Jackie’s Wilderness Explorer Alaskan cruise: The Ship

ABOARD THE WILDERNESS EXPLORER — My cabin has a new flat screen TV. The Wilderness Explorer has a big library of DVDs. But I never turned on that TV. No way could it compete with the glorious show that Mother Nature is playing outside the huge windows in my room. Gigantic humpback whales breach not far from my window. Cavorting and cartwheeling, they snort huge sprays of air and seawater as their bodies slap down on the …

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Small ship cruise line started with one man and his inventions

Seems like the Blounts of Rhode Island had always been in the oyster business. The family oyster beds flourished. Workers were busy. Eager buyers lined up for the quality shellfish. Life was good. Then came the 1938 hurricane. By the time the winds quit roaring and the seas stopped churning, E.B. Blount & Sons Oyster Company was devastated. Studying at Wentworth College in Boston, son Luther Blount suddenly had no family business to return to. Instead, Luther …

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Shipmates: Ship captain keeps the cruising smooth

When David Sylvaria graduated from high school, he decided to take a summer job and save money for college that fall. Asking around, the teen found a job at a local ship-building company near his home in Warren, R.I. Sixteen years later, he is still with that company. Only now, that young man is a fleet captain for the business – Blount Small Ship Adventures. “I never did go to college,” Capt. David said with a grin. …

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Shipmates: Photographer helps make cruise picture perfect

Taken by passenger James Ingle, the photograph shows a quintessential New Orleans scene. A wrought iron balcony, strolling French Quarter visitors and passing motorists combine for a lively photo. But with one click of a button, Joe Restuccia III makes the photograph brighter, more colorful and more concentrated on the balcony. “That’s much better,” James agrees. On our 12-day cruise aboard the Grande Caribe, an extra benefit is a resident photographer. Joe is giving three classes on …

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Shore Excursion: Civil War sites preserved at Shiloh Battlefield

  SHILOH, Tenn. – On this lovely spring afternoon, it is hard to believe such a beautiful pastoral place was once a bloody battlefield. Even the name doesn’t suit it. Shiloh means “place of peace” in Hebrew. What happened here was anything but peaceful. On a shore excursion from the Grande Caribe to Shiloh National Military Park, the horrors of war were brought home. “It was the first great battle of the Civil War,” said Shiloh tour …

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Shipmates: Cruise director known for hair accessories

I’ve been on cruises where they had classes in napkin folding. I learned how to turn a simple dinner napkin into a candle, a fan, a tuxedo or some other fancy shape. I’ve also learned towel art on cruise ships. Cruise directors and cabin attendants would demonstrate how to create an elephant, swan, monkey or numerous other critters out of white bath towels. But a scarf folding class on the Grande Caribe was a first for me. …

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Shore Excursion – Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville

The handwritten notes on cheap lined paper gave me chills. Dated Jan. 26, 1947, they are the words scrawled by Hank Williams for his classic, “I Saw the Light.” Then there’s the more-than-half-century-old suit — the one decorated with musical notes on the sleeves — that I’ve seen in so many photographs of the legendary Hank. At the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, visitors come face to face with the greatest names in county music. …

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Shipmates: Surprise overnight stop brings fun fishing

Carol Schreck had never been fishing in her life. But when the Grande Caribe made an unscheduled stop at a lovely marina known for its many fish, Carol decided to give it a try. She pulled in a whopping two fish – a smallmouth bass and a catfish. “It was beginner’s luck,” Carol said modestly. Her prize catches were released back into their watery home. Although the Grande Caribe was due to dock and spend the night …

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Shipmates: Foot cast doesn’t stop cruise for Smithsonian tour leader

A 12-day cruise on the Grande Caribe from New Orleans to Nashville was a dream trip. And Toni Thomas was so ready to start on the wonderful journey. But a few weeks before her departure date, Toni felt a twinge of pain in the side of her right foot. Thinking it would go away, Toni ignored the discomfort. “Then it got worse and starting hurt more and more. I knew I had to go the doctor,” she …

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Shipmates: ‘Volunteering’ to be a chef

A Blount Small Ship Adventures cruise can be full of pleasant surprises. For passenger Billy Burdell of St. Simon Island, Georgia, “volunteering” to be a chef’s helper during a shipboard cooking demonstration turned into a lot of stirring. “You have to stir it constantly,” Chef Michael W. DeVidts instructed as he showed Billy how to make pralines. “I am stirring,” Billy replied, keeping his wooden spoon moving as the sweet syrup began boiling. A Creole favorite, pralines …

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