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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mackinaw City, Michigan / Shepler's Ferry

May 2014

There are three companies that offer ferry service between Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island. We ended up with Shepler's Ferry, because the guestroom we had booked at the LakeView Hotel on Mackinaw Island included roundtrip tickets with this company. Before our trip, I had decided that Shepler's Ferry was a fabulous choice because of the professional and personable way in which the company presented itself online. Whoever is in charge of their Facebook page is doing an excellent job!

The week before our trip, the lake was still full of ice, and we had canceled because the ferry service was not running from Mackinaw City. The day before we had planned to travel, we learned that Shepler's would be starting limited runs the day of our trip from Mackinaw City, so we rebooked our room at the LakeView Hotel and rode to the island with Shepler's.

Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island, Weekday morning
We had initially wanted to take the 9:30 a.m. departure because it was listed as a Might Mac departure, which means we would travel under the bridge on the way to the island (weather permitting). The Mighty Mac departures are listed on Shepler's schedule; however, the schedule was just starting out this first day, and the weather was not good. I also had a business call that morning, so we went across on the 11:30 a.m. run.

Our reservation from LakeView Hotel provided a confirmation number, and we were told to stop at Shepler's Ferry dock for our tickets. I had hoped to pick up our tickets beforehand; however, our name was not on the list when my husband stopped there in the early morning. When we returned just before 11:00, I provided our confirmation email, the agent contacted the Lake View Hotel, and then we  received our tickets.

Shepler's complimentary parking is not clearly explained on their website. To park the car overnight, it is $16 in a gated lot, and it is complimentary in their lot about 4 blocks away. If you want someone to valet park your vehicle in the complimentary lot, the cost is $7. We had time to park the car ourselves, and my husband is funny about choosing his own parking spot and letting people drive his vehicles, so we took the car there and walked back. An employee had met us on the dock before this to take our bags. He provided a generic claim check, and he said that they were out of tags for the Lake View Hotel.

When we returned from parking the car, we waited in a covered area across from the dock. Flush toilets are located in a separate building behind the ticket counter. Just before boarding, an employee asked everyone to walk over to the dockside, and we then waited under an awning on the dock.

Boarding the boat was an easy process. It was chilly, and the boat was not completely full. A couple of people sat outside on top, although more than 90% of the passengers opted for inside seating. Even with the breezy weather, the trip was quick and smooth. A bike was left behind that belonged to a young girl with her parents who were seated behind us. It sounded like they were supposed to have loaded the bicycle, and they had thought it would be loaded with the luggage. Shepler's said that they would bring it on the next run.

After we disembarked on the island, it was unclear how we were supposed to get our luggage. I think we were supposed to have talked with an employee about the fact that our luggage had generic tags, and then it would have been delivered. Several passengers were standing around to get luggage with generic tags from one of the luggage carts because they were going to houses on the island. Our bags were on the same cart, so when they got their bags, we got ours as well. The Lake View Hotel is pretty much across the street from the dock, so taking our own bags to the hotel was quite easy.

Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City, Weekend morning
We returned on the 10:30 a.m. boat. We arrived at the dock about 10:20 or so, and the boarding process was not very clear. I did not see an office or window. Someone took our bag, and then after we inquired, we learned that the boat from Mackinaw City was on its way over. One other passenger was standing around, so we assumed she was waiting for the same boat. After chatting with her, we learned that she had ridden over on the boat almost ½ hour earlier and was still waiting for a horse/cab to the Grand Hotel. She said that she wished she had worn different shoes, because she could have been there already, if she had just walked.

When the boat arrived, our lone bag was taken out to the dock, and we began to think we were going to be the only ones on the boat. A few minutes later, another couple wheeled their luggage down the dock, and we were the only 4 passengers on the return trip.

The boat for our trip back was more comfortable than the one we had ridden out in. The entire inside of the boat had been refinished, and the cushions were more comfortable. The seats had been recovered, and the carpet was new.

It was raining when we arrived back in Mackinaw City, and we started to think we should have done valet parking. Just before docking though, we learned that there is a shuttle bus, and we could get a ride to the lot that way. We had not been told about the shuttle bus when we self-parked the vehicle before departure. We disembarked, retrieved our luggage, and took the shuttle to the car lot.

We were happy with the comfort and service from Shepler's, and we would choose this company the next time we visit the island.