Grande Mariner Cruise Review by Dogdude: Skylines and Islands
Skylines and Islands
Several years ago, I bought a Danube Christmas market cruise on the MS Bolero through Gate 1. When we got on board, we were told the river was high and there was a bridge we could not get under. Bottom line, no cruise, and THEY KNEW BEFORE WE FLEW TO GERMANY THAT THERE WOULD BE NONE.
The July 25 departure was my first experience with Blount Small Ship Adventures, on the Grande Mariner.
As we sat in the airport, boarding passes in hand, my wife got a cell phone call that the ship had blown an engine and we would not board at Chelsea Piers in NYC as planned, but they would take care of us.
My thoughts were, "deja vu all over again". Another disaster.
We arrived at Chelsea Piers and were met by the captain. We were bussed about 5 hours to Warren, RI, where the ship was and boarded the ship while they worked on it. We got underway almost two days later, and were still 200 miles or so from the original starting point of NYC.
While in Rhode More Island, we were given open bar and a no cost tour of Newport, RI.
Once we sailed, the captain poured on the coals to make up time. Most of us had flight arrangements out of Toronto on Aug 3. He made up the time, but did it by steaming all night much of the time. The original plan was to steam mostly by day to see the scenery. So, I missed seeing much of the Hudson River since we ran it mostly at night. Much of the Erie Canal was run at night, not the original plan. The company made all optional tours free, and some such as Niagara Falls would have been close to $200 per person. We made all the tours, such as The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, tours of Kingston, Ontario, Toronto, etc. We stopped at Oswego and Ogdensburg NY, but nothing much there.
The company also provided free wine with meals, not the usual procedure.
The ship holds around 96 passengers, and there were about 65 actually on board. At 70 and 68, we were among the youngest on board. There were walkers, canes, oxygen tanks. About 10 or so were from the NYC area, another 8 or 10 Canadians from around Toronto, and the others from Florida, California, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia, etc. We represented Texas. But the passengers overall were middle class, very well traveled and educated people, who were a joy to get to know. Meals were informal, family style, NEVER a dress code or assigned seating, and we got to know a lot of them well. They were retired professional people. The food was good, and we always had choices. I gained 6 pounds.
The crew were all Americans, mostly young, and the ship flew the US flag. Crossing into Canada was easy. The tour director collected passports, Canadian officials came on board, and she took care of it as we ate dinner. We never saw the customs people.
The captain is who made lemonade out of lemons. Captain "Mike" was everywhere doing everything. We ate with him several times, and had informal chats other times.
Bottom line: nothing that went wrong was the fault of Blount or the ship's crew. They did all that was humanly possible to undo the damage of a breakdown and get us to our destinations. The ownership must have taken a big loss on this trip what with all the "freebies"they threw in.
Give Blount a try. I think you will be glad you did. Less
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