At some point in your trip, you will want to have some time to relax after hours and hours of walking and sightseeing. A cruise on the Hudson is a great way to unwind while still exploring the best sights of the city.
You can find many cruises that cross the river of New York City, each with a different duration or itinerary. I have selected the ones I have found to be the best options:
From Midtown to the Brooklyn Bridge, by boat
Perfect if you feel like relaxing while soaking in the best views of the Manhattan skyline. Seeing the Brooklyn Bridge and New York's most iconic skyscrapers from the Hudson will not leave you indifferent
An hour and a half boat ride through Manhattan is a quick and very comfortable way to enjoy the best views of the New York skyline. With this cruise, you will be able to see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, or the Brooklyn Bridge from the water.
At noon you will embark at the port in the Midtown area accompanied by a professional guide who will tell you fun facts 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. Then, you'll head to the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan, and Williamsburg on the East River before returning to the harbor in midtown Manhattan.
Also, this ship has an open-air deck, so you can go outside (weather permitting) to take photos and better enjoy the views. If you take the cruise in winter, wrap up in warm clothes, and spend some time on deck.
As I mentioned, this tour gives you the biggest bang for your buck, 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. Also, being at noon, the light is perfect for taking pictures and not missing a single detail.
Recommended if... you feel like taking a break from the long walks and change the asphalt for the water of the Hudson. You won't regret it!
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, allowing 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 Circle Line New York boat tour you can enjoy an extended itinerary around the island of Manhattan and learn from a guide about the history of the city while admiring 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 goes around the entire island of Manhattan, you will depart from Pier 83 at 3 PM to discover all the secrets of the Big Apple's five boroughs as you cruise the city's three rivers (Hudson, East, and Harlem), glide under its iconic bridges and gaze at 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 Liberty Statue. Seeing it up close is a spectacle!
Plus, you can upgrade your experience to VIP during the summer if you choose this option, which means comfortable first-class seating with premium views, onboard beverage and snack service, lunch at North River Lobster located near Pier 83, and the privilege of avoiding lines when boarding. Sounds great, right?
Why I like this option: for an extra bit of money, you get to 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 think the hour and a half cruise might fall short.
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 find the sunset sailboat cruise in Manhattan a great plan to close an exhausting day after endless walks around the city. In addition, the boat is not a typical ferry but a real sailboat which 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 sailing ship 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 sightseeing 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 a ship from old times. I think this 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 vintage 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 New York's iconic landmarks is an exclusive and totally recommended experience.
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.
The 3 options, compared
From Midtown to Brooklyn Bridge, by ferry
Perfect if you feel like relaxing while soaking in the best views of the Manhattan skyline. Seeing the Brooklyn Bridge and the most symbolic skyscrapers from the Hudson will not leave you indifferent
Surf the Hudson by sailboat at night for the most romantic evening
New York at night has a special charm and even more if you enjoy it from a classic 1854 sailboat on the Hudson. The city that never sleeps lit up for you
Tourist cards that include a cruise ride
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 places of interest have a special queue for the 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 to the Big Apple. We advise you to take a look at our post about the New York sightseeing passes so you can find the one that suits you best and answer any questions you may have.
If you are thinking of taking a boat ride 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 the Circle Line boats
- Access to the New York Water Taxi
New York Pass
This New York Pass includes:
- Pass for the Circle Line boats
- 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.
- Round trip ferry tour to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Everything you need to know about New York cruises
Booking tickets in advance is important
Regardless of the type of New York cruise you choose, to secure your seats at the time and date you want, 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 need to present at the meeting point indicated for boarding.
The meeting point
The most common is to depart from one of New York's piers. When you purchase your tickets for the Manhattan boat tour, you will be told which one your boat departs from, but they are all located in central locations of the city and it will be easy to get there.
About the guides and reviews
Most New York cruises include live commentary with a guide to learn more about the sights included on the tour.
Photos and videos
During the boat ride, you will be able to take as many pictures and videos as you want. If possible, get on the side of the water to get a better angle and if you have a zoom lens, take advantage of it to get the best shots of the Manhattan skyline.
Some of these New York cruises include WiFi on board so you can immediately upload them to your socials and keep your followers updated!
Isabel's traveler tip
Seating on this New York cruise is first-come, first-served. Go to the pier 45 minutes early to board quietly and get the best seat.
Why it's worth taking a New York City cruise
One of the great advantages of doing this kind of boat tours in New York, in my opinion, is that they offer a global view of the city while allowing you to soak in the views of 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 found in the city's skyscrapers.
In addition, these New York cruises are a perfect occasion to celebrate as a couple an anniversary or a birthday 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 children, this activity is a very comfortable and fun way of sightseeing for them without exhausting them too much, they will love to get on a boat!
If you are interested in a New York cruise, you will also like...
A boat tour of New York is a comfortable and leisurely way to see the city and learn about it but it's 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 discover details that would otherwise go unnoticed. Here is a list of the best ones: 10 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 about the best sightseeing buses in New York.
From the ship, 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 my experience you shouldn't sleep on this option as it's a great way of rounding out your visit to the city.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best cruise to take in New York?
The best cruise to take stands with the Circle Line Liberty Tour as you'll see the Statue of Liberty, along with many of Manhattan's most famous landmarks and bridges.
What part of Manhattan is worth seeing via the river?
Most tours that visit the south side of Manhattan will give you a better experience then visiting the north side. Sights in the south include Downtown, the Financial District, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
Where can I take a Manhattan Cruise from?
New York has three major ports and piers that are still functioning, including the South Street Seaports (in the Financial District), the Chelsea Piers (on the West side of Manhattan), Manhattan Cruise Terminal (North of Chelsea Piers) and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal found in Brooklyn's Redhook neighborhood.