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Thursday, August 8, 2013

SS Badger Lake Michigan Car Ferry

July 2013, Tuesday, one-way for two adults and one vehicle, 9:00 a.m. departure
Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Purchasing and check-in
We made our reservation over the telephone because we had a 20% coupon, and there was not a way to enter the coupon online. Reservations can be made and paid for on the SS Badger website, if you do not have a physical coupon. We made a $25 deposit during the reservation process, and then we had to present the coupon to pay the balance due before departure. We were told to arrive at the dock at 8:00 a.m.

We arrived in Ludington the day before, so we decided to stop and take care of our payment then, so we did not need to do it in the morning. Our payment was quickly processed, and the agent who assisted me said that our tickets would be at the boarding door at the back of the ship, when we arrived the next morning. I had sent an email to the reservation office to ask if we could complete the payment beforehand. I received a pleasant reply stating that the office is open until 9:00 p.m. 

We arrived shortly after 8:00 a.m. the day of our departure. The vehicle lines were not too long. Personnel directed us to a lane, requested our name, and then instructed us where to leave the car and board the ship. Passengers did not drive their own vehicle on board, although passengers with motorcycles did. Passengers with motorcycles were directed to a different area with their bikes, which they then rode on board.

We were on board fairly quickly, and easily found a comfortable seat out front in the sun.

view from the front
Seating areas
The front of the ship has high sides, which is great for blocking the wind. It was kind of cool the day that we went across. The seats in the front area included lounge chairs, stacked plastic chairs, and a few plastic adirondack chairs. We did not have any trouble finding a seat in this area when we arrived, or when we returned later.

I thought the adirondack chairs were the most comfortable of these choices, although not many people used them. They were in the very front, behind the observatory step, so I wonder if people did not notice them. When I got my chair, it was wet, so I went inside to get paper towel to dry it. The chair was not dirty; it looked like everything was wet because it had been cleaned before we boarded.

The lounge chairs were the older style white plastic loungers with blue covering. A few of the chairs were damaged, and the backs could not be adjusted on the loungers with broken or missing parts. Many guests used the stackable chairs, which could be easily moved to different areas outside, depending on the passenger's preference.

We sat out front for a while, and then we moved to the back of the ship, down one level. The seats in this area were also in the sun, and completely protected from the wind. The seats were similar to seats I have seen in train stations--a row of attached seats. The seated were rounded, and slightly cushioned. They were comfortable for a while.

After this, we moved to a table inside at the back of the ship, back up on the top level. This room has windows on all of the outside walls, so we had a good view. We sat there for quite a while, as we had something to eat, and enjoyed the view. After we were seated in this area, we wished we had brought a deck of cards with us.

There were other seating choices, which we did not try: rows of cushioned seats inside on the lower level near the back, inside tables and seats in front of this area when Badger Bingo was played, and seats in the movie theater.

Food & Beverage
We had brought a sandwich on board, and we each purchased a beverage on board--a vodka and orange juice, and a Bloody Mary. The beverages were $4.50 for a drink with Gordon's vodka, or $5 for one with Absolut. Of course, we opted for the Absolut! The drinks were a decent size, and they tasted great.

Gift shop
I browsed in the gift shop, although I did not see anything I wanted to purchase. One passenger on board won a credit at the gift shop. Each reservation document came with a raffle ticket to fill out and enter for this prize.

Arrival and Debarkation
Manitowoc Harbor
We arrived in the Manitowoc harbor at 12:02 p.m. (our scheduled arrival time was noon). The boat was docked, and we were off the boat by 12:15. We got off the boat near the start, and passengers were still disembarking for another 10 minutes or so. Even though the car runners hustled back and forth to get the vehicles off, we still had to wait 15 minutes for our car. Most of the cars had been unloaded by this time, although there were still many people waiting.

The vehicle line to board when we left Manitowoc was very long! I was surprised to see so many vehicles in line when it was still 1/2 hour before they needed to arrive. I guess they were excited to get to Michigan.

Misc. and overall
We enjoyed this trip very much. The boat is spacious, and even though the trip takes four hours, we did not become restless. We were comfortable, the ride was smooth, and we felt safe. With our 20% coupon, the cost was about $175 for a one-way trip for two adults, and one vehicle. This was more than $100 less than what we had planned to spend to ride the Lake Express back. The cost for the same trip on the Lake Express was $288. The Lake Express, however, cancelled our trip in a very unprofessional manner. Here is the link to that review.

Every Badger employee that I had contact with was exceptional! Everyone was professional and helpful. In comparison, the Lake Express employees I had contact with were neither professional nor helpful. In addition to the Badger employees that we had contact with while boarding, and on board, I called the Badger twice before our trip, I had email contact with them, and I stopped in the ticketing office the day before our trip.

This was our second trip on the Badger. Our first experience was about 20 years ago from Manitowoc to Ludington. We had a good trip at that time with two children--our son and nephew, and things have not changed much since then.