Best Manhattan Cruises

The best way to enjoy the views of the Manhattan skyline is to embark on a Hudson River cruise, whether by day or night, by ferry or even by sailboat. I'll tell you about all the options.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

12 min read

Best Manhattan Cruises

Views of lower Manhattan from the cruise ship | ©Hellotickets

At some point during your trip you'll miss a bit of relaxation after 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.

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

My favourite

NYC Manhattan Circle Line Cruise around Statue of Liberty by day

From Midtown to the Brooklyn Bridge, by boat

Perfect if you feel like relaxing for a while while enjoying the best Manhattan skyline. Seeing the Brooklyn Bridge and the most iconic skyscrapers from the Hudson won't leave you indifferent.

Duration: 1 hour

A one-hour 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 and the Brooklyn Bridge from the water.

Choose the time, morning or afternoon, to embark at the port in the Midtown area accompanied by a professional guide who will tell you interesting facts and juicy anecdotes about the city.

The ship also has an open-air deck, so you can go outside (weather permitting) to take photos and enjoy the views. If you're cruising in winter, wrap up warm and don't miss out on spending some time on deck.

Why I like this option: without having to spend a lot of time or money you'll be able to enjoy the main sights of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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

At night

NYC Manhattan Circle Line Cruise around Statue of Liberty by night

The most complete night cruise around Manhattan Island

If you don't mind spending a little more, you can enjoy an extra hour of sailing and admire the illuminated Manhattan skyline.

Duration: 2 hours

A more complete way to spend the night in New York is to take a two-hour cruise on the Hudson River, which will allow you to see the illuminated Manhattan skyline from the sea and discover another side of the Big Apple. Especially if you've previously climbed up to one of the observation decks on the city's skyscrapers to admire it from above.

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

With this New York City cruise, the only one that completely encircles the entire island of Manhattan, you'll depart from Pier 83 at 7PM 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.

Why I like this option: for very little extra, you can enjoy a night tour to see New York's buildings lit up.

Recommended if... you want to make the most of the experience and think that the one-hour cruise might not be long enough.

We compare the 2 options

New York dinner cruises

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

If taking a Manhattan cruise is a pleasure that allows you to relax while enjoying the most spectacular views of this New York island, embarking on a cruise that also includes dinner, hors d'oeuvres 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 affects the price. But don't worry, there's an option for every budget and every taste, so you're sure to find yours.

All this while cruising the Hudson and watching the lights of the Manhattan skyline come on. It's a great way to spend your last evening in New York and say goodbye to the city in style.

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How much does it cost to take a Manhattan cruise?

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

The price of the Hudson River cruises in New York can vary depending on their duration, itinerary and the type of boat on 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 complete tour on a luxury boat with gourmet dinner.

The most premium ones tend to depart at sunset or in the evening, so you can enjoy the sunset and the city lights coming on. If you have the budget, a more VIP boat trip, with dinner included and live music along the way, is sure to be a very special and unforgettable evening.

If you prefer to enjoy a night-time experience on the Hudson River at a very reasonable price, you can always take 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 on the water while taking a break from long walks around the city. Either way, it's worth embarking on one of the city's many cruises.

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How long are the Manhattan cruises?

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

The length of a Hudson River cruise depends on the tour you book, but they can be express, lasting an hour, or longer, lasting up to three hours. Some just do the southern part of Manhattan, where you'll have spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Financial District skyline.

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 see the grandeur of the skyline from afar.

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

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

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

Any time of day is good, but a sunset cruise on New York's Hudson River is definitely the best time to see the best colours and unforgettable views. Throughout the year the departure time of the cruises is adapted to the time of sunset so that you can board in time to enjoy the last moments of light in New York.

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

Another good time to enjoy a Manhattan cruise is in the middle of the day, especially if the day is clear: you'll have a super clear view of all the buildings, it will be easier to identify Manhattan's main attractions and the photos will be spectacular.

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Tips for a Hudson River cruise

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

Taking a cruise in New York is definitely a good idea, but as you're about to embark on the experience, here are some basic tips for enjoying a Hudson River cruise- take note!

  • Book in advance to make sure you get 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, check your tickets in advance.
  • Check what type of boat you'll be sailingon and what's included in the price: are you booking a dinner cruise, is it a buffet dinner, or a gourmet dinner served at the table, what's the itinerary, how long is the trip? Read the description carefully before choosing the one that suits you best.
  • Organise your day well to be on time: bear in mind that the boat waits for no one and being on time is important. Arrive in good time and take the opportunity to discover the area before or after the boat trip.
  • Don't worry too much about dress code: unless you're 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.

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All you need to know about New York cruises

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

Booking tickets in advance is important

Whichever type of New York City cruise you choose, in order to secure your place at the time and date you want, it's best to book your tickets online in advance. Once you have done so, you will receive a voucher via email which you will need to present at the meeting point to board.

The meeting point

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

About the guides and reviews

Most New York cruises include live commentary in English with a guide to help you learn more about the sights along 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 as simple as that!

Photos and videos

During the boat trip you can take as many photos and videos as you like. 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 shots of the Manhattan skyline. If you also like architecture and want to understand a little more about what you're seeing as you go, this Manhattan Architecture Cruise is the best option.

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

Isabel's traveller tip

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

Are there any free or discounted cruises in New York?

Getting to the Statue of Liberty by boat| ©Hellotickets
Getting to the Statue of Liberty by boat| ©Hellotickets

No, there are no free boats on the Hudson and as it's a very popular activity, it's quite difficult to find discounts or special prices. But if you're looking for a way to save on your Hudson sailing, I recommend that you consider using the New York ferry. The ferry, being a public transport service, is much more affordable than the tourist boats.

You can cross from one pier to another or even from one side of the river to the other for the lowest price and still 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 boating in New York.

Another way to take advantage of a special price or cruise in a very convenient way is with one of the city's sightseeing 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 New York City cruise. More on that later.

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Tourist Cards that include a cruise

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

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

The difference between passes is the length of the pass and the number of attractions you have access to. Finding the right 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 New York sightseeing passes so you can find the one that suits you best and clear your doubts.

If you're thinking of taking a boat tour of the city, the tourist passes 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:

  • 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 City Cruise

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

One of the great advantages of taking this kind of boat tour of New York, in my opinion, is that it offers a global view of the city while allowing us to see 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.

Moreover, these New York cruises are a perfect opportunity to celebrate an anniversary or birthday with your partner in a very original way, as some have a bar on board where you can order a few drinks to toast to a special moment.

And if you're visiting the city with your family, taking a Hudson River cruise with the kids is a fun and comfortable way for them to do some sightseeing without getting too exhausted - they'll love getting on a boat!

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The best options for cruising the Hudson if you're an adrenaline lover

New York's Hudson doesn't just host calm and relaxing cruises for New Yorkers and tourists. Its waters are also home to speedboat and zodiac rides.

If you're an adrenaline junkie and feel like doing something different, don't hesitate to join this zodiac ride on New York's Hudson.

If you're interested in a New York cruise, you'll also like

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

A boat tour of New York is a comfortable and relaxing way to see the city and learn about it, but it's not the only way. There are more alternatives for exploring the Big Apple:

The first option is guided walking tours of different areas of the city. Walking around the city is a very special way of getting to know it and getting to know it, as 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 is the sightseeing bus, a very practical idea as it allows you to discover the most important areas of New York in a quick way while you travel comfortably seated. You can find out more about this option in this guide to the best sightseeing buses in New York.

From the boat, there may be some landmarks that you can't see clearly, but that's easily solved with a sightseeing bus tour. If you've never taken one during your travels, I'd advise you to consider this option to complete your visit to the city.

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