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.
A traditional Blount interior cabin with a fixed double bed and combined bath, basin, and shower. It is tiny but very well laid out with a surprising amount of storage.
A small cosmopolitan city with great museums. Portland Head light is a great visit.
We docked for stay almost where the big ships drop off their tenders. The big attraction here is Acadia National Park where Cadillac mountain is wonderful, the rugged coastline has great views and interesting waves, and there is an extensive network of carriage and hiking trails. The town has small versions of normal stores and lots of outdoor provision stores. A fee is required to enter the park but there is free transportation to and within it.
A small, cosmopolitan city with the unique “Reversing Falls”, museums, and an array of services.