If you're tired of being one of the herd on the big traditional cruise ships, we recommend you check out Blount small ship adventures and get a taste of being treated like one of the family.
We just returned from a week-long cruise of New England islands with Blount, and discovered that it's a great way to visit a half-dozen islands and seaports with this local, Rhode Island cruise line.
This trip starts in Warren RI, and sails down Narragansett Bay to the tiny and tranquil island of Cuttyhunk at the tip of the Elizabeth Islands which separate Buzzards Bay from the Vineyard Sound. This seldom-visited island is where Bartholomew Gosnold spent part of the winter in 1606 after naming Cape Cod.
Gosnold also named "Martha's Vineyard" for the bountiful grapes found there and, it is believed, his deceased daughter.
After Cuttyhunk we sailed to Nantucket Island for a tour of the island and an afternoon of "power-shopping" in that storied island's posh shops.
From Buzzards Bay to a Vineyard "Sound"
Then on to the gingerbread architecture of Martha’s Vineyard where the day ended with a real Lobster Bake with all the fixings. Blount offers excursions at all the ports, but on The Vineyard we opted to rent a car from AA Car Rental and visited every one of the island's seven towns in one day.
While there was entertainment almost nightly, we were especially impressed with Martha's Vineyard balladeer Mark Alan Lovewell who managed to engage everyone in the audience with his sea chanties and humor.
The next day we sailed to the whaling town of New Bedford where onboard entertainment brought the stories of whaling and the sea to life.
Our next port of call was Newport and a visit to the "cottages" which are what the super-rich a century ago called their summer mansions. There was an optional morning tour of Newport including a stop at The Breakers, a magnificent Gilded Age “summer cottage” where the Vanderbilts spent their summers. An afternoon tea tour followed.
The passengers are all very well traveled and educated people who were a joy to get to know. Meals were informal, family style, with never a dress code or assigned seating. This way we got to know a lot of them quite well.
The food was a excellent and better than any I've had on innumerable cruises, and we always had choices. I gained 4 pounds in the six day cruise to the Islands of New England. Lobster was offered daily.
There was always a choice of fish or meat. Lunch was a very tasty soup like Pasta Fagioli, Lobster or Clam Chowder, sandwiches and salad. Breads, cakes, and cookies were baked daily onboard. Fresh fruit, pastries, and beverages were available all day in the dining room. Blount offers complimentary wine with meals at lunch and dinner.
The world's best Tour Director
Lisa Pontarelli the cruise director was on top of things every minute, and the Grand Mariner boasts one of the best chef and baker I have ever come across. If you are looking for a quiet and relaxing time with great food I would recommend this cruise.
The service was excellent. It is BYOB and the ship provides mixes and ice, etc. There are soda dispensers with several choices in the lounge and dining room.
There are two Captain's cocktail parties where Blount serves drinks gratis along with excellent appetizers.
Crusing on the Grand Mariner is an easy and comfortable way to see a part of the USA.
No glitz or frills, for those who don't require a casino, spa, theaters or bright lights! Nice to be able to sit up on top deck and see the stars so clearly and not worry about noise.
We're looking forward to another trip with Blount.
The Islands of New England.
This seven-day and six-night cruise is modestly priced, especially when you consider it includes transportation, a stateroom for six nights, eighteen delicious meals, entertainment and wine at both lunch and dinner.
The cost ranges from $1,999 to $2,999 which comes to $333 to $499 a day. Check out this short video of the trip.
Warren River, Narragansett Bay. Mount Hope Bay, Sakonnet River, Rhode Island Sound, Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound, Nantucket Sound and Block Island Sound.
Blount Small Ship Adventures Fleet
The present fleet consists of the nearly identical 1997-built Grande Caribe and 1988-built Grande Mariner, each 184 feet long and taking up to 98 passengers. They're American built with American officers and crew. The ships are 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.
Blount cruises leaves from Warren RI which is a little over an hour from our home
That's Cruise Director Lisa Pontarelli, on the right with a local entertainer who came aboard, on a previous voyage.