The coronavirus crisis claims its first U.S.-based cruise line
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Add Blount Small Ship Adventures to the list of cruise companies shutting down for good due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Warren, Rhode Island-based small-ship cruise specialist has canceled all future sailings and is selling its three vessels, according to shipping publication WorkBoat. The family that owns the brand will continue to operate its boat-building business, Blount Boats.
“It was really just the requirement that all the cruise lines had to shut down for COVID, and at this point we decided not to start again,” Blount Boats president and CFO Marcia Blount told WorkBoat. “What we really decided was to focus on building.”
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Blount Small Ship Adventures is the first North American cruise line to permanently shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.
Four other cruise lines — all Europe-based — have announced in recent months that they are going out of business or filing for the equivalent of bankruptcy due to financial troubles related to the coronavirus outbreak. Like Blount Small Ship Adventures, most are very small lines. But the list includes Cruise & Maritime Voyages, the second-largest cruise brand in the UK.
Blount Small Ship Adventures specialized in unusual coastal and inland voyages in North America, including trips on the Great Lakes and through New York state, and it was much-loved by its fans.
The line operated two small ships — the 98-passenger Grande Mariner and 100-passenger Grande Caribe — with unusually low drafts and retractable pilot houses that allowed them to travel routes that were off-limits to other cruise vessels, such as the Erie Canal. The low profile of the ships, notably, allowed them to pass under low bridges on inland waterways.
The company operated an even smaller ship, the 76-passenger Niagara Prince, that was the only overnight cruise vessel able to navigate the Champlain Canal from the Hudson River to Lake Champlain. It also was the only overnight cruise vessel able to pass through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal connecting the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River via the Illinois and Des Plaines rivers.
Blount vessels were known for an unusual bow design that included a retractable passenger ramp that would allow passengers to walk right off the front.
Like many cruise companies around the world, Blount has not operated cruises since COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic in March. As recently as April, the company was posting videos on Facebook suggesting it eventually would resume sailings. Its last Facebook post was on May 1.
Blount Small Ship Cruises has a storied history that dates back to 1966. It was founded by Luther Blount, a small-ship cruising pioneer who also founded the family’s shipyard. He created the retractable pilothouse design that allowed Blount vessels to offer unusual itineraries.
The company claims Blount invented the term “small-ship cruising,” which now is its own category of cruising with multiple players including UnCruise Adventures and American Cruise Lines.
Blount Small Ship Cruises did not respond to a request for more information about its shutdown plans from The Points Guy.
WorkBoat says Grand Mariner and Grand Caribe are for sale for $6 million and $5.6 million, respectively. Niagara Prince is on offer for $2 million, the publication says.
Details of the three vessels for interested buyers are listed at the Blount Boats website.
Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:
- When will cruising resume? A line-by-line guide
- Why you shouldn’t expect bargain-basement cruise deals anytime soon
- How to cancel or postpone a cruise due to coronavirus
- Some of the year’s hottest new ships could be delayed
- Stream these 13 movies, television shows to get your cruise ship fix
Featured image courtesy of Blount Small Ship Adventures
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