Which New York Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?

This post compares New York City boat tours and cruises to help you choose the best one, including hop-on-hop-off tourist cruises, dinner cruises, sailboats and more.

 

Youtube Subscribe
Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.

NYC BOAT CRUISES

These cruise options are typically short, sweet and focused on specific areas of the city. 

Tourist cruises will require you to arrive at a specific time. 

 

NYC Tourist Boats

 

Many of these choices are included for free or at a discount on the New York Pass, City Pass or Explorer Pass.

Read our guide on whether a tourist discount pass is a good fit for you. 


CIRCLE LINE CRUISES 

Probably the most popular of the cruise service companies, the Circle Line offers 3 different main sightseeing tours around Manhattan, as well as a number of themed tours, such as a sunset tour.

Cruises run daily and run from 1 – 3 hours in length.  

Sightseeing commentary is provided throughout the tours and there is a bar onboard where guests can purchase drinks. 

All Circle Line boats leave from Midtown Manhattan, 42nd Street on the Hudson River.

 

 

The cost of the trip varies depending on which cruise you select.

However, Circle Line Cruises are included for free on the New York Pass, Explorer Pass, and City Pass, so guests can really save money by taking advantage of one of the tourist passes!  

This company currently has a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews).

Although there are some negative reviews, an overwhelming majority of customers felt that the views and commentary provided on their cruise were excellent. 


Liberty Cruise

This 1-hour cruise (which is also referred to as the Statue of Liberty Express) covers the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the One World Trade Center.

 

Circle Line Liberty Cruise Route Map

 

This cruise gets very positive reviews.

Included for free with the purchase of many of the tourist discount passes.

This cruise is also included at no cost with the purchase of any multi-day Big Bus hop-on-hop-off bus ticket


Landmark Cruise 

This 90 min cruise focuses on Lower and Midtown Manhattan, with the highlights being the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Empire State Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge.  

 

Circle Line Landmark Cruise Route Map

 

This cruise also gets very positive reviews.

Included for free with the purchase of any of the tourist discount passes


Best of NYC Cruise

This 2.5-hour cruise circles around the entire island of Manhattan and includes commentary on the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Harlem, and Yankee Stadium, among other things.  

This is their flagship tour.

 

Circle Line Best of NYC Route Map

 

This cruise also gets very positive reviews.

This cruise is also included for free with the purchase of the New York Pass and the NYC Explorer Pass, both tourist discount cards.  

 


CITY SIGHTSEEING NEW YORK

This company offers a 90-minute Skyline Cruise that departs from Midtown Manhattan on the Hudson River and travels south, past the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. 

This is actually their hop-on-hop-off cruise, but in this case, you just wouldn’t get off.

 

Hop-on, Hop-off Boat Tours NYC

 

With an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor and Viator (read the reviews), it’s clear that the cruises offered by City Sightseeing are pretty popular.

Negative reviews tend to focus on poor customer service, but there are several comments from happy guests suggesting that this isn’t a very big problem.


Skyline Cruise

This 90-minute cruise is the only non-hop-on, hop-off boat tour offered by CitySightseeing.

It can also be booked as a night cruise.

 


HORNBLOWER

Predominantly a dinner and jazz cruise company in New York City, Hornblower also offers a 1-hour sightseeing tour called the International Sightseeing Cruise that includes views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty.  

This tour departs from South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan.  

Hornblower offers a free app that can be downloaded at home or at the pier that has an audio tour for the ride in 9 languages.

International Sightseeing Cruise

At 3 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (see the reviews), Hornblower has the lowest review rating on our list.

Even so, there are far more positive reviews than negative, indicating that most customers enjoy this cruise ship.

Those who didn’t enjoy their experience complained that their boat is getting old and the seating isn’t as comfortable as it once may have been. 

 


Back to top


 

HOP-ON, HOP-OFF FERRY SERVICES

A hop-on, hop-off ferry allows you to travel by water around the city at your leisure.

The main advantage of this service is that you can use it whenever you wish within operational hours.

 

Hop on hop off nyc boat cruises

 

You won’t be required to arrive at a specific time and plan your day around this boat tour!

Many of these ferries are free with tourist discount passes.


NYC – CITY SIGHTSEEING CRUISE

Unlike their single trip sightseeing cruise, this is a hop-on, hop-off service with several terminals.

This boat makes stops at South Street, DUMBO, the World Financial Center and Midtown. City Sightseeing also offers twilight and night tours.

 

Hop-on, Hop-off Boat Tours NYC

 

They also offer a rainy day guarantee, which allows you to use your boat ticket at a number of popular indoor attractions.

The entire route takes 90 minutes if you do not get off. 

The cruise service is also included for free with the purchase of the Sightseeing Pass and is included in their multi-day bus passes.  

It is also part of the Big Apple Package, which also includes a helicopter ride and 2 days of hop-on-hop-off bus service for $244/person.


Schedule

Ferries run between 9:45 am – 3:45 pm, daily. Tours depart at the following times:

  • Pier 78 in Midtown Manhattan  – 9:45 am, 11:45 am, 1:45 pm, 3:45 pm
  • Brookfield Place Terminal in Lower Manhattan – 10:20 am, 12:20 pm, 2:20 pm, 4:20 pm

Reviews for this hop-on-hop-off cruise are generally very favorable. Although there were a few complaints, the majority of reviewers were very happy with their trip.

The only significant complaint was about how infrequent the boats run.

 


NEW YORK WATER TAXI 

Like their competitors, New York Water Taxi offers hop-on-hop-off boat service that takes 90 minutes in total to complete.

 

New York Water Taxi

 

 However, you are free to jump off and explore the city at your own pace, hopping back on whenever you wish at several stops throughout the city.

NYWT offers 6 piers to explore compared to the 4 offered by City Sightseeing.

Although this isn’t technically a boat tour, they do provide recorded narration describing some of the sights you’ll see on the cruise.

 

New York Water Taxi Route Map

 

This company runs about as frequently as similar services.

With a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor and Viator (read the reviews), New York Water Taxi might even be more popular than their competition.  


Ticket Costs:

Free with the purchase of the Go Card Explorer Pass or Build Your Own Pass.

 


EAST RIVER FERRY 

This commuter ferry is the most economical choice for hop-on-hop-off service.

As the name suggests, this ferry service rides the East River and is a commuter boat, with single ride tickets costing the same as the subway – just $2.75.  

 

 

 

If you’re looking for transportation that will allow you to enjoy a self-guided tour of NYC, this could be one of the most affordable options.

Despite the fact that they aren’t a cruise company, the East River Ferry actually has a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor.

Most passengers are very pleased with this affordable service, indicating that the ferry is an easy way to get around the city.

Find out about the many NYC ferries, by reading our visitor’s guide to riding NYC ferries.

 


Back to top


 

NIGHT AND DINING CRUISES

This section will cover evening and dining cruises as well as other special cruise events.

Some options will include a meal, but others will simply provide a cruise around the city after dark.

We will also provide information about lunch and brunch options.

Finally, we will cover a few details about special cruise opportunities during events such as Independence Day.

Some of the following companies offer discounts to guests with certain tourists passes

 


Circle Line

This company offers a 60-minute Statue by Night Tour. See the Statue of Liberty after dark!

Cruises depart at 7:30 pm (19:30) from Pier 16/South Street Seaport (map).

Harbor Lights Tour

There is also a 90 min Harbor Lights Tour which departs just before sunset so you can enjoy the skyline while the sun goes down!

Departs at 7 pm (19:00) from Pier 81 (map).

This cruise is well-reviewed (read the reviews).

Included for free with the purchase of the New York Pass and the Explorer Pass.

Statue by Night Cruise

 


Dinner Cruises in NYC

 

Spirit Cruises

Depart from Chelsea Piers in New York and Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, NJ.

There is no dress code necessarily, but guests are strongly encouraged to wear business casual attire.

Services include lunch and dinner cruises as well as special events.

Get $10 off dinner cruises and $5 off lunch cruises with the New York Pass.

Lunch Cruise

  • $90 per person.

Dinner Cruise

  • Adult Tickets: $154

This company has an overall score of 4 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews).


Hornblower Cruises

Departs from Pier 40 in the West Village and Pier 15 at the South Street Seaport. In addition to dinner cruises, they also provide lunch and brunch cruise options as well.

Hornblower also offers special holiday cruises for events such as Independence Day and Father’s Day.

Depending on which service you choose, you will either have the opportunity to enjoy a buffet meal or a 3-course meal with a la carte options.

  • Adult Tickets: $50-$150
  • Child Tickets: $31.20 and up

With an average score of 3 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor, it’s fair to say that guests aren’t as impressed with this service as they are with other dinner cruises in New York.

That being said, a majority of reviews indicate that both the food and the cruise provided by this company are excellent. Many guests state that the views are great and the meal options were tasty.

 


World Yacht

This company departs from Pier 81. Their main yacht is now exclusively used for charters, but they also offer services on their sister vessel known as Hudson’s. This dinner cruise serves a 3-course meal with free champagne and snacks.

During the middle of your outing, the boat will slow down and allow you to get a good look at the Statue of Liberty. They also offer brunch and holiday cruises during special events.

  • Adult Ticket: $133
  • Child Ticket: $68.42

Hudson’s from World Yacht has a 4 ½ out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. Guests love the fact that this cruise travels very close to Lady Liberty, allowing you to get a very good look at the statue.

A majority of customers love the food, the cruise and the music that they play during your trip. Many people indicate that the service exceeded their expectations.

 


Back to top


 

NYC SPEEDBOATS

There are 2 speedboat companies, which offer guests a bit of a thrill ride as well as a tour!

These speedboats are usually a huge hit with families. If the typical boat tour or cruise doesn’t sound like fun, consider this alternative instead.

 

 

Although most of these services are not included on tourist passes, there is at least one speedboat cruise that is offered for free with an attraction pass.


THE BEAST 

Operated by the Circle Line company mentioned above, the Beast travels at 45 mph (73 kph) and gets within 100 feet of the Statue of Liberty.

This boat tour service has earned a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (see the reviews).

Very few people have left negative reviews, indicating that this is a pretty fun experience. 

Included in both the Explorer and Build Your Own Tourist Passes.


RIB New York

A new and incredible way to experience the New York City skyline by riding a RIB. This “Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boat” is safe, exciting and perfect for sightseeing.

If you’re interested in a RIB ride in NYC, this company also provides high-speed cruises around the city.

With speeds of up to 50mph, there’s a good chance that you’ll get splashed while seeing such popular sites as the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, The World Trade Center and more.

This boat will also slow down near popular landmarks to give guests the opportunity to take photographs.

This service is offered through the New York Sightseeing Pass.

 


Back to top


 

NYC SAILBOAT CRUISES 

If you’re not in the mood for the usual cruise or a ferry ride, consider the more traditional route with a sailboat trip.

These services will allow you to sail around the city and go wherever the wind takes you.

 

 
Ticket prices are a bit higher than some of the other options on our list, but you can also enjoy some of these services for free with various attraction passes.

 


Manhattan by Sail 

New York Sail boat

Manhattan by Sail has 2 different types of boats including the Shearwater and Clipper City, and each runs a huge variety of tours.

Sailing adventures include trips near the Statue of Liberty, NYC Skyline sightseeing and sunset outings around the city.

Manhattan by Sail is a good option for those using a tourist pass, as several different attraction passes include this service.

Much like their competitors, Manhattan by Sail has received respectable reviews with an overall score of at least 4½ out of 5 stars (read reviews here).

Guests note that the prices are very reasonable and they provide excellent service. Customers also report that it’s pretty easy to get around on the boat despite there often being pretty big crowds.


Classic Harbor Line 

There are 3 types of boats available, including the Luxury Yacht Manhattan, the Schooner Adirondack, and the Schooner America 2.0.

Each offers different tours of surrounding sites, as well as a brunch option. You can expect sails at sunset, around the Statue of Liberty and providing views of the NYC skyline.

Reviews for this service are pretty good, with most people giving Classic Harbor Line at least 4 ½ out of 5 stars (read reviews here).

The only complaints anyone seemed to have were that the boats can get crowded at times. Aside from those issues, most people report that the views are spectacular and the service is excellent.

 

About the author

Born and raised just across the Hudson River in NJ, Stephen became a licensed NYC tour guide in 2010 and has led and organized thousands of tours since then.

He has also researched and written numerous blog posts providing his insider tips for traveling to NYC.