7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
I chose for the destinations: Newport, RI, Nantucket and New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard, plus Block Island and a brief overnight on Cuttyhunk. I knew it would not entail cruise ship luxury, and was okay with and expected that. What ... Read More
I chose for the destinations: Newport, RI, Nantucket and New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard, plus Block Island and a brief overnight on Cuttyhunk. I knew it would not entail cruise ship luxury, and was okay with and expected that. What I did not expect was so little organized activity options, mold in our shower, and beds worthy of a kids' camp cabin. To suggest that this was an "adventure" cruise is ludicrous, unless you count one chance to kayak and one to go on a sailboat, both for an extra charge. Be aware that no activities are included in your base price, except for a few shuttles. This is not like a European river cruise, where at least one outing a day in included. To be fair, their tours offered are inexpensive except for the sail. The brochure and website suggest there will be lecturers on history, wildlife, etc--but this week there were none. The website and even a sign on our boat talk about bikes and kayaks being onboard "on some trips." We had none, despite being in locations where access to both would have been helpful. The food was good, with both a seafood option and another meat for dinner each night, and they accommodated passenger allergies nicely. We did have lobster every day as advertised, including a nice "lobster bake" dinner. One day it was in an omelette for breakfast, another in a bisque for lunch. Once it was in a sauce over cod. The homemade breads and pastries at every meal were wonderful! Red and white wines and beer were offered free at both lunch and dinner. This would not be a good trip for vegetarians! Cocktails were offered free on two nights. Until the last two nights when pleasant singers came onboard, the only evening entertainment was an old movie on the one TV onboard, in the lounge. We met people who had been on as many as 16 previous Blount cruises, and frankly, we just do not understand why. Probably the Caribbean snorkel cruises attract a younger and more active crowd. We enjoyed our meals, our destinations and had plenty of time to nap and read--but in other ways this just did not measure up to our expectations. We have been on a number of smaller ship cruises before in Europe and the US and Canada, and have been pleased with two river cruise companies over several trips in Europe, so I do not consider ourselves to normally be critical people. We will not be repeat customers with Blount. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
Background have long said I have 2 favorite cruise lines which are polar opposites, Blount and Crystal. The line is not for everybody, but does have a very loyal following which I consider myself part of. Ship info: Luther Blount was ... Read More
Background have long said I have 2 favorite cruise lines which are polar opposites, Blount and Crystal. The line is not for everybody, but does have a very loyal following which I consider myself part of. Ship info: Luther Blount was involved in many businesses. He started in the Oyster business and branched out into shipbuilding. His entry into cruising came from taking family and friends on his personal yacht and the demand grew until he expanded into building and sailing small cruise ships. His signature journey was through New York’s Erie Canal and he designed his ships with that journey in mind with shallow drafts and a pilot house that retracted to allow the ship to pass under the canal’s 17-foot bridges. Other trips went to the Caribbean and he added a patented bow ramp which allows the ships to ground on a beach and the ramp to run either to shore or to shallow water for snorkeling. A Captain once quoted one of Luther Blount’s mottos, “Give them everything they need and nothing they don’t”. When I first sailed with the line in 1996 I described the creature comforts as “somewhere between basic and spartan”. The current generation of ships is a bit bigger and better equipped and following Mr. Blount’s 2006 death daughter Nancy has added some woman’s touches bringing things closer to the upper end of that scale. I don’t think the vertical restrictions required for passing through the Erie Canal would permit having the machinery required for an elevator, but the current ships all have stair chair lifts on the main stairways. Dining: Meals are served in a single dining room on the lower deck of the ship. Meal times are set, usually 8AM, 12:30PM, and 6:30PM although there may be a slight variation to fit into port and activity times. There is a daily set menu which is posted each evening right outside the dining room door. If something on the menu does not work for a passenger, a quick word with the chef will result in a substitution. A number of passengers were gluten free and were very well taken care of. Seating is first come first served and over the course of a cruise one can share a meal with virtually everyone else on the ship. Breakfast begins with a buffet table with hot and cold cereal, fresh fruit, toast, milk, and juice. Breakfast entrees are served family style at each table. Lunch is also served family style (without the buffet table) but the stewardess individually serve the dinner entrees. Until recently there was a single dinner entree each day but in the last few years there has been a choice (usually a meat option and a seafood option) as well as a special desert of ice cream. Passengers are asked to select their dinner choices at breakfast. I think everybody meeting in the dining room 3 times a day enhances the bonding of passengers Blount generally does not sell alcohol. The basic policy is BYOB, but within the last few years wine or beer have been included with lunch and dinner, and there is an open bar one night at the beginning and end of each cruise. There is a cooler in the lounge where passengers can keep their bottles chilled. Self service coffee, tea, cappuccino (new since my last visit), and soda as well as granola, fresh fruit, and baked goods are available in the dining room 24 hours per day as well as a second soda machine in the lounge and morning coffee in the lounge. Activities and entertainment: This was a port intensive cruise and there were not a lot of onboard activities. We had a photographer who gave presentations on how to take good pictures (no, he does not hound you for pictures in the dining room or at ports like happens on some ships; he does sell a CD with photos of the trip for a nominal price), and a naturalist who gave talks on wildlife, fisheries, and local history. The small crew does not include entertainers as such, several local groups came on various evenings and performed, where we had neither local entertainers nor a naturalist presentation a movie would be shown. Where there are “sea days” the Cruise Director will organize some games in either the lounge or the dining room. Fitness: There are not a lot of facilities but they are improving somewhat. A walkway circles the deck with the lounge. It is narrow and short, something like 15-20 laps per mile, but it is available. The lowered pilot house prohibits walking around this deck on the Erie Canal, but then there are ample opportunities to walk on shore. There are also bicycles available to rent and a new addition, 2 stationary bikes aft. Children: Blount is really an adult oriented operation and children are not encouraged. A minimum age of 14 is the usual rule although children may be accepted on a case by case basis. Service and Crew: This is one area where the “Everything you need, nothing you don’t” has it’s greatest impact. Our crew of 15 was pretty typical, We had 3 officers, a chef, cruise director 5 stewardesses (occasionally, as here, one of the stewardesses who is experienced and outstanding gets the title of hotel director), and 5 deckhands. There is a lot of self service, such as the coffee bar between meals, and rooms are made up only once per day. The emphasis is on quality of service rather than quantity. Blount has several American flag competitors. I have not sailed them but others I talked to on the voyage have. The consensus was that while the others have more upscale facilities, Blount stands head and shoulders above the others in quality of service. All the staff are engaging and friendly and will do anything that they can fit into their limited duty time. It may be the New England work ethic but the staff are truly outstanding. In times of rough seas anybody, officially on duty or not, is ready to help anyone who needs it with a steadying hand. Disembarkation: Disembarkation is pretty straight forward. The extra cost services are very limited (shore excursions, logo clothing, and transfers is about it). All of that is handled by one person, the cruise director. Midway through the cruise she will collect disembarkation plans and credit card numbers. There is typically a bus hired for passengers headed for the airport, and plans will be made to secure other transfers as appropriate. Bills will be processed the day before disembarkation. Bags are left outside rooms before breakfast on the morning of disembarkation, and following a leisurely breakfast people will be called as their transportation is ready. Summary: Blount is not for everyone. If you need “luxury” and pampering, Broadway style shows, and an array of specialty restaurants you will need to go elsewhere. For good, well prepared food, friendly service, and a family atmosphere you have a home here. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
Background: Blount Small Ship Adventures truly marches to a different drummer in the cruise industry. A family owned company, the term family will come up often, and I typically use the term in the way real families actually work, not some ... Read More
Background: Blount Small Ship Adventures truly marches to a different drummer in the cruise industry. A family owned company, the term family will come up often, and I typically use the term in the way real families actually work, not some stylized version of the term. Founder Luther Blount was the company's guiding influence for 40 years, leaving his mark right up to his death in 2006. His daughter Nancy is now President and has added some woman's touches but the family tradition still continues. Despite the company's minuscule size (it's 2 ships have a TOTAL capacity of 190 passengers), there are almost 2 distinct companies, and most passengers are fiercely loyal to one or the other with little intermixing. The Caribbean side centers on water activities, primarily swimming and snorkeling, while the North American itineraries center on scenic cruising and history. For those who have sailed with Blount (formerly ACCL) in the past, changes from recent years are that wine is included with lunch and dinner and there are now choices for both dinner entrees and deserts. Embarkation: The ship was docked at the North end of the Port of New Orleans beyond the bridges and near the Port Administration Building and Mardi Gras World. As I approached the gangway a deck hand took my bags and headed for my cabin. Check-in is handled in the lounge where I gave a crew member my ticket and my choices for dinner and picked up a name tag. Normally one of the stewardesses will escort a passenger to the cabin and point out the features; Im pretty much a Blount regular and that wasnt deemed necessary. Ship info: All of Blount's ships are designed to cruise New York's Erie Canal, which has several bridges with about 17 foot vertical clearance. They have a retractable pilot house which normally sits on the topmost deck but can be lowered to the deck below. One unfortunate consequence of the design for low bridges is that the ceilings are low (approximately 6'3") which would be a consideration for people over that height. The Grande Caribe, and near twin Grande Mariner, have 2 ½ inside decks, with 6 cabins and crew areas on the lowest deck, and cabins and dining room on the middle deck, and cabins and lounge on the upper deck. There is a walk around the outside of the upper deck, about 15 laps per mile, although walking is really better done ashore. An open upper deck is on top, except when transiting the Erie Canal. Staterooms: The cabins are tiny, basic, and functional. Most are approximately 80 square feet, and have a small sink and toilet. The space between the sink and toilet serves as the shower, with the shower head mounted on the wall, and a curtain which comes into place on the other 3 sides containing the spray in the shower space. It's very nontraditional but quite functional. A few cabins now have separate showers. There are generally 2 beds sitting at right angles, cabinet space and a writing desk. One thing that may surprise newcomers is that the cabin doors do not lock from the outside. With the small, family atmosphere I've never heard of this causing a problem, but it is certainly unusual. Most of the Niagara Prince cabin doors face interior hallways and are sliding fabric, much like sliding room dividers. Each cabin has an individual heat-ac unit, much like a room air conditioner. Rooms are not equipped with television or phones. Crew: Since these are US flag ships, the crew is all American, and generally young. We had a crew of 16: Captain, First officer, Engineer, Cruise Director, Hotel Director, Chef and assistant, 5 Stewardess and 4 deck hands. The entire crew from Captain on down is closely engaged with the passengers and will all typically address the passengers by name. We are much more on our own than on a typical cruise ship (for example, if we want a mid-afternoon cup of coffee we pretty much need to pour it ourselves), but the service is very personal and professional. Dining: All meals are served in the dining room. In the tradition of real family dining, there are set meal times, generally 8am, noon, and 6pm. Also, as with real families, the chef sets the menu of the day, with a choice usually of a meat or seafood and 2 deserts for dinner. The menu is posted the night before in the dining room. People who see something on the menu they don't like will speak to the chef a meal in advance and a substitution will be offered. The tables are for 6 or 8, and at the appointed time we pick a vacant seat. In the course of the cruise I shared a table at least once with nearly every other passenger. Breakfast starts with a buffet line for fruit, milk, juice, and hot and cold cereal. Cooked entrees are served family style (large platters are passed around the tables). Lunch is also served family style, while dinner is served traditionally. Between meals there are snacks available in the lounge and dining room, self service soft drinks in the lounge and a coffee station in the dining room. Blount serves drinks on the Captains welcome aboard and farewell nights and wine with dinner. At other times the policy is BYOB. There is storage space, including a refrigerator, for passenger liquor in the lounge and drink setups are always furnished. Activities and entertainment: Formal entertainment is fairly limited. The Cruise Director organizes a couple of games each day but the emphasis is on either ports or scenic cruising. An onboard naturalist gave presentations on environmental topics, and was out on deck pointing out wildlife. In the evening there is either a movie in the lounge or a local entertainer when in port. There is no casino and very little shopping. The ship's store with Blount items is opened once each cruise. Other shopping needs will have to be met on shore, and the cruise director will help find the right places at each port. Children: Children are generally not encouraged. The policy is a minimum age of 14 years although I have seen younger mature children on a case-by-case basis. Disembarkation: A breeze. Since there are few onboard expenses, we settled our bills the day before arrival in St. Petersburg, and the cruise director collected our departure information and arranged taxis/shuttles as appropriate. Luggage went outside our doors the morning we disembarked. After breakfast it was arranged in the lounge sorted by departure time. When we were ready we simply walked off the ship. I had a taxi to meet my Amtrak departure. It arrived a few minutes ahead of the reservation. I was paged, walked off the ship, and found the crew had already loaded my luggage in the taxi. Summary: Blount is not for everybody. People who want a big menu of activities, those who want to be pampered in luxury and those who have a preset idea of what a cruise should be are likely to be disappointed. Those who are open to a new and intimate experience can have a wonderful time. Prices tend to be on the high side reflecting the lack of economy of scale and the fact that the crew is earning American wages. Ports: Shore tours are not included in the fare, but are moderately priced. On this cruise they ranged from $29 to $85 with an average of about $60. New Orleans: Blount sometimes allows embarkation a day early, and I was able to board a day ahead of time with dinner and breakfast included. There were no ship activities on the general embarkation day and I went for a cruise on the Natchez, a steam paddlewheel riverboat. It was very enjoyable with views of the waterfront, French Quarter, Algiers, and sites from the War of 1812 and Civil War. I did not partake but a lunch was available which looked quite nice. The next day the ship offered 2 shore excursions. The morning tour was a city and Katrina tour where we visited cemeteries, various styles of architecture and toured the canal system and areas where the system failed. We had a refreshment stop at the Art Museum park. The afternoon tour was an airboat tour on the bayous where we saw lots of wildlife including closeup views of alligators and bayou cabins. It was excellent. A local R&B group entertained in the evening. We were supposed to leave New Orleans at 7 the next morning but our departure was delayed until 8:45, probably because we had to pass through a flood control gate that would be closed until noon. I had time for a morning walk where I found excellent internet at a Starbucks near the most downstream cruise terminal. Biloxi: We docked with yachts at a marina which may have been attached to a casino. We had a train tour which visited the main sites and stopped at the final home of Jefferson Davis. A highlight was the Katrina Sculpture Park where a chainsaw artist used some trees destroyed by Katrina to create beautiful sculptures of birds and sea life. The evening we docked a local historian told Stories of Biloxi. Mobile: Our visit here was just a morning. The ships tour went to Bellingrath Gardens and Home, although I skipped it in favor of a visit to a local Laundromat. We docked behind the Convention center, right in the midst of the downtown area. A free shuttle hits the major downtown sites about every 15 minutes. Most Blount stops in Mobile spend the day there and a great option is the USS Arizona Battleship. That visit requires a taxi. Pensacola: We docked at the Plaza de Luna, staying from about 9PM for a full day and overnight, leaving early the 2nd morning. We were greeted by a welcoming party of drummers in period costumes. The location was convenient to the center of town and museums. There were again morning and afternoon tours. I skipped the morning tour which toured the sites and museum complex. The afternoon tour visited the National Naval Aviation Museum, an astounding collection of historic military aircraft spread over 2 huge hangers. We also visited Fort Barrancas, one of several forts which protected the harbor entrance, and the Pensacola light house, where 177 steps provided a superb view of the area. A local music group performed that evening and we left early the next morning. Pensacola was a real gem. There are not facilities for large cruise ships but I think it would be a great alternative to Key West for ships like Silversea, Seabourn, or Azamara. Panama City: This was essentially a rest stop for the officers as the crew size does not work well with multiple overnight cruises. We docked at the local marina around dinner time. Panama City appeared to be a nice, quaint small town, but it was pretty much closed up on a Sunday evening. A local blues singer came aboard to perform. Carabelle: A first call for Blount, Carabelle was a bit of a disappointment. A tour was planned for a nature experience at Tates Hell State Forest, but the tour operator ended up with a capacity of only 4. A local historian gave an evening presentation, and offered his van for the afternoon to escort people to th local museums and shopping places. Tampa: We docked at the Westin Harbor Island. I passed on the morning tour to the H.B. Plant Museum. In the afternoon there was a shuttle to local attractions on the waterfront, Tampa History Center, Florida Aquarium, or the American Victory. I visited the American Victory. Victory ships are a WWII upgrade of the Liberty Ship and was a very interesting ship. These attractions are all very close to the Tampa Cruise Port. We had an evening performance by violinist Leah Rothe who played mostly classical music but sampled several styles. St. Petersburg: Our disembarkation stop was just a stones throw from Tampa. We docked at the port of Tampa and were all given day passes for the looper trolley. Points of interest there were the Dali Museum, the city pier (about to be demolished), Fine Arts Museum, Holocaust Museum, and a unique open air post office.   Read Less
Grande Caribe Ratings
Category Editor Member
Dining N/A 4.3
Entertainment N/A 3.1
Family N/A 2.1
Rates N/A 3.6

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