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.
14c is the only solo cabin on the Grande Caribe. It is directly over the engine room and the sound of the engine comes through SLIGHTLY when the ship is speeding up or slowing down. The bed is parallel to the length of the ship, there's a dresser with 3 drawers and a decent hanging space. There are 6 electrical outlets, a mirror above the dresser, and a reading light. It's snug but sufficient for one.
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 L\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.
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.