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QuirkyCruise Review About Blount Small Ship Adventures
Blount Small Ship Adventures (BSSA) was founded in 1966 by Yankee entrepreneur Luther Blount as the American Canadian Line headquartered in Warren, Rhode Island. He is largely responsible for the rebirth of US-flag coastal and inland voyages. His three daughters now run the cruise line and shipyard that builds small cruise vessels and excursion boats.
Since the beginning Blount has operated small American-flagged ships taking less than 100 passengers on an appealing set of creative coastal and inland waters itineraries from New England and its historic islands, via the Hudson River and Erie Canal to the St. Lawrence River and French Canada, through the Great Lakes to Chicago, and south along the East Coast’s Intracoastal Waterway to the Carolinas and Florida. Belize for its islands and barrier reef and Guatemala for its Mayan ruins are a December and January destinations.
The crew is mostly all-American, and captains are Blount veterans and know their waters. Cabins are tiny and the social life amongst mostly senior Americans and Canadians is relaxed and upbeat. It’s destination cruising with few of the frills that characterize the mainstream ships. Most passengers like it that way, that is once they get used to the small quarters. 2016 was Blount’s 50th anniversary for operating small-ship cruises. Blount is the only overnight cruise line that can negotiate Erie and Oswego canals, and New York State’s canal system is now a National Historic Landmark.
Ships, Years Delivered & Passengers
GRANDE CARIBE (built 1997 & 84 passengers) and GRANDE MARINER (b. 1998 & 84 p).
Mostly American seniors who enjoy a casual social setting with like-minded cruisers, while a few Brits and Australians are now finding their way here. Camaraderie develops quite quickly for those open to it.
4, electric stair climber between cabins, lounge and dining room on Main and Sun decks.
44 doubles, with a few set aside for single occupancy. most cabins are very small even by small ship standards, so if you can afford an outside cabin with a window or one that opens to a side promenade, then go for it. Also, stay away for cabins that are susceptible to engine room noise.
$ to $$ Moderate
Beer and wine at lunch and dinner*; soft drinks and setups for passengers own supplies; occasional walking tours. *(No free wine/beer on 4-day New England island breaks.)
Cruises last 6 to 15 nights.
- American & Canadian waterways between Warren, RI and Chicago using no less than 3 canals, 3 rivers and 6 lakes (4 of 5 Great Lakes). Inland waterway trip par excellence.
- Lake Michigan-exclusively, from Chicago with three spots in Wisconsin and three in Michigan and as far north as Mackinac Island. In 2019, one new trip embarks in Chicago, and after traversing four Great Lakes, sails down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal.
- The Intracoastal Waterway, 10 ports in 6 states between Warren, RI, Blount’s headquarters and Charleston, SC. Share the bays, rivers and sounds waterways with small yacht traffic and tie up at towns where you just walk ashore. In 2019, two new trips embark in Philadelphia or Baltimore and your the many historic towns of the Chesapeake Bay and end up in the Baltimore and Philadelphia respectively.
- New England offers lots of choices: Islands of New England (Block Island, Cuttyhunk, Martha’s Vineyard, & Nantucket) plus inland and coastal Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Activities ashore include sailing in an America’s Cup yacht in Newport, kayaking in Great Salt Pond and communing with birds on Block Island, and learning about oyster farming and fishing at Westport, near the New Bedford port call. Quickie 4-day trips from Warren are available, and, longer 10-day summer cruises depart Boston for the Maine coast and New Brunswick visiting Bath, “City of Ships,” kayaking amidst lobster boats, whales at play near St. Andrews, NB with world-class golf course ashore, and Portland for its waterfront, art museum, and stunningly-sited Portland Head Light. Also, shorter 8-day trips leave Boston and call exclusively at Massachusetts ports: Salem, Newburyport, Provincetown, Plymouth and Martha’s Vineyard. N.B. For the 7-day New England Islands cruise, the five departures scheduled for June into August 2020 will embark in Boston and disembark in New York and or just the reverse.
- New York and Montreal via 3 rivers, 3 canals, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence Seaway, and including Quebec City and some cruises extended to the Saguenay River. This is Blount’s bread & butter route. In fall 2019, one round trip leaves Warren, the line’s home port and sails via Long Island Sound, calling at New York, then sailing 50 miles up the Hudson (superb fall foliage) as far as a Troy, then turns back making different calls emote to Warren.
- In early 2019, four 12-day departures will explore Belize and Roatan for barrier reef activates, Mayan ruins, birding (500 species in Belize), visiting small towns, paddling the rivers, and jungle hike
- February and March 2019, 12-day cruises will feature Panama, after a hiatus of several years, to include a complete 48-mile transit, visits on the Pacific Ocean side the Panama City, Pearl Isles and Darien Jungle, and on the Atlantic (Caribbean) side, the San Blas Islands. Meet the local people, take naturalist hike, swim and snorkel.
- For the foreseeable future, U.S. government regulations disallow Cuba cruises..
See the U.S. and Canada close up by traveling along North American rivers, canals and sounds where other cruises do not and cannot go, plus a full program exploring the Great Lakes. Social interaction amongst like minded souls. Plus many ship buffs appreciate the ships’ innovations designed by line founder, the late Luther Blount, including retractable pilot houses, bow ramps, and shallow draft that enables the pair to sail in less than seven feet of water. These unique Blount innovations allow the Mariner and Caribe to go where other ships cannot.
When to Go?
Itineraries are geared to preferred seasons.
Teeny weeny, ranging from 74 to 96 sq. ft. with a dozen different configurations, so study carefully the detailed cabin plans. Beds may be double-size; parallel twins and at right angles; some upper and lower berths. Cabins may have slide-open windows (fresh air and sounds of the sea), tiny potholes or may be inside with neither. Some open to an outside promenade (fun for quick access to the deck) rather than into an inside corridor. Showers may be hand-held within the toilet and wash basin space or in a separate compartment. Storage space is limited to a closet, a few drawers and under the bed. Dress is casual at all times. Tip: ask about engine room noise before booking a Main Deck cabin.
Pure and simple, there is one forward-facing lounge that seats all passengers, with an open bar for soft drinks and set ups, plus games and a large flat-screen TV. Plenty of covered and open seating is available on the top deck.
Meals are served in the big-windowed dining room located one deck below the lounge, and all passengers are accommodated in one sitting at four- to eight-seat tables. There are no tables for two — definitely not the scene here. Lunch and dinner are at set times depending on the program, and breakfast entertains a one-hour span of arrival.
Breakfast is both buffet-style for cereals, breads, pastries, fruit and juices as well a served special-of the-day such as blueberry pancakes, omelets or Eggs Benedict. Lunch may start with a communal soup bowl on the table, then perhaps a quiche or make your own sandwich with ingredients set out before you. Dinner is served with an appetizer or salad, choice of entrée and dessert. The food is well prepared with high quality ingredients and reflects what the mostly North American passengers like to eat at home or at a good local restaurant.
Activities & Entertainment
A lecturer accompanies most cruises with additional specialist speakers in some ports. Optional shore excursions are available in most ports as well as independent touring. Some evenings may see a musician or local historian come aboard. Bedtime comes early for many, few stay up past 10 p.m.
Line offers a popular BYOB policy and supplies storage and setups; singles have the option of a “willing to share” policy. There is no laundry aboard. The cruise director will know the most convenient “bottle shops” and self-service laundries on longer voyages. Early arrival rates for some dates include an extra dinner and overnight aboard allowing for local independent touring. It’s a nice feature and avoids a one-night hotel stay and another transfer. Sign up for bulletins and keep a keen eye out for special rates.
Along the Same Lines
American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company though plusher cabins; Ontario Waterway Cruises; St. Lawrence Cruise Lines; UnCruise Adventures (some f the fleet).
Blount Small Ship Adventures, 461 Water Street, PO Box 368, Warren, RI 02885-3900; blountsmallshipadventures.com; 800-556-7450.
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