Top To Bottom, Bow To Stern, A Tour Of The M.V. GRANDE CARIBE

Top To Bottom, Bow To Stern

A Tour Of The M.V. GRANDE CARIBE

By 

Shawn J. Dake

Bow to Stern the GRANDE CARIBE is a fascinating small ship.
Bow to Stern the GRANDE CARIBE is a fascinating small ship.

All photographs by Shawn J. Dake.

Facts About The m.v. GRAND CARIBE

Owner:  Blount Small Ship Adventures

Builder:  Blount Marine Corporation, Warren, Rhode Island, United States Of America

Yard Number:  Hull #294, built for American Canadian Caribbean Line

IMO Number:  8978631

 Keel Laid:  November 14, 1996. 

Launched/Completed:  April 23, 1997.  Completed in June, 1997. 

Refurbished:  2009.

Gross Tonnage:  761 tons.  Official U.S., PSSC under100 ton measure 94 gross registered tons.

Length:  184 feet

Beam:  40 feet

Draft:  6 feet, 6 inches

Passenger Capacity:  88 double occupancy, maximum 96 passengers.

Crew Complement:  20 crew, plus 3 or more supplemental staff such as lecturers.

Propulsion:  Twin Screws, driven by twin Caterpillar 3412D diesel engines providing 1,300 hp. Two controllable pitch propellers.

Cruising Speed:  10.5 knots.

Registry:  U.S.A., Warren, R.I.

Bow
Top to bottom, the GRANDE CARIBE has a total of four decks

The GRANDE CARIBE is a small ship with some special design features to take select groups of passengers to out-of-the-way places that are inaccessible to any other type of ship. With passenger capacity now reduced to only 88 guests, the ship has the feel of a large private yacht, which should appeal to adventuresome travelers, especially those who enjoy boating. Blount Small Ship Adventures is still run as a family operation headed by Nancy Blount as president. The cruise company was founded by her father Luther H. Blount in 1966 and they can proudly claim that they have built every vessel the line has operated. Always a builder and inventor at heart, Luther Blount began Blount Boats shipyard at the company’s home-base of Warren, Rhode Island in 1949. Among those patented inventions that help define the GRANDE CARIBE, and other Blount passenger vessels, are a retractable pilot house for passing under low bridges, a bow landing ramp enabling passengers to walk right off the ship onto a beach in otherwise inaccessible ports and several types of the now widely used Controllable Pitch Propellers. Small ship cruising may not be for everyone, but for the right passenger it is a truly wonderful way to travel, which helps account for Blount’s high level of repeat guests who have taken multiple cruises with the company.

plan
Deck plan of the GRANDE CARIBE.

The GRANDE CARIBE consists of only four decks. This installment of “Top To Bottom, Bow To Stern” will show you nearly everything that this unique, small vessel has to offer onboard.

Bridge Deck (Also widely referred to as the Sun Deck)

The Pilothouse sits all the way forward on the top deck above the passenger lounge.
The Pilothouse sits all the way forward on the top deck above the passenger lounge.

The topmost deck is officially referred to on the plans for the vessel as the Bridge Deck but onboard virtually everyone calls it the Sun Deck. The Bridge or Pilothouse is in fact at the forward end of this deck.

The interior of the Pilothouse looking toward starboard.
The interior of the Pilothouse looking toward starboard.
The Pilothouse looking forward over the bow.
The Pilothouse looking forward over the bow.

The space, while quite compact, does have room for the Captain and Chief Mate who is usually a second captain as well. It is equipped with the most modern navigational aids but still retains nice touches of brass and wood. As on larger ships, a joystick can be used to control the vessel, however it is very nice to also still see a large, traditional steering helm with Blount Marine Corp. etched on the hub.

The midship area of the Sun Deck is for passenger use.
The midship area of the Sun Deck is for passenger use.

The Bridge Deck also has lots of space for passengers to gather in the open air for sightseeing or socializing. Chairs are provided for seating or lounging. Midship, there is a canopy to provide shelter from the sun. A small staircase forward provides access to the bow, while a larger one in the middle of the deck connects to the lobby and lounge below.

The aft section of the top deck is used mainly as a working area.
The aft section of the top deck is used mainly as a working area.

A railing separates the passenger deck from the crew working area aft. The area toward the stern is used mainly for storage of larger items such as boats, kayaks and the gangway but it is also home to the barbecue area when the chef is offering cookouts for the passengers. There is a crane for lowering items to the water or ashore. The tall aft mast with a crossbar is similar in design to the one found above the bridge forward.

The American flag flies proudly over the stern.
The American flag flies proudly over the stern.

Finally all the way aft, fluttering from another tripod is the relatively rare sight of an American flag flying over a passenger ship.

Upper Deck (Referred to in the brochures as the Sun Deck)

A small promenade circles a deck devoted exclusively to passengers.
A small promenade circles a deck devoted exclusively to passengers.

Making things somewhat confusing, the Upper Deck is normally called the Sun Deck which is also the common name for the top deck above. It is also a Promenade Deck although no one calls it that. What it is primarily, is the level on which passengers gather, in the lounge forward, or the open deck aft, with the highest category cabins in between. At the forward end is the tip of the bow.

The small working area on the bow.
The small working area on the bow.

A walkway circles the entire deck for those wishing a nice stroll in the fresh air. The main public room of the GRANDE CARIBE is the spacious lounge situated forward.

The Lounge looking forward and slightly to port.
The Lounge looking forward and slightly to port.
The Lounge looking aft toward the bar area in the starboard corner.
The Lounge looking aft toward the bar area in the starboard corner.

The lounge is the social hub of the ship and is a multi-purpose room. With windows on three sides it is an ideal place to relax and read between activities. Briefings and lectures are held here and some evenings recent movies are shown on the large-screen TV at the forward end. Comfortable furniture adds to the feeling that this is a private living room. The décor is primarily in shades of yellow and green with wood accents in the support columns. On the aft bulkhead is a bookshelf where passengers have the opportunity to swap books along with some selections on the destinations the ship visits. In the aft starboard corner is where the action is, with the wonderful self-service bar. Passengers are encouraged to bring their own beer, wine and liquor aboard to enjoy with mixers, snacks, utensils and glasses provided by the cruise line. Shelves have circular cut-outs for bottle storage and just below there is a cold-storage cooler. Ice and soft drinks are always available. Across from the bar, a long counter in the back of the lounge usually has port information placed on it and also comes in handy during cocktail parties.

The lobby has a board that highlights the activities of the day.
The lobby has a board that highlights the activities of the day.

Just beyond the pair of double-doors is a small lobby with separate sets of stairs providing egress up or down. A sliding door opens to the deck on the starboard side. The only public toilet on the ship is also located here. An information board show the day’s activities along with maps or other items of interest. The narrow lobby is flanked on the port side with three cabins that open onto the outside deck with two similar ones to starboard. Three additional deck cabins are situated farther aft.

The central interior corridor facing forward toward the lounge.
The central interior corridor facing forward toward the lounge.

A hallway runs through the center of the ship to the stern providing access to the remaining cabins in Category IV which are considered the best ones onboard. There are 19 cabins within this designation. All have two lower beds, some of which can be made up as a double bed. The largest are eight feet wide and 12 feet, 10 inches long. They each have a picture window that slides open to let in the fresh sea air.

Cabin #55A is one of 15 similarly configured rooms on the Sun Deck.
Cabin #55A is one of 15 similarly configured rooms on the Sun Deck.
In many of the cabins, the toilet and washbasin is in a separate compartment from the shower.
In many of the cabins, the toilet and washbasin is in a separate compartment from the shower.

In the twin bed configuration, there is a separate nightstand in the middle, along with a dresser containing three large drawers that provide ample storage. Two narrow slots in the bulkhead serve as the closet where clothing can be hung on two levels. Near the cabin entry, two doors open to a separate square compartment for the shower, and the other for the toilet and sink.

Cabin #70A is one of eight whose doors open to the outside deck.
Cabin #70A is one of eight whose doors open to the outside deck.

There are only four different categories of accommodations on the ship but within those there are 15 different configurations to the rooms. Most of those that open to the outside deck have the beds in an “L” shape rather than side by side. They are also slightly smaller than those that open to the interior corridor.

The aft end of the deck is a open area for passengers with a beautiful view over the wake when underway.

Beyond the cabin accommodation, on the port side there is a Control Room containing one of the generators. The aft deck has tables and chairs and is another nice place for passengers to enjoy the outdoors.

The funnels and the stern.
The funnels and the stern.

On either side, white funnels topped in black jut out at a 45 degree angle past the stern. With this placement there is virtually no chance of emissions falling on the decks. A roped off staircase descends to the crew working area at the stern on the deck below.

Main Deck

The bow landing ramp retracted to the closed position in the forward most section of the bow.
The bow landing ramp retracted to the closed position in the forward most section of the bow.

Main Deck is one more level down. Starting at the forward end is the bow landing ramp. Normally this remains closed except when the ship is making a landing at a destination without docking facilities. Then the ramp can be lowered and extended onto the beach or rocks depending on the situation.

In the dining room on Main Deck is a photograph taken by Luther H. Blount himself of the NIAGRA PRINCE , showing the bow landing ramp extended.
In the dining room on Main Deck is a photograph taken by Luther H. Blount himself of the NIAGRA PRINCE , showing the bow landing ramp extended.
Adjacent to bow ramp is the bow thruster room.
Adjacent to bow ramp is the bow thruster room.

Immediately aft is the bow thruster room. The units on either side help make the GRANDE CARIBE incredibly maneuverable in tight spaces. Also adjoining this space are seven passenger cabins located in the bow. The first two are the smallest minimum grade cabins in Category 1 measuring only 6 feet, 9 inches in width and 11 feet in length, featuring upper and lower berths. Two more on either side are classed at Category II rooms and a slightly larger with twin or double beds. Each of these rooms has a single porthole. Including one additional cabin in this section and the remainder farther aft, this deck has 12 rooms in Category III.

Cabin #44B on Main Deck has beds in an “L” shaped arrangement.
Cabin #44B on Main Deck has beds in an “L” shaped arrangement.

These come in a wide variety of cabin configurations and it is best to carefully consult the deck plans when making a selection. Some have the separate shower and toilet arrangement while in others the shower and toilet are together. Each has a picture window that does not open. Beds are either doubles or twins in the “L” arrangement. You may have noticed that cabins are designated by both a number and a letter; A for Port and B for Starboard. The only exceptions are three inside cabins on Main Deck that bear the letter C. The one farthest aft, 14C is an interior single.

The Dining Room facing aft on the port side.
The Dining Room facing aft on the port side.
The center of the Dining Room facing forward.
The center of the Dining Room facing forward.

In discussing cabins, we necessarily jumped past perhaps the most important room on the ship; the Dining Room. Except for the occasional barbecue on deck, all meals are taken here. Snacks, cookies, juices, coffee, tea and soft drinks are available 24 hours each day. Beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner. The food is prepared in the galley which is situated in the aft corner on the starboard side.

The Ship’s Office is headquarters for everything.
The Ship’s Office is headquarters for everything.

When coming down the main staircase, doors open into the Dining Room on either side. At the forward end on the port side is the Ship’s Office, which is the closest thing the GRANDE CARIBE has to a Purser’s office. This is the primary domain of the Cruise Director. Shore tours can be booked here and any other questions or arrangements may also be taken care of. A small louvered door leads into an even smaller private room known as the Purser’s Cabin where the hotel director currently resides.

The Builder’s Plate is located in the Dining Room
The Builder’s Plate is located in the Dining Room

Before leaving the aft entrance to the Dining Room it is worth stopping for a moment to view the Blount builder’s plate on the bulkhead. Fourteen of the previously discussed cabins extend aft from the Dining Room to the crew deck at the stern. Dual corridors provide access to the cabins on either side.

The entrance from Main Deck to the Engine Room and Control Room No. 3.
The entrance from Main Deck to the Engine Room and Control Room No. 3.
Looking out the porthole in the door at the stern of Main Deck.
Looking out the porthole in the door at the stern of Main Deck.

Other doors lead to another control room and the entrance to the engine room which is reached by a ladder going down one deck. At the stern is a crew deck. Hanging below the deck overhang is a boat used primarily for sightseeing while the ship is in the Caribbean. Kayaks are also stored below the larger boat.

Lower Deck

Plan of the Lower Deck.
Plan of the Lower Deck.

As the name implies, this is the lowest level of the ship. Moving aft from the Forepeak are one of two areas given over to crew quarters. Male and female staff members are housed in separate sections. Between them are six cabins, each with a lower double berth and an upper single berth, without windows, due to their low position on the vessel. Until 2013, these rooms were designated as Category 1 passenger staterooms, among the lowest priced available. Beginning in 2014, Blount Small Ship Adventures no longer plans to sell these for passenger use and will instead use them for senior crew and additional staff or lecturers. Other than these cabins, there are no passenger facilities on the Lower Deck, all of it being devoted to working areas. Midship is the location of the other crew quarters and the galley stores. Fuel oil tanks are positioned on both sides. The Pump Room contains the gray water tanks and the sewage holding tanks on either side with the potable water supply in the middle.

Partial view of one of the Caterpillar diesel engines, looking aft.
Partial view of one of the Caterpillar diesel engines, looking aft.
The engine room looking forward.
The engine room looking forward.

Moving aft is the engine room. As expected on a ship of this size, it is relatively small. The dual Caterpillar diesel engines stand out in that company’s traditional yellow color. Access to the engine room is by way of a ladder on the forward bulkhead, entered from the Main Deck above.

Panel controlling three of the four generators onboard.
Panel controlling three of the four generators onboard.

Three of the four electrical generators are also positioned in the engine room. Farther aft of the engine room is the Lazarette, set in the stern of the very lowest deck.

This concludes the tour of the m.v. GRANDE CARIBE from top to bottom and bow to stern. For such a small passenger vessel there is a lot to see and enjoy onboard. The design elements make efficient use of the available space, providing both comfort and efficiency.

Stern view of the GRANDE CARIBE. The End!
Stern view of the GRANDE CARIBE. The End!

Special thanks to Nancy Blount, Martin Cox, Christopher Kyte, Jennifer Jesus, John Medeiros, Captain James Abbruzzi, and Jason “Woody” Wood.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake
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