– 1 August 2010
We toured the 96 passenger Grande Mariner when she was in port in Cleveland (docked at Nautica in The Flats) during their Great American Waterways Cruise, 15 night sailing from Chicago to her home port of Warren, Rhode Island. They arrived at 1 pm and departed Cleveland at 3 am. This is one of three Blount Small Ship Adventures (formerly known as American Caribbean Canadian Line) ships. It was refurbished in May, 2010, and the common areas are very nice. It has a combined lounge/dining room, and a retractable pilot house to go under those low bridges.
We were greeted by Captain Paul Znamirowski who was very young, very sharp and very approachable. We also met the Cruise Director, Lisa Pontarelli and Olaf, one of the great crew members who gave us lots of insight. There were 20 crew members onboard for very personal, attentive hospitality.
The ship is BYOB, very unique to cruising. Mixers, snacks, barware and both cold and shelf storage spare are provided round the clock. They open the bar (if we’re pourin’, we’re payin’!) twice per cruise—welcome and farewell. Head chef and his team post and prepare the menu for three sit down meals each day with open seating. Special diets including diabetic and vegetarian were accommodated during the cruise. If you require a gluten-free diet, cruise line must be notified up front. The chef shops in port for local ingredients.
They have a variety of activities aboard the ship including a photographer who comes aboard and takes photos/videos, cooking demonstrations, lectures, local entertainers and movies. Kayak and bike rentals are available. Bikes are $15 for ½ day and $30 for the whole day. There is a traditional tag board system to account for people.
The demographic is older (probably 50s to 80s) with a lot of repeat passengers. The cruise line is trying to skew younger. Captain Paul’s parents are 50 and 51, and when they sailed with him, they were called “the youngin’s” by the passengers. Minimum age to sail is 14 years. When we were aboard, there was a 17 year old on the sailing and was loving the cruise. The ship is very casual dress all the time.
There are two chair lifts at the stairs, but there is not one down to the Lower Deck. Except out in the middle of one of the Great Lakes, the ship is pretty much in cell phone range.
“It’s not about the room, it’s about what you are going to see out there.” Cabins lock when you’re inside but not when you’re outside. Some of the bathrooms in the cabins are old-style (the shower wets down the whole bathroom), but some have been refurbished and have a separate shower and lots of storage. There are no televisions in the cabins—the cabins are not a place to hang out! T-shaped beds cannot be moved. Cabins on the top deck can be made up as double beds. We saw cabin 82A on the Sun Deck (top deck) all the way aft. It had a permanent double bed and a sliding window. The door opens onto the outside deck.