In New York City, you literally have your choice of pretty much any kind of boat cruise you can imagine; Booze cruises, lobster cruises, breakfast with Elmo cruises, architecture tour cruises, lower Manhattan highlights cruises, sailboats, jet skis, whale watching cruises, you name it – it probably exists in New York City. This is probably why “Which boat tour of NYC should I take?” is one of the most popular questions I am asked. Here are some of my favorites:
(Also, before we get started, a friendly warning that if you are using “City Pass” or any similar program to board ay of these boats, it is possible that the boat will sell out. Most of the boat company’s policies are to not prioritize City Pass holders above customers who bought directly through the cruise company. The same goes for bus tours. This becomes a problem during the busier summer months, long weekends, and holidays. I would hate to have anyone feel they wasted time or money getting to a pier only to find out the cruise is bumping City Pass holders, so buy your ticket directly from the cruise company and use your City Pass on other sites.)
NARRATED HOUR LONG CRUISE TO BREEZE BY THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
New York Water Taxi and Circle Line offer an hour-long narrated cruise that breezes by the Statue of Liberty just long enough for you to take a plethora of photos, and then be back at the dock in time to make a lunch date at a place such as the Stone Street Tavern. The guides are lively, knowledgeable and fun so you’ll have a great time learning a lot about the city. The boats have an indoor and outdoor area, so should the sun be beating down too hard or it start to rain, you’ll be able to seek shelter. However, I strongly encourage you to brave the elements for just a few minutes to take your best Statue of Liberty Photos. These tours are also great for kids and families.
TOURS AROUND THE ISLAND OF MANHATTAN
This is Circle Line’s signature tour. This tour is is very similar to the hour-long cruise (often using the same boats and guides), but a bit more of a time commitment at 2.5 hours in length. You will circle the entire island of Manhattan, seeing some great sites and all five boroughs in the process. If you are someone that has mobility issues, this is a fantastic and comfortable way to take in the entire city. If the weather is nice, and you have time, this is a lovely experience.
Hornblower has some of the newest and most luxurious boats offering public dining cruises. They offer brunch, dinner, and party/booze cruises for your enjoyment. In addition to tasting some rather impressive food, you will get to see some New York Highlights including the Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center, and the Empire State Building. This tends to be the preference of the trendy party crowd.
The North River Lobster Company offers a really fun tour of the northern section of the Hudson River. While cruising, you can eat some great seafood ranging from lobster, to “shark bites” (made with real shark!), to delicious cocktails. The interior has a bit of a salty sea dog theme for a fun atmosphere. You won’t cruise by the Statue of Liberty, but you will see landmarks such as the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum and the Empire State Building. It’s a fun way to have dinner in the city.
Classic Harbor Line offers a slightly more glamorous feel in their 1920s-styled yachts. They offer a fantastic three hour brunch cruise, as well as several other themed meals ranging from “Champagne City Lights” to wine and cheese pairings to “Morimoto Sushi and Sake.” To me, this is the classiest, most upscale, of the dinner cruise offerings.
If you want something a little more private, you can rent out a Classic Harbor yacht such as the Manhattan II. This has a very elegant feel and they will cater the food and music to your liking. If you’re traveling with a large group who is looking to experience New York City glamor, this is the way to go.
BEST CRUISE TO TAKE MY KIDS ON
In the summer time, THE BEAST speedboat is super fun for our younger friends. There is minimal narration as this “thrill ride” (which goes fast but will still feel safe for even the most squeamish amongst us) takes you around the Hudson and East Rivers. Just be warned, you will get wet on this cruise. In fact, occasionally crew members will even some around with a water gun and squirt you if they don’t feel you’ve been adequately splashed.
You can also rent kayaks from Pier 26. Again, you will likely get wet, but it’s super fun to kayak with views of the best NYC landmarks.
I also really love the kid-friendly Circle Line hour-long Statue of Liberty Express. They get the thrill of being on a boat, listen to some fun narration, and will see the Statue of Liberty. The best guides on these boats will also ask some trivia and make the kids feel involved and special.
Clipper City offers daily public tours that leave from Battery Park. Kids seems to love pretending they are pirates on this tall ship, and adults enjoy the laid back feel. Keep a close eye on their website because they also offer themed tours such as “Sunset Wine & Jazz Sail,” “Lobster and Beer Lovers Sail,” and even a burlesque night!
If you would like a private charter or even sail lessons check out Atlantic Yachting. At first the cost might seem prohibitive, but if you split that amongst six friends, you have a private sailboat, captain, and crew for less than a lot of the other public cruises offered. Sunbathe or, my personal dream, stare up at the stars at night! (Yes – New York City has stars!).
Full disclosure, I have yet to take this architecture cruise, but so many clients absolutely rave about it and it takes place on one of Classic Harbor Line’s 1920s-style yachts. It is also offered as part of the American Institute of Architects New York. If you are interested in architecture, architects, art historians, and architecture aficionados have all raved about this tour.
JET SKI TOURS
Again, full disclosure, I am from Florida. I don’t jet ski in water that is under 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so I have never taken one of these New York City Jet Ski tours. That being said, they actually look like a lot of fun and it’s good to know they exist. Check out: https://www.seathecity.com/jet-ski-tours/
FALL FOLIAGE TOUR
This tour can be tricky because it’s so dependent on what Mother Nature is up to, but the guides are always great and weather the leaves are a bountiful green or a harvest rainbow this is a wonderful way to experience New York. Check out the Seastreak’s offering!
WHALE WATCHING CRUISES
Occasionally a whale or dolphin or a few seals will find themselves in the Hudson River, but if you really want to observe these sea mammals, you will want to hop on board of Princess Cruises seasonal Whale Watching tour! It can also be great for a whole family, as kids will be amazed and also have fun helping the crew search for whales and dolphins!