Groups can get a sense of what life was like onboard the William A. Irvin, the flagship of United States Steel’s Great Lakes fleet.

The vessel, which carried iron ore and coal to Great Lakes ports for 40 years, is now a ship museum in Duluth, Minnesota. It’s closed for the 2019 season for painting and maintenance and will reopen for tours in 2020.

The Irvin is docked along the waterfront of Lake Superior next to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and near the Aerial Lift Bridge.

The vessel, named for a president of U.S. Steel, was christened in 1938 and sailed the Great Lakes until 1978.

While the Irvin was a workhorse for the company, it was also the fleet’s flagship and had four private luxury cabins for dignitaries, along with a separate dining room and lounge. The guest areas are trimmed in oak paneling and walnut veneer with brass hand railings.

irvin guest dining room
Guest dining room, William A. Irvin, Duluth, Minn.
Credit: William A. Irvin

Alexis Archambeau, manager of the Irvin, said the museum offers hourlong guided tours on board the vessel. There is a special rate for groups of 20 or more that book in advance. This includes a parking pass for the motorcoaches that is otherwise not included. 

“The tour takes groups to different places of the ship, including the engine room, galley, crew quarters, guest dining, guest suites, pilot house and many other areas,” Archambeau said. “Overall, people love to learn what it was like to work on these ships, and they are always so surprised at the beauty of the guest areas.” 

From the 2,000-horsepower steam turbine engine to the delicate antique fixtures, all is pristine on the Irvin.

Ship tours for groups are available seven days a week from May through September. Tours sell out at around 25 people. A group larger than 25 is divided into smaller groups, whose tours start in 15-minute increments. 

A gift shop carries nautical items and collectibles.

For more on the William A. Irvin call 218-623-1236 or go to