Pirates of the Caribbean is playing in the theater. The entertainment director is calling Bingo in the main lounge and a masseuse is set up for business on the upper deck.  It’s hard to know where to start the fun on the S.S. Badger, the 410-foot car ferry that crosses Lake Michigan from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, from mid-May through mid-October.

Less time in the car when you’re headed across the upper Midwest is one great reason to sail on the Badger. The other reason is the Mini Cruise: Make the four-hour voyage to Wisconsin and return on the first or second available boat back and you save almost 30 percent on a round-trip ticket.  The trip is easy to pull off in a day—and delicious. Nibble a blueberry muffin pulled fresh from the ship’s oven as the Michigan morning fades into the new blue day.  Tackle the ship-made chocolate cheesecake on the way home.

Since the Badger leaves twice daily from both destinations you can make one leg of the cruise through the night. A stateroom is a treat (the mattress comes with the gentle rock of the waves), but so is stretching a sleeping bag on the deck and under the stars. Some folks even set up blow-up mattresses for the night.

Once the Badger is out of port and in the middle of that vast sea of blue you could be on a cruise anywhere: the bar is open, the deck chairs are comfy and the kids are taken care of (did I mention the arcade and face painting?). Freshwater spray in your face aside, you’ll remember where you are because Badger hospitality is as first-rate Midwestern-wonderful as it gets.  For schedules, ticket prices and reservations call 800-841-4243.

Tip: The Mini Cruise leaves you time to check out the Wisconsin Maritime Museum a short walk from the boat. At the museum, kids can make their own boats to sail through mini canals and everyone can tour the World War II sub the U.S. Cobia