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Choice reigns when it comes to New York City cruising. Travelers have an incredible selection of cruise lines, ships and destinations, perhaps opting for a Bermuda voyage, a Florida and Bahamas cruise or a fall “leaf peeper” sailing to New England and Canada. Longer voyages sail across the Atlantic or up the Amazon River, too.
The New York City area also has three major cruise embarkation points at major terminals along Manhattan’s West Side, Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood or Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey. Plus, who wouldn’t love New York for a pre- or post-cruise stay to see a Broadway show, visit world-class museums, and enjoy excellent dining and shopping?
As for the cruise sailaway, it’s dramatic. “It’s breathtaking to sail past lower Manhattan, past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and then under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge,” said Patti Gallagher, a travel advisor from Vista Travel, a Signature Travel Network member agency in Colonia, New Jersey.
Travelers will find sailings from New York City in every price range. So what’s the best cruise? Well that depends on your vacation style, personality, approach to the onboard and shoreside experience, plus the size of your wallet (or credit card limit).
Choose an affordable “contemporary” cruise line for an activity-packed, big-ship, family friendly experience, but expect to encounter many other guests onboard and to pay extra for drinks, specialty dining, gratuities and more. Priced a notch up are premium and upper premium cruises with more pampering, often fewer guests and more adult enrichment; most still welcome families, though. Priciest — not surprisingly — are highly inclusive luxury cruises. Guests aren’t “nickled and dimed” onboard as luxury fares cover everything from specialty dining to gratuities, alcoholic drinks, special events and even some shore trips; inclusions vary by line.
Here are our top picks if you’re planning a vacation voyage from New York City.
Fall Foliage Cruises
How about a “leaf peeping” cruise to view spectacular fall foliage in New England and Canada when fall comes back around?
For ultra-luxury afloat, one great option is Silversea Cruises’ 11-day New York to Montreal voyage operated by the newly refreshed Silver Whisper. Carrying just 388 guests, this all-suite ship is still intimate, yet it’s also large enough for multiple dining venues, including the savory La Dame with French-inspired cuisine, a full-service spa, multiple lounges and a theater. All suites have butler service. A major revitalization has given this ship a fresh feel and more contemporary color scheme, similar to what’s on the line’s newest ship, Silver Muse. Enhancements include a revitalized pool deck, a major update to the main restaurant, new fitness center equipment and new polished granite surfaces for suite bathrooms.
A highlight of Silver Whisper’s fall foliage itinerary is an overnight in Quebec City so guests can go ashore for dining and entertainment. This itinerary also features a canal transit in Cape Cod; cruising Quebec’s Saguenay River; and port calls at Newport, RI; Boston, MA; Bar Harbor, ME; Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Saguenay and Quebec City, Quebec; and Montreal, where the voyage ends.
Alternatively, for a “boutique luxury” experience coupled with fall foliage viewing, Gallagher likes Viking Ocean Cruises’ 13-day “Eastern Seaboard Explorer” itinerary from New York to Montreal on the 930-passenger Viking Star.
“Taking a fall cruise up through New England and into Canada is a stunning array of colors,” she said, noting that on this cruise, guests can explore Boston and Halifax in addition to sailing the St. Lawrence Seaway and visiting Quebec.
Gallagher also likes the ship’s size, Viking’s attention to detail, destination focus and “excellent service.” She also said it’s a fairly inclusive product. Seven guided tours are included within this itinerary’s cruise fare. With modern Scandinavian design, Viking Star is known for its comfortable “Living Room” (atrium and lobby area), full-service spa with a thermal suite that’s open to all guests (not the case on most lines) and Manfredi’s for specialty dining. However, this isn’t a ship for families with kids (passengers must be 18 and older) or those who love to play the slots, as there’s no casino.
If cruisers prefer a couple’s premium experience for leaf peeping, a good option is Celebrity Cruises‘ 2,158-passenger Celebrity Summit, a Millennium-class ship that’s emerging from major renovations in March. It sails 14-day “Canada and New England” cruises from Cape Liberty in the fall.
Travelers departing on Holland America Line’s 12-night “Colors of Canada and New England” cruise on the 1,964-passenger Zuiderdam enjoy nine port days, so they can see and do a lot, plus the cruise ends in Quebec City — a great spot for a post-cruise stay with a French flair.
For an upper premium voyage with strong culinary offerings, check out Oceania Cruises’ 1,250-passenger Riviera. Master chef Jacques Pépin serves as the line’s executive culinary director, and the ship’s 11-day “Colors, Coves and Coasts” voyage sails from New York to Montreal.
For small ship fans, we’d suggest either Windstar Cruises’ 212-passenger Star Pride or Scenic’s new 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse (an oceangoing, expeditionary ship launching this August). Both operate one fall foliage cruise this year.
Spring is a great time for groups of singles, couples or adult children traveling with their parents to explore Bermuda, before children are out of school and families with young kids are headed there in greater numbers. Royal Caribbean International’s 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas operates two appealing, seven-night, springtime departures (along with other Bermuda itineraries, too). We like the week-long sailings for their two full days in Bermuda, a bonus day in Boston and several days at sea.
A Quantum-class ship, Anthem of the Seas has many innovative or active onboard diversions — everything from a skydive simulator to roller skating, bumper cars and a circus school with a flying trapeze. Passengers also can soar skyward on North Star, a gigantic arm that lifts people 300 feet above the ocean for 360-degree views and a bird’s eye view of the ship below.
Given the ship’s size and diverse activities, your group can enjoy plenty of “together time” — bonding during shore trips, dinner each evening or physical challenges like rock wall climbing. But it’s easy to find “just me” or “just us” time, too.
So, Grandma might opt for a spa treatment while her adult children relax at the pool, and the grandchildren hang at the kids or teen club.
We also like the spring Bermuda voyages on Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,266-passenger Norwegian Escape, a Breakaway Plus-class vessel that also has plenty of bells and whistles in terms of more than 25 dining choices, activities and accommodations. One stellar upscale experience is the Haven, the line’s “ship within a ship” concept. Guests staying in Haven-designated accommodations (top suites and some other stateroom categories) have private butler service. They can head out for all the big-ship entertainment and activities, but when returning to the exclusive Haven enclave (key-card accessible only), they’ll find a more intimate aura and dedicated pool and concierge, among other perks.
One other ship we’re curious about (but it’s too early to say for sure) is Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,988-passenger Carnival Sunrise, which will operate spring Bermuda cruises on several dates this May and June. In April, the ship (the former Carnival Triumph) will emerge from a significant revitalization. Among the additions? Look for Cucina del Capitano, one of Carnival’s signature eateries and a family-friendly Italian restaurant, along with SportSquare and more.
“Carnival’s kids’ club options are fantastic and there’s so much fun to be had at the cruise ship waterpark,” Morris said. She also cites the popularity of Guy’s Burger Joint (think: Guy Fieri).
“Plus, parents can enjoy the Cloud 9 Spa and Serenity Deck if they’re looking for a peaceful retreat.”
New ships are always on the horizon. Highly anticipated is the new 3,998-passenger Norwegian Encore, which launches later this year and will sail summer cruises from New York in 2020. After two sea days en route to Bermuda’s Royal Naval Dockyard, guests will have three days to explore before returning to New York.
Multigenerational groups, teens and young adults should love this ship. Norwegian Encore will offer the largest racetrack at sea — more than 1,100 feet in length with four high-speed curves that extend 13 feet over the ship’s side. Prefer laser tag? The ship’s open-air aft deck will recreate the lost city of Atlantis as a setting for an epic laser tag battle. And the 10,000-square-foot augmented reality Galaxy Pavilion will feature a virtual reality maze, interactive theater and “escape” room.
Some lines add a twist to Bermuda sailings — offering a longer voyage with less time in Bermuda and a port call at another destination farther south, typically in the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos.
“Travelers looking for a warm-weather getaway … and don’t want the hassle of flying should consider sailing on Anthem of the Seas,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel representative based in Coral Springs, FL. She’s fond of this ship’s “Bahamas and Perfect Day.”
What’s special to Fee is that — in addition to Bermuda — the ship also calls at Royal Caribbean’s revamped private island, Perfect Day in Coco Cay, where she says cruisers will experience the tallest water slide in North America, overwater bungalows and more. “These seven- and eight-night itineraries also include stops in Nassau, Bahamas and Port Canaveral, FL, but with so much to do onboard including the FlowRider and the North Star observation pod, the days at sea will be a highlight of the trip,” she stressed.
Morris likes Carnival Sunrise’s nine-night voyage because it includes two days in Bermuda plus a full day at Grand Turk, in Turks and Caicos. Guests walk off the gangway at Grand Turk Cruise Center, amble down the pier and, presto, they’re on the beach, as the pier is part of Carnival Corporation’s Grand Turk private beach destination.
For a luxurious, leisurely 2021 voyage with port time in Bermuda, the Caribbean and Brazil and disembarkation in Miami, consider Crystal Cruises’ 24-night voyage on the 980-passenger Crystal Serenity. Sailing from New York City to Miami, this voyage is also themed around big bands and ballroom dancing. It’s not a typical New York-to-Miami cruise.
Travelers can put their toes in Bermuda’s pink sands, explore Barbados and other Caribbean isles, witness Brazil’s “Wedding of the Waters” where the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers meet and soak up folkloric culture in Parintins, Brazil. Despite its exotic nature, this cruise begins and ends in the United States, so cruisers won’t need to book overseas flights.
Once onboard, cruisers will find a high level of service. Why not have your butler arrange a romantic dinner on your stateroom balcony, or organize a custom tour with helicopters and private guides?
This ship was also revitalized in 2018 and it now has fewer passengers, allowing for flexible “open seating” in the main dining room. Another plus for those who love Asian cuisine is celebrity chef Nobu Mitsuhisa’s specialty restaurant, Uma Umi and Sushi Bar.
For a premium cruise that departs New York, calls at three Caribbean islands (but not the Amazon) and ends in Fort Lauderdale, consider Princess Cruises’ 10-day “Caribbean Islander” voyage. The 3,560-passenger Regal Princess sails to St. Martin, Antigua and Aruba before arriving in South Florida.
Regal Princess is now operating with “Ocean Medallion Class” so guests can wear a small medallion that interacts with sensors around the ship to personalize the cruise experience. The technology can open stateroom doors, allow guests to order drinks (and have them delivered) wherever they are on the ship, customize entertainment and more.
No one does fantasy better than Disney, so bring a costume for Disney Cruise Line’s five-night “Halloween on the High Seas” departures this fall roundtrip from New York. Families, couples and singles who love the Mouse can enjoy two fun-filled days at sea and two days at King’s Wharf, Bermuda.
Besides the expected onboard Disney character appearances, robust children’s and teen activities, adult programming and spooky Halloween seasonal activities, travelers can head ashore in Bermuda for a “Haunted History Tour of St. George’s,” among other excursions.
In 2018, Disney Magic — with 875 staterooms accommodating 2,713 passengers — was refreshed. A “Tangled”-themed family restaurant called Rapunzel’s Royal Table was added. The ship also now sports a fresh new Vibe teen retreat; a redesigned adult-exclusive Cove Café; a new Club Disney Junior in Disney’s Oceaneer Club; and a redesigned Rainforest Room for adults in the Senses Spa.
Classic Transatlantic Cruises
This summer, Cunard’s 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2 plies the Atlantic Ocean between New York and Southampton, in the United Kingdom. This “crossing” voyage is a throwback of sorts to the “Golden Age of Cruising,” when movie stars and political leaders traveled via liner across the ocean. Today, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience with modern amenities, elegant dining, ballroom dancing, a planetarium, full-service spa, wine tasting, enrichment activities and special event cruises that attract everyone from NASA astronauts to television celebrities.
One longer transatlantic voyage with appealing port calls is Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 15-night “Atlantic Expedition” on the luxurious 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator. It sails from Manhattan to Amsterdam, with a two-day port call at Bermuda plus other calls in the Azores, France and Belgium, before overnighting in Amsterdam.
Orlando and Space Coast Cruises
To combine a Bahamas cruise with a brief visit to Florida’s Space Coast or an Orlando theme park, cruisers might sail on Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,340-passenger Norwegian Dawn, departing on multiple dates this summer. The itinerary includes a day at sea and arrival at Port Canaveral, FL, the next day for a 1pm to 9pm visit — just enough time for a trip to a theme park, the Kennedy Space Center Visitors’ Complex tour or Space Coast beach time.
Then it’s on to Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private Bahamian island experience, before the ship docks in Nassau, the Bahamas for the day, prior to two sea days en route back to New York.
Featured photo by Katarzyna Ostrowska/Unsplash.
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