Boat Tours in New York - Top Tips and Four Reviews

I've taken a lot of different boat tours around Manhattan and thought it was time to share my opinions, along with my favorites. There are so many different options that you should think about what you want  to pay and what type of experience you'd like before picking a tour; do you want a trip with narration, a booze cruise, a party boat or something quieter? Do you just want to see the New York skyline and Statue of Liberty from the water, or do you want to take a trip right around Manhattan?

Whatever you decide  avoid the aggressive ticket sellers down at  Battery Park, buy your tickets directly and check Goldstar for discounts. I've scored a lot of free cruise tickets with Goldstar, including most of the tours below, as complimentary tickets come up quite frequently at the beginning and end of the tourist season.
The four options I'm reviewing are;

           1. Staten Island Ferry
           2. The Circle Line Tour 
           3. The Yacht Manhattan
           4. The City Clipper

1. Staten Island Ferry
This is our default suggestion when we are in New York with out of town guests. It's easy, frequent, passes by the Statue of Liberty and best of all it's free - which makes it one of New York's few great bargains. Unless you're stopping in Staten Island for something specific (like  excellent Sri Lankan food) I'd suggest getting right back on the returning ferry and making this a quick roundtrip. Here's the fabulous view from the ferry!
Note you don't need a ticket to get onto the ferry, just wait and the doors, the boats run  every half hour. Highly recommended, you may not pass close by but you'll see the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the skyline of Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as lots of regular New Yorkers getting to and from work! Here's D with some Swedish friends on the ferry. Recommended to everyone and the best option for the budget conscious traveller. New York's an expensive destination so it's good to get the breaks where you can!
2. The Circle Line Tour
Although this is another classic New York experience I just can't recommend the Circle Line Tour. The truth is I hated the Landmarks and Brooklyn trip I took with them. Perhaps the more famous tour right around Manhattan would have been better, but the tour  I took was dreadful. There was an inescapably awful guide narrating non-stop and there was nowhere on the boat to avoid his loud, inane rambling - not even the loo! 
There was a lot of patriotic talk about 9/11, interspersed with a series of disconnected vignettes that went on and on. My friend, who  is a retired school teacher, said it reminded him of a fifth grader's report with disjointed facts strung together. When the  guide started quoting Victor Hugo in an attempt to add some gravitas we nearly leapt overboard! The tickets were free with Goldstar but it was still too much.  I liked the trip  to Brooklyn and around Governor's Island, I had no complaint about  the boat or the views, but the narration was appalling bad. Avoid at all costs!

I've taken three of the Classic Harbour Line's tours and enjoyed every one. I love their elegant boat and I highly recommend their tours. This is the tour company for those of us who don't like crowds and don't want to be crammed onto the  huge Hornblower cruises with innumerable tourists. Here you can see the UN building, the Chrysler building and  on the far left the Empire State, curiously known as the "Empty State" in it's early years during the Depression when it struggled to find tenants.
The Manhattan isn't a large boat but it's spacious and comfortable. Built in the 1920s this elegant yacht has huge glass windows and a glass roof as you can see below. Many of their tours have no narration but we very much enjoyed their architectural tour which is put on by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The guide was informative, interesting and engaged and we learnt a lot about architecture in New York. Here's a useful review from the New York Times if you'd like further information.
They offer two versions of this tour including one that goes around the entire island and another that takes in Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn. We've done both of them and I highly recommend the tour that circumnavigated Manhattan, it was particularly fascinating to see the far north of Manhattan and to pass underneath the new High Bridge. I loved this tour so much I'm planning on another post detailing the entire trip. 
My highest recommendation, don't miss this if you're interested in architecture!
4. The City Clipper
As you can see from my photos below there's something romantic and compelling about seeing the Manhattan skyline under sail. Even on a cloudy day I really enjoyed the clipper ship experience. It was beautiful to watch them hoisting the sails and to enjoy the almost silent movement of the ship across the Hudson river. 
On this trip, which leaves from the point at Battery Park, there isn't any narration but there's a bar and you get to relax and enjoy the views. I highly recommend this relatively short tour which has a serene, low key vibe. 
Conclusion: Good for those looking to escape the noise of the city. This is a great option to combine the view with a new experience under sail!
Whatever you decide I hope you enjoy seeing Manhattan from the water it's a spectacular view which every option your take!


mayercharter said…
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