For as long as anyone in Rhode Island could remember, the Blounts had been in the oyster business. And by the summer of 1938, business was good. The workers were busy. The family oyster beds were thriving. And every morning, shellfish went out by the crate to eager buyers around the state. But The hurricane of ’38 changed everything.
Founder Luther Blount took his oyster yard and started builsing small ships in 1947. By 1964 he had built over 100 vessels,everything from dinner boats to the Circle Line ships that take tourists around the Statue of Liberty. But it was the time he spent with family, sailing the waters of New England, where Luther found his biggest inspiration.
Soon enough, a cruise line was born, with cruises unlike anything else on the water. Part improvised adventure, part well-oiled machine, they felt like a Blount family vacation. Except now, they sailed to distant places Luther had seen while delivering the boats he built to clients. The places he fell in love with. Every time they left Rhode Island, they sailed with a simple motto, coined by Luther in 1966: to “go where the big ships cannot.”
When Luther passed away in 2006, Luther’s daughters Marcia and Julie became President and Vice-President of the Blount Boats shipyard. And his daughter Nancy, who had worked by his side since 1979, took the helm of Blount Small Ship Adventures.
The present fleet consists of two nearly identical small ships; the 1997-built Grande Caribe and 1988-built Grande Mariner, each 184 feet long and taking up to 88 passengers. American built and registered, with American officers and crew, the ships are specially designed to reach bodies of water and ports that bigger vessels can't visit. Each has a retractable pilothouse that allows it to pass under low railroad bridges, and a shallow 66" draft permits river and canal cruising and landing close to shore. Other features include a bow ramp for beach landings, an underwater exploration camera and a swimming platform in the stern.
Organized activities and usual shipboard pastimes -- such as bingo, spas, shopping and major stage shows -- found on big ships are absent. The emphasis is more on socializing, sightseeing and, depending on the itinerary, swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing and glass-bottom boat riding. Evening entertainment is usually a lecture, followed by cards, reading and videos. Local bands and entertainers come aboard in some ports. Shore excursions are extra and may be bought as an advance-purchase package or individually onboard.
Each vessel has a forward observation lounge big enough to hold all passengers at one time for entertainment and the line's enrichment speakers. Alcohol is not sold, but wine is offered on special occasions, and passengers are encouraged to bring aboard their own supply of alcoholic beverages. Storage facilities, setups, and soft drinks are complimentary, and the crew can point out top-up stores along the way.
The dining room with an open serving kitchen seats all passengers at one time at mostly round tables of six and eight. The food is good all-American fare, often reflecting the cruising region.
Breakfast and lunch generally offer either a buffet or family-style dining where food is brought to the table on platters large enough for all portions. Breakfast always includes one specialty; french toast, eggs Benedict, etc. Lunch will include soup, salad and sandwiches (of different varieties every day).
For dinner you have the choice of either a meat or fish dish every night. The seafood is outstanding and highly recommended, especially on Maine and other East Coast itineraries. Most food is purveyed locally so it is fresh and delicious, down to the homemade bread and sandwich rolls.
Cabins, scattered over three decks, include outside and inside cabins, all very small and all having private showers, sinks and toilets. Some cabins open to the outside deck, others to a traditional inside corridor. Some open both ways. they average 80 to 100 square feet and are used for little more than sleeping and changing clothes. The beds are comfortable enough, single beds with "egg crate" foam padding added. There are no televisions sets in the rooms, no telephones or room service.
However, these are small ships so coffee and entertainment are always just a few steps outside your door. You can even go down to the dining room and raid the fruit and cookies if you want a late night snack.
Passengers are mostly retired Americans and Canadians. The company has developed an extremely loyal fan base that returns for many different itineraries.
Shore excursions are extra and may be bought as an advance-purchase package or individually onboard. They are not over-priced but we recommend the trolley and coach based tours over the walking tours. There are no ear-buds so the docent generally has to walk quite awhile and then stop to talk in one place (which quickly gets boring).
The best information about the local scenery comes from the onboard lecturer - in our case a Sam Ladley who had a jaw-dropping amount of history and background information at his fingertips.
none are offered - you are on your own.
Past Passenger Programs
Past passengers receive substantial discounts on future cruises starting with the fourth one.
Casual all the time, but in good taste.
$10 to $12 per passenger per day.