Built by Blount Boats in Warren, RI, and commissioned in 1997, the Grande Caribe carries 88 passengers everywhere from Belize to Baltimore. She was completely renovated in 2009, with new furniture and décor in the lounge, cabins and dining rooms, and sparkling new showers and bathrooms. So whether you find yourself chatting under the glimmering canopy lights of the top deck, or enjoying a lazy morning in your cabin, the Grande Caribe was built with you in mind.
Most unusual - the boat was built to be made short enough to navigate the entire Erie Canal to its source. This requires lowering the pilot house, taking the rails and awning down and basically making the roof as flat as possible to get the ship under several bridge, but it can be done - and only Blount does this cruise.
Best For People Who Want
A very casual small ship experience with friendly staff and fellow passengers. Quiet cruising always with the shore in sight.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Large ship entertainment, large varieties of food daily, late night activities
These are small and quiet ships. Running cruises that average 10 days or longer the clientele tends to be independent and retired. The focus is definitely on the destinations, with the ship arriving in port in the mornings and often staying overnight to sail the next night and land in another port the nest morning.
You are immersed in the destination, so this is less cruising and more of a way to travel to places that normally one would not see - the islands of Maine or the East Coast bays, the Erie Canal, etc.
Although the company says the boat was upgraded in 1997, the decor bears all the hallmarks of the '70s. Green and brown furniture and wall trim. Lime green walls and biege carpet. The staterooms are tiny and bare, but fully functional and comfortable with plenty of storage.
There is one main Observation Lounge with a bar, banquette and free wi-fi Internet service. It includes windows that wrap around the front of the ship offering 270 degrees of viewing. There are also doors to the outside decks from this room. This is where one can enjoy lectures by the very talented speakers, nighttime musical entertainment and also movies after dinner.
The top deck is open with plenty of lounge chairs, regular chairs and cocktail tables.
The dining room has tables for four to eight people and every meal is open seating which gives you a chance to meet and mingle with everyone on board.
Dining is casual in attire but professional and first class in taste and service. The menu might be a bit limited with just one choice for soup, salad and side dishes each meal, but with two options (a different meat or fish dish nightly) for dinner.
There is only one restaurant, open seating with tables for four to eight which gives you the opportunity to meet and mingle with everyone on the cruise eventually.
Two chefs ably prepare all of the meals from scratch, including the delicious pastries, pies, cookies and cakes.
Service is by young ladies (the crew is all-American on this U.S.-flagged vessel) who serve complimentary wine or beer with lunch and dinner.
The staff is all-American. There are two captains, two chefs, room stewardesses, a lecturer on the local sites and a tremendous cruise director who handles just about everything that happens on board from organizing tours to making arrangements for individual transportation as needed.
The local expert is on deck almost continually, ready to answer questions and provide insight on just about anything you can dream up to ask.
The expected gratuities are $12 per passenger per day.
Bare minimum. Dinner will generally last two hours (starting at 6:30) and afterwards there may be a movie shown in the lounge or a local musical act brought onboard. Sometimes they offer a local speaker to add color on specific aspects of the town where the ship is docked.
The only other option is to go to your stateroom and read (no TVs) or go to sleep.
Cabins are small, ranging from about 80 to 100 sq. feet. - all with single beds that can be put together. The bathrooms are small and each shower has its own hot water heater with barely 15 minutes of hot water. Basically, you get wet, turn off the water, soap up all over and then turn the water back on to rinse off.
There is plenty of storage however, with enough room for two people to unpack and hide the suitcases under the bed.
no specific fitness facilities are provided, but you are in port every day with access to hiking and running trails on most places.
none - children under 14 are not invited to sail
Casual all the time. Some people tended to go "country club" casual while others appeared to be wearing the same clothes almost every single day. Jeans, shorts, flip flops, etc are all fine anywhere on the ship at any time.
Mostly retired. Many of them hail from the New England area since much of the business occurs through word of mouth. The Blount family has lived in Rhode Island for four generations and has many friends. It is not unusal to see friends and family members sailing on the ships on any given cruise.