We’re surrounded by water: bays, rivers and canals that are often just as clogged with traffic as some of our roadways.
The views of the city from its waterways are unique, but not hard to get. The city is bustling with tourist boat and dinner cruises that allow the sailor in us all to enjoy the city’s skyline, bridges and harbor sights, like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Most prominent among them is the Circle Line. The big green and white boats that circumvent Manhattan have been a staple of the city since 1945. The cruises, which run almost three hours completely around Manhattan and about 90 minutes for those who only go halfway around, attract tourists looking for a different view of the city and residents who just want to relax and get off the busy streets and trains for a while.
Departing from Pier 83, the Circle Line heads south along the Hudson River into New York Harbor, where it does a figure eight at the Statue of Liberty — so both the port and starboard sides of the boat get a clear view of Lady Liberty — before heading up the East River under the city’s iconic bridges. From the water, there is a strange sense of calm as the boat sails under the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges where the clanging sound of subway trains and car horns seems very distant, though it’s all happening just several dozen feet from your head.
At Midtown, the semicircle cruises turn back and retrace their wake back to Pier 83, but the full island cruise offers something few experience — a trip up the lesser-known Harlem River past Harlem and the Bronx, under the low Harlem River bridges (As you pass under them, look up; you can actually see the underbellies of cars as they pass over the bridges).
From here, riders get a view of Yankee Stadium and the rural Inwood Hill Park. After passing the Spuyten Duyvil railroad bridge, the only bridge that needs to open for the boats to pass through, the Circle Line heads out into the Hudson River, past New Jersey’s picturesque Palisades and under the George Washington Bridge before heading back to Pier 83.
The entire cruise is narrated by one of the company’s tour guides, who often tell riders the story of New York City in a unique way that only New Yorkers can tell it, with some of the great stories in city history — including the traditional tale of Peter Minuit’s swindling of the Native Americans when he bought Manhattan for $24. (The guide might tell you that would be much higher in today’s money thanks to inflation).
Food and drink can be purchased on board, and seats can be found inside, outside, or under a canopy with open-air windows.
Besides the full island and semicircle cruises, the company also offers cruises just to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, sunset cruises, special event cruises and sailing dedicated specifically to children.
As the weather gets warmer, take a ride on the Beast — Circle Line’s 70-foot speedboat that races down the Hudson River at 45 mph, in a thrilling adventure to the Statue of Liberty.
The Beast starts operating May 3, but does not run when it rains.
Fore more information and a schedule of sailings, visit circleline42.com.
For those who would rather enjoy a dinner or host a party on the open water, there’s a cruise for that.
World Yacht has also been a staple of New York’s waterways for decades. The ships operate out of Pier 81, next to the Circle Line pier.
The company offers dinner cruises, at sunset and after nightfall, as well as brunch cruises and charters for weddings, birthday parties and corporate events. The ships will also be sailing for special Easter and Mother’s Day cruises.
World Yacht’s ships, which can carry parties of 50 to 250 people, offer indoor dining, but also outdoor seating for those who want to enjoy a drink in the sun or under the stars on a warm evening.
For more information on pricing and sailing times, visit worldyacht.com.
For a different dining experience, check out the Bateux. Cruising year round from Chelsea Piers, the Bateux offers 180-degree viewing from its dining space with its glass ceiling and walls. The boat also includes two outdoor decks with views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
Groove under the city lights well into the night on the boat’s hardwood dance floor, which is surprisingly stable despite being in the water.
For more information on the Bateux and pictures of the boat, visit bateuxnewyork.com.
Though Seastreak is known for operating some of the city’s ferry routes, most notably the Rockaway ferry, the company also offers up its ships for charters. Though most of the line’s dinner cruises stay in New York Harbor, Seastreak’s larger ships can be chartered for cruises to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard or Connecticut.
For more information on how to charter a Seastreak boat, visit seastreak.com.
This winter was long and cold and kept most New Yorkers indoors and away from the water. With the weather warming up, go out and enjoy the richness that surrounds us and the vistas that are offered from our rivers and bays.
It won’t be that long before they will be clogged with ice — again.