Nautical Manhattan tour reveals other side of city


Being a tourist in New York City presents a traveler with a “cornucopia” challenge—there’s just so darn much to choose from when deciding on things to see and do. 

Transportation options for seeing the sights are many—subway, big bus tours, city buses, taxis, rideshare and more. But one can’t go wrong picking a Circle Line boat tour as an unusual and entertaining way to get an overview of the city from a unique standpoint—the waters around Manhattan Island.

Circle Line offers nine different cruises starting at a per ticket price of $29. Operating tourist cruise vessels since 1945, Circle Line prides itself on giving visitor’s nautical views of New York’s most famous landmarks—the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, United Nations headquarters, Ellis Island, Chrysler Building and more.

Among the cruise options: the two-hour, 30-minute Best of New York, $42 per adult; the two-hour Landmarks and Brooklyn Cruise $38 per adult and the one-hour Liberty Cruise, $30 per adult.

On a June visit to the Big Apple, my husband and I were hosted by Circle Line on their Harbor Lights Tour, which departs from Pier 83 at 7 p.m. and gives passengers sunset views of the Hudson River and East River and landmarks on both the Manhattan and New Jersey sides of the waterways.

As a native of New York, I have fond memories of day trips on Circle Line with my mom and sister, but it had been 50 years since my last voyage and I wondered if it would be as interesting as it was during my youth. I wasn’t the least bit disappointed.

Cool evening breezes kissed our faces as we embarked on the two-hour excursion. Sitting on the upper deck with unobstructed views of the river and Manhattan Island is definitely the way to go. Arrive early as the best seats go fast and some who wanted to be on the top open-air deck found no seats and resigned themselves to the enclosed first floor deck with its big picture windows. 

Narration is provided about points of interest and the history behind many of the city’s iconic sights. To heighten passengers’ experience Circle Line also offers a free Skyline Navigation App that provides “enhanced content” and narration in seven languages.

As we cruised the Hudson River, the setting sun provided dramatic illumination to the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. We passed by the USS Intrepid Pier, Battery Park, Ellis Island, Wall Street, Governor’s Island, South Street Seaport and more. After dark, the lights on the city’s towering skyscrapers, long bridges and other larger-than-life structures make for a brilliant and energized skyline. These views would be hard to match from any other vantage point.

The boats are equipped with a full-service bar and “cafe,” which I would describe as a snack bar.

Speeding back to the pier, it became downright windy and chilly and my husband and I finished the last 30 minutes of the cruise on the enclosed deck. 

Circle Line’s Harbor Lights Cruise makes for a fun and memorable way to experience Manhattan for first-time visitors as well as those who’ve been there before.

For more information on Circle Line cruises, go to


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