So many cities are breathtakingly beautiful at night — and New York City is no exception. But how can you enjoy the area’s brilliant lights in a short amount of time?
My late friend Richard Arnold and I took a daytime cruise around Manhattan about 11 years ago. I thought it was awesome then.
But how about nighttime?
Mrs. Carley and I decided to check it out a few weeks ago — and spent an evening on the Circle Line Harbor Lights tour at sunset.
Saving Money and Earning Points Buying Circle Line Harbor Cruise Tickets!
Our tickets cost $41 per person or $82 total. We bought them from Viator and paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The purchase coded as a “Travel,” so I received 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. That came out to 246 points earned.
You’ll find Circle Line at Pier 83 on the Hudson River. (This is the west “boundary” of Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.)
We walked from our hotel in Times Square. It took us about 20 minutes. You’re close when you see the famous USS Intrepid aircraft carrier (which is now a museum).
The Circle Line Harbor Cruise — On Board
Food and Beverage
Our tour departed at 7:00 PM. So we originally planned to buy some cheese and meats from Murray’s Cheese shop in Greenwich Village that day. We figured that’d make for a light dinner during the cruise. (Because we needed to hit Joe’s Pizza later that night! 🙂 )
I contacted Circle Line ahead of time and was told, “No outside food or beverages allowed. We do have a concessions area with food and drinks available for purchase.”
Well, they do have a snack bar.
And a beverage bar. But the service — while friendly — was very slow. Only one bartender worked that night. Plus, their credit card swipe/chip machine wasn’t working that night. So he manually input card numbers into a POS machine (I mean that as point-of-sale and piece-of…well…) The line grew very long.
My wife had a bourbon and Coke. I opted for bourbon on the rocks. The drinks cost a total of $32. That was processed by Circle Line, not Viator — so no cashback. By we did earn 3X Ultimate Rewards points for the “Dining” purchase.
My wife’s bag was not searched or screened. So we easily could’ve brought a snack or drinks on board. No staff members patrolled our deck looking for people who brought their own food and beverages aboard. So keep that in mind if you take the tour.
There are two decks. The lower deck is enclosed —
and the upper is open air.
If you want a seat against the railing (trust me, you do), arrive early! Those are the first spots taken. I’d recommend being there about an hour prior to departure. You can also buy up for priority boarding.
There is plenty of legroom.
The Cruise Itself
The Harbor Lights cruise runs south down the Hudson River and winds around Lower Manhattan. Then it’s up the East River to just before Roosevelt Island. Then the boat turns around races the route in reverse. The Statue of Liberty was the grand finale before heading back to the pier.
Our tour guide, David, narrated the two-ish hour ride. He provided all sorts of interesting information about the city and Circle Line. For example, the company helped transport stranded airline passengers — after their “Miracle on the Hudson” flight splashed down. They also evacuated people during Superstorm Sandy and helped with transportation efforts after the September 11 terror attacks.
We pushed back and our captain took us a little up the Hudson before turning around.
The sun was setting over New Jersey.
And sunset glinted off buildings in Manhattan.
There truly were some spectacular views of the city as we made our way around Manhattan.
A Delta flight made a cameo appearance on its way to La Guardia!
David (our tour guide) took a quick and rather bizarre break. He decided to show off to the passengers.
David loved talking about New York. And himself. (He arrived in New York about 40 years ago. He studied performance in grad school. He worked at Ellis Island. He saw Al Pacino at a sandwich shop. He gave us his Al Pacino impression. He…)
New York started lighting up as dusk fell.
It was dark as we turned around — and more of the city’s lights were on display.
Then we paid a visit to Lady Liberty. Pictures do not do it justice.
See all those people blocking your shot? That’s why you want to sit along the railings.
We headed north up the Hudson. David brought up immigration — which was appropriate, given we passed by Ellis Island and the Statue. But then he discussed in great detail the dark side of Ellis Island. Honestly, it was a depressing ending to the ride.
While that history is important, I wish he would’ve maybe alluded to it and suggested where people could learn more. My wife and I were glad we didn’t have our daughter on the boat.
Most of our fellow passengers were friendly. It’s fun seeing each other’s reactions to various sites. There was a family behind us, though, who loudly insisted on FaceTiming the boat ride. That was obnoxious.
Would I take the Circle Line Harbor Lights Cruise again? Yes! It’s not something I’d do, like, each year. But every couple of years, it’s absolutely something to enjoy.
Did You Take This Cruise — or a Similar One?
Have you taken this cruise? Are there any more you’d recommend? Please tell us in the below Comments section.
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