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Best Manhattan Cruises

The best way to enjoy the views of the Manhattan Skyline is to embark on a cruise on the Hudson, either by day or night, by ferry or even by sailboat. I tell you all the options.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

15 min read

Best Manhattan Cruises

Views of southern Manhattan from the cruise ship | ©Hellotickets

At some point in your trip you will miss a relaxing time, after hours and hours of walking and touring the city. A cruise on the Hudson is a great way to unwind while still exploring the best sights of the city.

There are many cruises that are organized on the waters of New York, each with a different duration or itinerary. I have selected the ones I have found to be the best options:

My favorite

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour with Ferry

From Midtown to the Brooklyn Bridge, by boat

Perfect if you feel like relaxing for a while while enjoying the best skyline of Manhattan. Seeing the Brooklyn Bridge and the most symbolic skyscrapers of New York from the Hudson will not leave you indifferent.

An hour and a half boat ride around Manhattan is a quick and very comfortable way to enjoy the best views of the New York skyline. With this cruise you can see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty or the Brooklyn Bridge from the water.

At 12 no on you will embark at the port in the Midtown area accompanied by a professional guide who will tell you curiosities and juicy anecdotes about the city.

What I like most about this option is that you will be able to see the most emblematic buildings of Manhattan while you go away and get to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Afterwards, you will head to the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges on the East River before returning to the harbor in downtown Manhattan.

Also, this ship has an open-air deck, so you' ll be able to go outside (weather permitting) to take photos and better enjoy the views. If you're cruising in the winter, bundle up and don't forgo spending some time on deck.

As I mentioned, this tour is probably the most efficient, since in a short time it concentrates the views of some of the best buildings and key points of the city, which are: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the High Line, One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, DUMBO, the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge.

Why I like this option: without having to invest a lot of time and money you will be able to enjoy the main points of interest in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In addition, being at noon, the light is perfect for taking pictures and not missing a single detail.

Recommended if... you feel like disconnecting for a while from the long walks and change the asphalt for the water of the Hudson. You won't regret it!

The longest

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour with Ferry

The most complete cruise around Manhattan Island

If you don't mind spending a little more, you can enjoy an extra hour of navigation with the commentary of an expert guide.

A more complete way to spend an afternoon in New York is to take a two and a half hour cruise on the Hudson River, as it will allow you to contemplate the Manhattan skyline from the sea and discover another side of the Big Apple. Especially if you have previously climbed to one of the viewpoints in the skyscrapers of the city to admire it from above.

With this boat tour of New York by the Circle Line company you can make an extended tour around the island of Manhattan and learn from the hand of a guide about the history of the city while contemplating the wonderful views of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge from the sea.

With this New York cruise, the only one that completely surrounds the entire island of Manhattan, you will depart from Pier 83 at 3PM to discover all the secrets of the five boroughs of the Big Apple while sailing along the three rivers of the city (Hudson, East and Harlem), glide under its iconic bridges and contemplate the Manhattan skyline. Amazing views that will become an unforgettable memory of your trip to the United States.

In addition, with this boat tour of New York you will have the opportunity to visit certain sites of interest that other cruises do not visit as the Brooklyn waterfront, the legendary Yankee Stadium, the Gracie Mansion or the imposing George Washington Bridge. All this together with classics such as the One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. Seeing her up close is a spectacle!

Plus, you can turn this experience into VIP during the summer if you choose this option, i.e., comfortable first class seats with premium views, beverage and snack service on board, lunch at North River Lobster located near Pier 83 and the privilege of avoiding lines when boarding. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Why I like this option: for very little more, you can enjoy a longer tour, giving you more time to enjoy the experience and relax during the sailing.

Recommended if... you want to get the most out of the experience and you think the hour and a half cruise might fall short.

At night

NYC Sailing Cruise around Statue of Liberty

Sail the Hudson on a sailboat at night for the most romantic evening

New York at night has a special charm and even more if it is enjoyed from a classic 1854 sailing ship on the Hudson.

Duration: 2 hours

The views of the New York skyline are spectacular at any time of the day, but I must admit that I have a special weakness for its lights at dusk. That's why I think that taking the cruise at night is one of the most beautiful memories you can take away from a trip to New York.

Whether as a couple, with family or with friends, I think the sunset Manhattan sailboat cruise is a great way to end an exhausting day after endless walks around the city. In addition, the boat is not a typical ferry but a real sailboat that gives a more authentic touch to the experience.

The cruise departs at 9:30 PM, from the pier located in Battery Park, when you board the Clipper City sailboat inspired by an 1854 schooner. Take a seat and relax to enjoy the twinkling lights of New York City with a drink in hand on this 90-minute bar cruise, where you'll see downtown's most iconic buildings illuminated, including the World Trade Center and even the Statue of Liberty.

The most exciting moment of the evening is when the Clipper City Tall Ship turns off its engines to unfurl its sails and sail the waters pushed by the wind, as if it were an antique ship. I think it is the most surreal feeling I experienced during my trip. It may sound a bit snobbish, but this experience will make you feel like you're in a period movie.

Why I like this option: you have to admit that the feeling of traveling aboard a sailboat, relaxing and having a drink while enjoying the night views of some of the icons of New York is absolutely unique and totally recommended.

Recommended if... you want to live a unique and exclusive experience that has nothing to do with the tourist cruises that take place aboard the ferries.

We compare the 3 options

New York City dinner cruises

Manhattan skyline illuminated from the water| ©Hellotickets
Manhattan skyline illuminated from the water| ©Hellotickets

If taking a Manhattan cruise is a pleasure that will allow you to relax while enjoying the most spectacular views of this New York island, embarking on a cruise that also includes dinner, appetizers or live music is taking the experience to the next level.

There are different options to choose from: some offer a buffet dinner, others serve a more gourmet multi-course dinner and the size or type of boat also influences the price. But don't worry because there is an option for every pocket and every taste, so you are sure to find yours.

All this while you cruise the Hudson and watch the lights of the Manhattan skyline come on. A highly recommended experience that you can choose to spend your last evening in New York and say goodbye to the city in style.

How much does it cost to take a Manhattan cruise

Views from the water| ©Hellotickets
Views from the water| ©Hellotickets

The price of cruises on the Hudson in New York can vary depending on their duration, itinerary and the type of boat in which you do it: the cheapest start from 30 € in Hellotickets, if you want to do a day cruise as the Circle Line to the Statue of Liberty and the most premium can reach up to 140 €, if you are looking for a full luxury boat tour with gourmet dinner.

The most premium ones usually depart at sunset or in the evening, so you can enjoy the sunset and the city lights. If you have the budget, take a more VIP boat tour, with dinner included and live music enlivening the tour, the evening will certainly be very special and unforgettable.

If you prefer to enjoy a night experience on the Hudson River without giving up a very tight price, you can always do a Circle Line Night Cruise through Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty. You'll enjoy the views and cross some of the most iconic bridges over the water while taking a break from long walks around the city. Either way, it's worth embarking on one of the many cruises available in the city.

How long do Manhattan cruises last?

Taking pictures from the boat| ©Hellotickets
Taking pictures from the boat| ©Hellotickets

The duration of the Hudson River cruises depends on the tour you book, but they can be express, lasting one hour, or longer, up to 3 hours. Some are limited to the southern part of Manhattan, where you will have spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline of the Financial District.

Others go further and take you to Ellis Island or Liberty Island so you can get a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty while you get a little further away from Manhattan Island and observe the grandeur of its skyline from afar.

My recommendation is that before you book an itinerary, check the type of boat, the itinerary and the highlights that you will find on your way along the route. Either way, get your camera ready because you will want to capture it all! Here's a list of what you'll see on a Hudson River cruise depending on the itinerary and duration.

What is the best time of the day to take a Manhattan cruise?

Views from the water at sunset| ©Hellotickets
Views from the water at sunset| ©Hellotickets

Any time of the day is good, but a sunset cruise on the Hudson River in New York is undoubtedly the one that will leave you with the best colors and unforgettable views. Throughout the year the departure time of the cruises is adapted to the time of sunset so you can embark in time to enjoy the last moments of light in New York.

Gradually the sky will turn pink and orange, to give way to the New York night and the lighting of all the lights of the skyscrapers and bridges. The nighttime atmosphere on the Hudson is very special and romantic, especially if you go on board one of the boats that includes dinner and live music.

Another good time to enjoy a Manhattan cruise is in the central hours, especially if the day is clear: it will allow us to have a super clear and sharp view of all the buildings, it will be easier to identify the main attractions of Manhattan and the photos will be spectacular.

Tips for a Hudson River cruise

The Statue of Liberty from the boat| ©Hellotickets
The Statue of Liberty from the boat| ©Hellotickets

Taking a cruise in New York is definitely a good idea, but since you are going to embark on this experience, it is best to follow these basic tips to enjoy a cruise on the Hudson. Take note!

  • Book in advance to make sure you find a place on the day and time you want to sail. Some itineraries are in high demand and if you don't want to be stranded, get your tickets checked in advance.
  • Check what type of vessel you will be sailing on and what is included in the price: are you booking a dinner cruise, is it a buffet dinner, or a gourmet dinner served at the table, what is the itinerary, how long is the trip, how long is the trip? Read the description carefully before choosing the one that best suits you.
  • Organize your day well to be on time: keep in mind that the ship waits for no one and being on time is important. Arrive on time and take the opportunity to discover the area before or after the boat ride.
  • Don't worry too much about dress code: unless you are going on one of the more special cruises (with dinner and live music), the dress code is casual or informal. However, for more premium evening cruises with dinner included, avoid the "tourist look", shorts and flip-flops.

Everything you need to know about New York City cruises

Views of Manhattan from the ship| ©Hellotickets
Views of Manhattan from the ship| ©Hellotickets

It is important to book your tickets in advance

Regardless of the type of New York cruise you choose, in order to secure your place at the time and date of your choice, it is recommended that you book your tickets online in advance. Once you do so, you will receive a voucher via e-mail that you will have to present at the meeting point indicated for boarding.

The meeting point

The most common is to set sail from one of the docks in New York. When you buy your tickets for the Manhattan boat tour, you will be told from which of them yours departs, but they are all centrally located in the city and it will be easy for you to get there.

About the guides and comments

Most New York cruises include live commentary in English with a guide to learn more about the sights included in the route. But for those who don't understand the language, some boat tours offer narration of the activity in other languages as well. To listen to it in your language, you need to download a free app and follow the instructions provided on the voucher. It's that simple!

Photos and videos

During the boat ride you can take as many pictures and videos as you want. If possible, stand next to the water to get a better angle and if you have a zoom lens, take advantage of it to get the best images of the Manhattan skyline. If you also like architecture and want to understand a little more what you are seeing on your way, this cruise to see the architecture of Manhattan is the best option.

Some of these New York cruises include Wifi on board so you can upload them immediately to your social networks and show off your trip.

Isabel's traveler tip

Seating on this New York cruise is on a first-come, first-served basis. Go to the pier 45 minutes early to board quietly and get the best seat.

Are there free or discounted cruises in New York?

Arriving at the Statue of Liberty by boat| ©Hellotickets
Arriving at the Statue of Liberty by boat| ©Hellotickets

No, there are no free access boats on the Hudson and since it is a very popular activity, it is quite difficult to find discounts or special prices. But if what you are looking for is a way to save on your navigation on the Hudson, I recommend that you value the option of using the New York ferry. The ferry, being a public transportation service, has a much tighter price than the tourist boats.

You will be able to cross from one pier to another or even from one side of the river to the other for the minimum price and you will also enjoy the views of Manhattan from the water. Of course, the experience won't be as exclusive, but at least you won't have to give up sailing in New York.

Another way to take advantage of a special price or make a cruise quite convenient is with one of the city' s tourist cards. In case you have a New York Pass or even a ticket for the New York sightseeing bus, they may include a free pass for a cruise around the city. More on that later.

Tourist cards that include cruises

Views of the Hudson| ©Hellotickets
Views of the Hudson| ©Hellotickets

To make the most of your visit to New York you can buy a tourist card that will give you access to its main tourist attractions saving money and time, as most of these sites of interest have a special queue for holders of these passes.

The difference between passes is given by their duration and the number of attractions you have access to. Finding the ideal pass for you depends on the type of trip you are going to make in the Big Apple. We advise you to take a look at our post about tourist passes in New York so you can find the one that suits you best and clear your doubts.

If you are thinking of taking a boat trip around the city, the tourist cards that include this activity are:

New York City Explorer Pass

The New York City Explorer Pass includes:

  • Pass for Circle Line ships
  • Access to the New York Water Taxi

New York Pass

This New York Pass includes:

  • Circle Line Boat Pass
  • Access to the New York Water Taxi

New York Sightseeing Flex Pass

The New York Sightseeing Flex Pass includes:

  • Free hop-on, hop-off cruise
  • Roundtrip ferry tour to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Why it's worth taking a New York cruise?

Aerial view of the Hudson| ©Hellotickets
Aerial view of the Hudson| ©Hellotickets

One of the great advantages of doing this kind of boat tours in New York, in my opinion, is that they offer an overview of the city while allowing us to observe its monuments from a different perspective, the maritime one. Especially if you have already had the opportunity to contemplate the skyline of the Big Apple from the heights, in one of the fantastic viewpoints that certain skyscrapers have.

In addition, these New York cruises are a perfect occasion to celebrate an anniversary or birthday as a couple in a very original way, as some of them have a bar on board where you can order a few drinks to toast a special moment.

And in case you are visiting the city with your family, taking a cruise on the Hudson with children is a very comfortable and fun way of sightseeing for them without exhausting them too much, they will love to get on a boat!

The best options to cross the Hudson if you're an adrenaline lover

New York's Hudson doesn't just host quiet, relaxing cruises for New Yorkers and tourists. Its waters also welcome speedboat and zodiac rides.

If you are an adrenaline lover and feel like doing something different, don't hesitate to join this Zodiac ride on the New York Hudson or this speedboat ride on the New York Hudson River.

If you are interested in a New York cruise you will also like

Other plans in New York: a helicopter ride| ©Hellotickets
Other plans in New York: a helicopter ride| ©Hellotickets

A boat ride in New York is a comfortable and quiet way to see the city and learn about it but it is not the only one. There are more alternatives to explore the Big Apple:

The first option is guided walking tours through different areas of the city. Walking around the city is a very special way to get to know it and get to know it because you can pay attention to details that would otherwise go unnoticed. Here is a list of the best ones: 13 best New York City Tours.

The second one is the tourist bus, a very practical idea since it allows you to discover the most important areas of New York in a fast way while you travel comfortably seated. You can learn more about this option in this guide on The best sightseeing buses in New York.

From the boat there may be some monuments that are not clearly visible but that small obstacle is easily solved with a tour bus route. If you have never taken one during your travels, from experience I advise you to value this option to complete your visit to the city.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the best cruise experience in New York?

    The best cruise you can take is the Circle Line Liberty Tour, as you will visit the Statue of Liberty and see Manhattan's most famous landmarks and bridges.

  • What part of Manhattan is the best to see from the river?

    Most tours that visit the south side of Manhattan are a better experience than visits to the north side, as you will see sights such as Downtown, the financial district, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

  • Where do the Manhattan cruises depart from?

    New York has three major ports and harbors currently in operation, including the South Street Seaports (in the Financial District), Chelsea Piers (west of Manhattan), the Manhattan Cruise Terminal (north of Chelsea Piers) and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.