When you’re strolling the streets of Manhattan, it can be difficult to grasp the magnitude of the city, with its skyscrapers and densely packed landmarks. The solution? A boat ride. A breezy sail in New York Harbor can feature everything from an elegant dinner to a live jazz band to tacos and tequila. Read on to discover the top-rated options for evening cruises as determined by travel expert opinion and recent reviews.
City Cruises New York Bateaux Premier Dinner Cruise
Price: From $144
Duration: 3 hours
Standout perk: This all-glass boat delivers panoramic skyline views.
Climbing aboard the Bateaux feels like stepping into a greenhouse, with its glass-enclosed structure and water views in every direction. There are no bad seats on this boat, but as an upgrade you can reserve a window table for the best views of the Hudson River, the East River and the New York Harbor. This cruise is a match for anyone seeking elegance: The tables are covered in crisp white cloths, wine and cocktails are served in sparkling glasses, and a three-course a la carte dinner is served at a relaxed pace (no buffet here).
The Bateaux cruise is an experience to get dressed up for, where the dress code is semi-formal and dinner is accompanied by live music. The sunset can provide the perfect backdrop for pictures, and don’t forget to snap a shot of the Statue of Liberty. Children younger than 6 are not permitted on this cruise, so expect a polished, for-adults atmosphere complete with creative cocktails and dancing under the stars.
Local tip: The Bateaux has rightfully earned a reputation for its fresh food; this three-course, plated menu includes several tempting a la carte options from a ravioli starter with crispy pancetta to osso bucco with cauliflower polenta.
City Cruises New York Signature Dinner Cruise
Price: From $109
Duration: 2.5 hours
Standout perk: A live DJ gives this dinner cruise an extra dose of atmosphere.
Looking for a casual night of dining and dancing with the addition of a skyline backdrop? This dinner cruise offers just that. Set sail from Chelsea Piers in a climate-controlled boat along the Hudson and East rivers, admiring Big Apple landmarks like the Empire State Building and World Trade Center. For dinner, indulge in a chef-prepared buffet with a wide range of options from Greek salad to oven-roasted salmon with miso to Caribbean jerk braised pork. If you’re bringing a sweet tooth on board, be sure to check out the ample dessert station.
After snapping some pictures on the open-air deck, return to the cabin for cocktails from the cash bar, interactive games and upbeat music from the on-board DJ. Hit the dance floor to complete this NYC dinner cruise experience.
Local tip: Infants younger than 3 cruise free, so feel free to bring your little ones along to enjoy the experience with you.
La Barca All-Inclusive Mexican Dinner Cruise
(Courtesy of La Barca Cantina)
Price: From $75
Duration: 2 hours
Standout perk: You’ll find an extensive tequila and mezcal list on board to accompany the Mexican fare.
One criticism of New York dinner cruises is that they don’t offer good value for money, but this all-inclusive Mexican dinner cruise package offered through GetYourGuide and Viator challenges that critique with tacos, churros, cocktails and skyline views for an affordable price. Climb aboard a yacht at Pier 81 to experience a youthful, modern interpretation of a dinner cruise – think: low lighting, couches for lounging and three bars, complete with Latin pop, salsa and dance music playing in the background.
With the all-inclusive El Plato Perfecto package, this sightseeing cruise features a hearty dinner with three tacos (with options like skirt steak or dos mushrooms) and a margarita; for dessert, enjoy churros with chocolate dipping sauce. If you would prefer to sample other food and beverage options on board, you can book your cruise through La Barca Cantina’s website for an a la carte experience. Raise a glass while the yacht sails south on the Hudson River to check out world-famous Manhattan skyline views.
Classic Harbor Line NYC Evening Jazz Cruise
(Courtesy of Classic Harbor Line)
Price: From $94
Duration: 1.5 hours
Standout perk: A jazz trio typically featuring a sax, keyboard and drums plays live on board.
Listen to jazz standards aboard a 1920s-style yacht with this fun sightseeing cruise departing from Pier 62 in Chelsea Piers. Choose between kicking back in the climate-controlled cabin or on the open-air deck throughout this evening cruise, which includes views of Manhattan landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Live music is played outside on the deck or inside the salon, depending on the season (and the boat, Manhattan or Manhattan II).
While this cruise doesn’t offer dinner, one complimentary alcoholic beverage is included, and a cash bar offers additional drinks and snacks. Listen to music by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and more as you sail past the twinkling Manhattan skyline.
Local tip: Tickets at the slightly discounted rate of $94 are available for groups of 4 to 16; the rate is $108 for one to three guests.
Circle Line New York City Harbor Lights Cruise
(Courtesy of Circle Line)
Price: From $43
Duration: 2 hours
Standout perk: This no-fuss, excellent-value cruise option has drinks and snacks available for purchase on board.
When you’re craving panoramic views rather than a three-course meal, choose the Circle Line’s Harbor Lights cruise departing from Pier 83. This sightseeing sailing delivers an up-close experience of the Manhattan skyline lights coming to life, while cruising past landmarks including the Brooklyn Bridge, Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center and more. A live guide provides narration and historical context for what you’re seeing. As the sun sets behind New Jersey, watch the glow of the sinking sun reflect in the windows of skyscrapers.
Food from the onboard cafe – like salads, sandwiches and snacks – as well as beer, wine and cocktails at the bar are available for purchase. This is an ideal situation for groups with varying levels of hunger and thirst. Sit alfresco in the breeze or indoors in the climate-controlled cabin – it’s up to you.
Local tip: Non-English-speaking guests can download the Circle Line app for narration available in several languages; just be sure to bring your own headset.
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Jessica Colley Clarke is a New York-based freelance writer. She loves to take visiting family and friends out on the water in the New York Harbor for a fresh perspective on the Manhattan skyline and beyond.