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Tips to enjoy a Cruise in NYC

Realistically, enjoying a cruise in New York City won't take much work. But if you want to get the most out of the experience, follow these tips to make sure everything goes smoothly!

Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro

9 min read

Tips to enjoy a Cruise in NYC

View of New York and the Hudson | ©Miguel Ángel Sanz

You've probably been waiting a long time to get to the city that never sleeps and as the date gets closer you want to get everything tied up so that the trip goes smoothly.

If you have decided to take a Manhattan cruise, which I recommend 100%, follow these recommendations and everything will go smoothly.

1. Compare prices, routes and duration

Hudson River Cruise| ©Jörg Schubert
Hudson River Cruise| ©Jörg Schubert

The first thing you should know is that there is a great variety of cruises that ply the waters of the Hudson, each one with different duration, route, departure time... The best way to compare them all is by doing an online search to be well informed of which are the best Manhattan cruises, how much a Hudson cruise costs and which one best suits your trip.

You can get the cheapest one for just over 30 Euros and you will tour the south of Manhattan reaching the Statue of Liberty or invest about 180 Euros if you want to indulge yourself sailing the waters of New York aboard a luxurious ship while enjoying a gourmet black tie dinner.

In any case, there is also a middle ground: two-hour cruises that will take you to Midtown, night cruises to discover New York illuminated... Here you can compare the duration of New York cruises to make choosing yours an easier task.

Book a cruise in New York

Book in advance

Relax on the Hudson River| ©David Wilson
Relax on the Hudson River| ©David Wilson

It may seem like an obvious tip but keep in mind that millions of travelers visit New York every year and taking a cruise on the Hudson is one of the most popular experiences among visitors to the city. Especially if you travel in high season (summer, Christmas, Easter vacations...) the demand can be very high and some places are sold out.

If you are clear about your travel dates and the specific day you would like to embark on this experience, book as soon as possible to ensure a place on the boat that has convinced you the most.

Otherwise, you run the risk that the places on the schedule you want will be sold out or you may end up having to book a more expensive option and this will make it difficult to organize other activities.

Book a cruise in New York

3. Arrive at embarkation in plenty of time

Passengers boarding the cruise ship| ©Thank You (21 Millions+) views
Passengers boarding the cruise ship| ©Thank You (21 Millions+) views

Boarding one of the cruise ships that sail the waters of New York does not require going through the same controls as an airport (fortunately!) but the truth is that departures are usually very punctual and the ships do not wait for anyone.

The best thing to do is to arrive in plenty of time, relax while waiting for the ship and keep in mind that the pier is not always next to a subway stop, so you may have to walk for a while. Generally, the boarding area is usually nice, with good views and close to the water, so you won't mind spending some time there while you take some pictures.

Another thing to keep in mind is the luggage or backpack you carry. It is always recommended to go the lighter the better (the space on the boat is not infinite) but if you plan to go with a bulky backpack for whatever reason, check before if there are lockers on the pier where you can deposit your bag before boarding.

For night cruises with dinner included, I do recommend that you go at least 30 minutes in advance, as boarding is usually done more slowly and may take longer. Besides, you won't want to miss a second of it on board!

4. Choose a dinner cruise to treat yourself to the ultimate in luxury.

Dinner cruise| ©Tony Fischer
Dinner cruise| ©Tony Fischer

If there is something that really differentiates some cruises from others is that there are some Premium cruises whose experience is truly VIP. The dinners take place inside the lounges of authentic luxury ships, whether it is a yacht of considerable dimensions or a glass-enclosed vessel that will allow you to enjoy the starry sky of New York.

The best dinner cruises in New York are a real marvel and although the price is higher than the standard cruises (they can cost between 140 and 180 Euros), they are the best way to celebrate an anniversary, a special event or simply to pay a tribute to yourself while visiting the capital of the world.

They usually last about three hours because they go all the way around Manhattan, you can enjoy the illuminated skyline of the island and the evening is enlivened with live music. A real dream also for movie lovers, who will feel for a few hours protagonists of a Hollywood movie.

Book a dinner cruise in New York

5. Walk around the waterfront

Visit The Edge| ©Ben Michel
Visit The Edge| ©Ben Michel

Since it is recommended to arrive early for cruise ship embarkation, a good way to organize your sightseeing day in New York is to plan a walk around the pier from which you have to embark.

For example, Circle Line daytime cruises depart from the Pier located at 42nd Street to the west coast of Manhattan at Times Square and City Sightseeing cruises depart from Hudson Yards. You can take the opportunity to walk the High Line before or after the cruise, go up to The Edge or take a stroll through the Hell's Kitchen area. If you plan to go up to the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock, they are not too far away either, so you can organize the visit the same day you go sailing.

One of the evening dinner cruises departs from Pier 61, right next to the Hudson River Park, so it can be a good opportunity to stroll through this relaxing green area of Manhattan overlooking the river.

Ferries to the Statue of Liberty for example, depart from Battery Park, next to the Financial District. Take the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum or go up to the One World Observatory.

6. How to save by taking a cruise in New York

Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty| ©Shaun Merritt
Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty| ©Shaun Merritt

It is clear that you do not always have the budget to choose the most premium experience and the price of some cruises can be a bit high, but in this case we are in luck because the offer of cruises in New York is such that there are options for all budgets.

If you want to spend little money or little time on the experience itself, there are some tricks to avoid having to spend too much. For example, if you plan to visit the Statue of Liberty, you will have to reach it by ferry, since it is located on Ellis Island, an island accessible only by boat.

So although the experience of crossing the river by ferry is not the same as embarking on a scenic cruise, the views you will have of the Statue and the Manhattan skyline are really incredible. We could say that this experience is a 2 for 1.

On the other hand, taking into account that the Hudson crosses the city of New York, you should know that the New York ferry is for its citizens a means of transportation, so you can use it to go from one side of the river to the other without having to make a large outlay on tickets.

Finally, if you have bought one of the New York tourist cards (there are several, so here is a comparison of New York Passes), it may also include a ticket to one of the scenic cruises of the city, so check it out because you may already have a free ride on one!

7. You'll take great pictures, but don't be obsessed with the camera

Take spectacular pictures
Take spectacular pictures

Everything, absolutely everything in this city is photogenic and its views from the water are no less. You will cross the Brooklyn Bridge from below, you will get close to the Statue of Liberty, you will have a great panoramic view of Manhattan Island and the Brooklyn skyline...).

Day and night the views are a spectacle and you will be tempted to spend the whole tour with your camera in your hand. Don't make the mistake of seeing New York through the lens of your camera and try to take just enough pictures to be more attentive to your surroundings.

Sailing the waters of the Hudson and marveling at this panorama is something you probably won't do many times in your life, so the best memories will be in your retina. The same goes for your cell phone: you'll have coverage, but consider whether you really want to be aware of anything other than enjoying the experience.

8. Follow these basic "dress code" rules

Tourists enjoying the cruise
Tourists enjoying the cruise

If you are embarking on a daytime sightseeing cruise, you don't have to worry about anything: whatever you are wearing, you will be able to enjoy the experience without any problem. In fact, I recommend that you check the weather forecast the day before to check the temperature or wind and be able to wrap up warm according to the thermometers.

The boats are equipped with indoor and outdoor seating, which will allow you to participate in the activity in spite of bad weather. (In case the cruise has to be cancelled due to extreme weather conditions, you will be offered either a change of date or a full refund).

In any case, keep in mind that you will want to enjoy the views from the open air part of the boat, so bring a coat or windbreaker in winter and a hat and sunscreen in summer to take advantage of the whole tour.

On the other hand, if what you have chosen is an evening cruise with dinner included, it is best to leave the "tourist look" at the hotel and choose something a little more dressed up. There is no need to dress up, but keep in mind that you will be sailing on a luxury boat, that the dinner is of high level and that the atmosphere is more elegant than in daytime cruises.

Book a cruise in New York

9. If you go with children, choose the most appropriate cruise for them

Family enjoying the cruise| ©davitydave
Family enjoying the cruise| ©davitydave

The kids will enjoy this great plan like no one else, but the best recommendation if you are considering a cruise with children in New York is to choose a daytime one. Some of the more premium options that offer gourmet dining in the evening either do not allow children under 6 years of age or do not offer reduced prices for minors.

This means that, in the event that they can board, they have to pay the same as an adult would pay and in addition, they do not have a children's menu option. You will really have to analyze whether it is worthwhile to take the little ones to dinner, because in addition to the fact that they would not enjoy it as much as adults, the outlay may be too high.

On the other hand, and going back to day cruises, they are a great option for them: they will love sailing aboard a boat, the views are spectacular and it will serve them to rest for a while from the long walks around the city. The best ones should always be accompanied by an adult and babies should be seated on your lap. Also check before booking if strollers are allowed on board (in most cases they are).

10. Choose the best time of the day to board the ship

View of Manhattan from the Hudson| ©JJBers
View of Manhattan from the Hudson| ©JJBers

Depending on your preferences and budget, you can choose between different cruise departure times. If you want to enjoy New York in broad daylight, when the skyscrapers, bridges and the Hudson River shine in all their splendor, a good recommendation is to choose the 12 noon departure time.

This time will allow you to take a relaxing break during your morning, with the sun shining at its brightest, and the photos will be perfect. Also, if you do it in winter, this is probably the time with the mildest temperatures and thanks to this you will be able to spend more time on deck.

If, on the other hand, you are a fan of sunsets and you feel like experiencing the most vibrant New York, taking a late afternoon cruise will allow you to watch the sun go down as the lights of the most fascinating city in the world come on. Nighttime photos require a little more skill, but will be equally stunning and the atmosphere is more intimate.

In any case, there are types of cruises with departures at practically any time of the day and you don't have to choose one of the premium cruises that include dinner just because you choose a night cruise, so there's no excuse: choose and book the one you feel like!

Book a cruise in New York