Ship Review: Blount Small Ship Adventures-Grand Caribe

Professional Review for Grande Caribe


The Grande Caribe coastal ship began service in 1997, the creation of master Rhode Island shipbuilder Luther Blount, who had been building small ships until his death in 2006. At 183 ft, she is the longest (with the Grande Mariner) and one of the two most sophisticated of this line’s long line of shallow-draft vessels, but compared to most coastal vessels, plain and simple remain the operative descriptions.

Passengers number up to 100, and the crew of 18 is American.

Luther Blount, a quintessential entrepreneur, restarted the coastal cruise industry as a hobby back in the 1960s, and then he got into the business of building small cruise ships and many other types of craft such as ferries, sightseeing and dinner boats at his Warren, Rhode Island, shipyard. His three daughters now run the business that operates three cruise vessels, the other being the almost identical Grande Mariner and the slightly smaller and older 84-passenger Niagara Prince. Blount patented the bow ramp for landing on beaches and the retractable pilothouse that allows Blount vessels to slip under low bridges along the Erie Canal.

The Grande Caribe has a loyal following of older travelers. The average age of passengers on ACCL ships is 55. They establish a most convivial atmosphere. Tipping is according to a suggested per diem, and it is pooled amongst the serving staff.

In spring and fall, the Grande Caribe cruises the Intracoastal Waterway between Warren, Rhode Island, and Jacksonville, Florida. In summer, she moves north to Cape Cod, Massachusetts and the islands from the home base of Warren, Rhode Island, and the coast of Maine from Portland. Also in the summer, she sails along the inland waterways and rivers such as the Hudson, Erie Canal, St. Lawrence Seaway and Saguenay River. During the fall foliage season, the Saguenay extension is not included. On the Erie Canal and Seaway trips, passengers cruise one way and return in one day by bus. The boat usually ties up at night. Local historians come onboard and also travel with the vessel and on fairly priced shore trips.

The lounge, which also serves as the lecture hall, is forward on the higher of two accommodations decks, and the dining room, one deck below, doubles as a card room and reading area. The American food is fresh, well-prepared and served family-style at one open sitting. Menus are posted in advance. Alcohol is not served except on special occasions, so passengers bring their own supply or purchase it locally. The line provides storage and set-ups. The sundeck extends nearly the full length of the ship and has a viewing area covered by an awning, and the vessel’s shallow draft and collapsible pilothouse ensure that passengers survey the scenery close up. The stern marina is used for swimming and boarding the two launches, one of them with a glass bottom.

The 50 mostly outside cabins are among the smallest on any ship (85 to 120 sq ft) and come with minimal stowage and minuscule shower compartments. A few on the lowest deck are without windows or portholes (and are the talk of unaccustomed first-timers). Most cabins have twin or double beds, but a few lower-priced ones are triples. A stair lift is available for those who need it.

Blount is practically unique in its Spartan simplicity, at least on the East Coast. And passengers who come prepared for this like it that way. American Cruise Lines operates similar East Coast itineraries but into the Erie Canal or the Great Lakes, and the latter’s prices are considerably higher.

Some Interesting Information on Blount Small Ship Adventures:

  • They have a BYOB rule, and they will provide complimentary mixers, soda, glass, ice, etc. They will even store your liquor for you!
  • The dress code is casual throughough the itinerary
  • They have Kayaks and Bicycles available during specific itineraries
  • You can even bring a fishing pole and fish off the boat while they are at anchor!

For more information, or to book a Blount Cruise

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