Circumnavigating Manhattan Island on Circle Line Cruise

Circle Line 42 operates New York City sightseeing cruises from West 42nd Street and 12th Avenue on Pier 83 in midtown Manhattan. Last April I met Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises representatives in Los Angeles and they said look them up when I came to New York. This was actually the first time I approached a company to ask for a complimentary media trip. So I didn’t pay the $38 cruise ticket cost for a 3-hour full island Manhattan tour, but I certainly can recommend it as a great idea for a New York City excursion if the weather is right. This was a great way to see New York City and get a feel for the layout of the geography with the five different boroughs and regional geology.

The weather was forecast to be gorgeous for my cruise. Clear skies, mid-70s and a 10am morning time cruise in relatively low humidity compared to my stay last week in New York when it was 90 and humid.

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A funny thing happened just before the cruise. I received my ticket and then spent about 20 minutes snapping photos and checking out the Bike and Roll rental center next to the Circle Line pier. I did a bicycle rental tour in San Francisco last year and loved it. Biking the Brooklyn Bridge sounded like a great excursion, but I just didn’t have the time this trip to work out that deal.

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I got in line for the Circle Line cruise and realized my ticket was not in my pocket. I figured it fell out while taking my camera in and out of my pocket. I surveyed the area where I walked around and about 50 feet away I spotted a thin strip of paper near the edge of the water. My ticket, which anyone could have picked up and used for the cruise, had been laying on the ground for 20 minutes and nobody picked it up. More remarkable was the fact that there was no wind to blow the ticket away. It was on the pavement less than ten feet from the Hudson River at the spot where I photographed the Circle Line flag.

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The cruise ship had two decks with seating for 300 to 400 people. More than half the space was covered and enclosed, although there were windows that opened for photographs and filming. Most of the people were seated on top side in the open back portion of the ship. I went to the bottom deck for a seat at the side. The captain announced soon after we embarked that the bow of the ship had space for people to stand and I headed there and remained there until about halfway through the 3 hours I could feel that my legs were being sunburned.

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Lower deck of Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise ship. There were simply folding chairs in rows for seating.

Remember those British Airways Concorde jets?

New York has one on the pier just north of 42nd St.

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British Airways Concorde at Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Pier 86 New York, West 46th St. This aircraft set the New York to London world record on February 7, 1996 with a flight time of 2 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds with a top speed of 1,350 mph.

The Intrepid is a WWII aircraft carrier that also functioned for NASA spacecraft recovery in the 1960s. It was retired in 1974 and the Intrepid Museum was established in 1982 and located on Pier 86 in October 2008.

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The cruise starting on the west side of Manhattan meant my city skyline photos were angled at the morning sun. One of the most striking features of circumnavigating Manhattan is seeing the Empire State Building from many different vantage points.

The relative size of the Empire State Building changes dramatically depending on your viewpoint. Sometimes it looks huge and other times not so big as in the photo above where the Empire State Building is on the far right with the single pointed spire.

A few minutes later I snapped this photo of the Empire State Building.

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Empire State Building center right is father away than the other skyscrapers on left in Times Square and west side Midtown Manhattan.

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Chelsea Piers were working piers in the early 1900s for the superliners. Pier 59 is where the Titanic was supposed to arrive in 1912. These piers are now a Sports and Entertainment Complex with TV facilities, brewpub and a golf driving range.

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Pier 59 golf driving range, Chelsea Piers.

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1 World Trade Center is Freedom Tower designed to be 1,776 feet tower. The tower is an impressive structure currently standing at a height exceeding the Empire State Building. NYC Tower website has a comparison of 1 WTC to the Empire State Building based on its current construction height.

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1 World Trade Center is already taller than Empire State Building.

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1 World Trade Center downtown Manhattan. Empire State building is visible in far left distance.

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Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Ellis Island opened January 1, 1892 as the premier federal immigration station in the United States.

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Statue of Liberty dedicated October 28, 1886.

Statue of Liberty is under renovation and scheduled to reopen October 28, 2012. Visitors are currently limited to the exterior grounds. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are close to each other. Coming from sea a boat passes nearby by the Statue of Liberty to reach Ellis Island which is why the two are closely related symbols of our American story.

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Downtown Manhattan and Wall Street Financial District. Brooklyn Bridge span seen at far right.

These are likely the highlights of the cruise for most visitors to New York. This was all in the first hour. Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx are seen as the cruise travels the East River. Reaching the Hudson River on the north side of Manhattan Island reveals forest covered lands and stories of Revolutionary War history as the ship cruises the Hudson River back to Pier 42.

More to come…

Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket for the Circle Line Full Island 3-hour Cruise ($38 value. Currently there is a $5 discount for online ticket purchase.) Link: Circle Line 42 Sightseeing Cruises

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Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. I will be doing the trip next weekend in a kayak, thanks to Manhattan Kayak Company ( will take longer than the 3 hrs).

  2. On a beautiful day, there’s no better way to see New York than the Circle Line – and I’m a New Yorker!

  3. I’ve taken Circle Line cruises for years. They are always a relaxing escape from hustle and bustle of the city. Just the other night I was telling someone how much I enjoyed seeing the GW bridge on my first full island cruise in July.

  4. @Tom – Kayak tour sounds great.

    @the weekly flyer – There really were not many kids on this boat.

    @Dave from BNA & PSL – the breeze was refreshing. Seeing the parts of New York from the perspective of a boat really places the different areas of New York in geographical context so much better than reading a flat map.

  5. The 3-hr Circle Line cruise is the best bang for your buck in NYC plus it’s easy to find a promo code that will bring the ticket price down. I’d say it’s a must-do for tourists.

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