Blount offers a historical adventure on the Chesapeake Bay. // © 2011 Blount Small Ship Adventures
Blount Small Ship Adventures
Did you know that, for a brief time in history, Annapolis, Md. served as our nation’s capital? Or that the original key to the Bastille, a gift from General Lafayette to George Washington, hangs in the entry to Mount Vernon? What about that Frances Scott Key wrote our national anthem after watching our successful defense of Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor? You would have known the answers to the above and much more had you been on our recent Blount Small Ship Adventure’s Charming Chesapeake Bay cruise. In 11 days, we traced our country’s colonial period.
Our ship, the Grande Caribe, cruised Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S. Approximately 200 miles long by 30 miles at its widest point, the Chesapeake Bay covers 64,289 square miles and more than 150 rivers and streams drain into the bay. Just off the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay is surrounded by the states Maryland and Virginia — where all our port stops were. Because of its unique geographical position, Chesapeake Bay contains a microcosm of America’s colonial history.
During daily shore excursions, we meandered along Alexandria, Va.’s cobblestone streets, toured Mount Vernon, George Washington’s lovely estate on the Potomac River and enjoyed Williamsburg, Va., the world’s largest living history museum. In Yorktown, Va., we viewed depictions of the decisive defeat of the British by combined American and French forces led by Washington. And in Cambridge, Md., a costumed guide led us past beautifully preserved homes while sharing stories of their original residents.
Two very informative excursions heightened our appreciation of the bay. The Blackwater Bay National Wildlife Refuge south of Cambridge is a haven for migratory waterfowl and troubled species. Our escorted drive through the refuge was a highlight for nature lovers. Also, in picture perfect St. Michaels, Md., we visited the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum with its impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits. St. Michaels gained the nickname “The Town that Fooled the British” because, on Aug. 10, 1813, as the British prepared to attack, town residents darkened their homes and raised lighted lanterns into a nearby woods, tricking the British into firing too high.
Several onboard activities added to our knowledge of this area. A local vintner, with four generations of experience, hosted a wine tasting. A professional actor in 18th-century garb portrayed Dr. James Craik, George Washington’s physician, and regaled us with anecdotes about early apothecaries and treatments. Two entertaining programs dealt with the development of musical instruments in Virginia, and a lively two-man jazz band played old favorites on our last night onboard.
Luther Blount founded American Canadian Caribbean Line in 1966, and it was renamed Blount Small Ship Adventures in 2010 in his honor after he passed away. President Nancy Blount continues her father’s company and upholds his philosophy to “Go where the big ships cannot.” Blount’s innovations include a retractable pilothouse, which allows the ships to pass under low bridges and a shallow draft bow-landing ramp for easy disembarkation. Thus Blount ships can use smaller harbors and local docks. Bikes and kayaks may be provided for additional access, depending on the destination.
Passenger capacity on the Niagara is 68 guests, while both the Grande Mariner and Grande Caribe accommodate 96 passengers. All three ships were recently refurbished and stair lifts were added to assist the handicapped. The ships operate in the U.S. and Canada in the summer and in the Caribbean and Central America during the winter. Our Category 4 stateroom on the Grande Caribe’s Sun Deck had two lower berths, sliding windows and a door opening to an interior hallway. Private facilities include a basin and a separate shower. Cabins have individually controlled air-conditioning systems’ and sufficient drawer and closet space. Housekeeping maintains the cabins daily, and the crews onboard Blount are young, hard-working, multi-tasking and enthusiastic.
Dining is open seating, family-style and casual. Meals are healthy, hearty and attractive. We enjoyed many regional specialties including hard shell crab in Crisfield, Md., the “Seafood Capital of the World.” With advance notice, the kitchen is able to accommodate special dietary requests, including low sodium options. Blount ships also have a refreshing “bring your own bottle” policy.
There were 47 passengers onboard our sailing — all seniors like us who prefer Blount’s unhurried pace. They represented 20 states and more than 70 percent were repeat travelers on Blount. Some had made more than a dozen cruises with the line. Our fellow passengers were well educated, well traveled and forward-looking. Blount has an enviable repeat rate, with an extremely loyal core of guests.
Agents will appreciate the special attention that Blount gives their clients — and they will very likely enjoy repeat bookings.