Blount Small Ship Adventures
The Line in a Nutshell
A family-owned New England line, Blount Small Ship Adventures (formerly American Canadian Caribbean Line/ACCL) operates tiny, no-frills ships that attract a well-traveled, extremely casual, and down-to-earth older crowd. It's a "what you see is what you get" experience: friendly, homespun, and visiting places few other ships do. For 2011, Blount will sail the Mississippi River system for the first time, becoming one of only two lines (along with Cruise West) to operate "sleep aboard" overnight cruise vessels in the region. Sails to: U.S./Canada river/coastal cruises, Intracoastal Waterway, Caribbean, Central America.
The line began as ACCL in 1966 when late Rhode Island shipbuilder Luther Blount realized there was a demand for small-ship sailing on the rivers, canals, and coasts of New England and Canada. Over the years, his company's vessels have gone well beyond their regional home. Today, many of the line's almost universally older passengers (average age around 72) have sailed with the line before, and appreciate its casualness, its lack of glitz and gimmicks, its early-to-bed lifestyle, and its "just us folks" features such as a BYOB policy. (It's a real money saver for passengers, who can stock up in port and keep their bottles in the bar area, labeled with their cabin number. Tonic and soda are free.)
Built in 1997 and 1998, the line's three vessels -- the 100-passenger twins Grande Caribe and Grande Mariner and the older, 84-passenger Niagara Prince -- are as basic as cruise ships come, with tiny, spartan cabins; no-fuss decor; minuscule head-style cabin bathrooms; and only two public rooms (a lounge and a dining room). But no one expects luxury on these cruises. Instead, Blount cruises are all about the real life of the regions they visit, with most activities oriented toward exploring ports and natural areas. Some 85% to 90% of cruises sail in domestic waters, concentrating on visits to historically rich, colonial ports and natural areas that are rich with plants and wildlife. These ships can go where few others can because of innovative exploratory features built into them: a shallow draft and retractable wheelhouse, which allow them to sail through shallow canals and under low bridges; bow ramps that enable them to pull right up to pristine, dockless beaches; and a platform in the stern for swimming and launching the ships' glass-bottom boats.
Onboard activities and entertainment are usually limited to occasional informal lectures, a few printed quizzes, cooking demonstrations, card playing, and movies from the ship's video collection. Meals are well prepared and all-American, but limited and not terribly inspiring. The daily menu, with selections for all three meals, is posted every morning on the blackboard in the dining room. There's only one entree per meal, so anyone wanting an alternative must notify the kitchen before 10am. Owing to the average passenger age, the ship line's cooks try to keep things low in salt and fat. Service by the staff of young Americans (many from Blount's home state of Rhode Island) is casual and friendly.
These ships won't appeal to the vast majority of young couples, singles, honeymooners, and families. Children under age 14 are prohibited, and the line offers no children's facilities or activities, nor any particularly active activities. Very tall people should also stay away, as ceilings on all Blount ships are set at not much more than 6 feet 4 inches.
Blount is one of the less expensive of the small-ship lines, with typical per diems at $290-$305.
Grande Caribe sails Central America from Belize City (winter); the Antebellum South from Charleston & Jacksonville, FL (spring); the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore (summer); the Maine Coast from Portland (summer); New England Islands from Warren, RI (summer); and the Erie Canal/Saguenay River from New York & Montreal (fall).
Grande Mariner sails the Caribbean from St. Thomas, St. Maarten & Caicos Nassau (winter); the Antebellum South from Jacksonville, FL (spring); the Great Lakes from Chicago, Toronto, New York & Warren, RI (spring, summer); and the Erie Canal/Saguenay River from New York & Montreal (fall).
Niagara Prince sails the Mississippi River System from New Orleans, Chattanooga, Nashville & Chicago (spring, summer); the Great Lakes from Chicago (summer, fall); and Lake Champlain from New York & Burlington, VT (fall).