39 (about $660 today) included a return trip from Chicago on a Nickle Plate railway sleeper car.
In 1942, the Seeandbee was converted by the U.S. Navy into an aircraft carrier training ship and operated as the Wolverine. In 1947, after the war ended, it was scrapped. With the widespread use of the automobile and airplane, Great Lakes cruising took a back seat. Cruising has seen a recent renaissance, however, with several pleasure boats making stops in Cleveland. Prices for a cruise aboard the Victory II from Chicago to Montreal start at $5,799.