Which New York Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?

One of the best and most unique ways to enjoy New York’s skyline is on the water! There are a number of different cruises and tours that circle Manhattan, offering commentary on many of the major sites around the island.  How do you know which New York boat tour, cruise, ferry or taxi service is best?  Well, we have come up with a comparison post to help you make your choice.  We have also made note of which of our pay-what-you-like tours are good companions to a particular choice.

Each of the cruises and tours listed below have a cost.  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.  We also compiled a list of free and almost free, water excursions, including the Staten Island Ferry.

Hop-On, Hop-Off Boat Tours

Sail Boats

Statue of Liberty Cruises

Bus/Boat Tour Combos

Tourist Cruises

Dinner Cruises

Night Cruises

Speed Boats

Tourist Cruises


Probably the most popular of the cruise service companies, the Circle Line offers 3 different main sightseeing tours around Manhattan, as well of a number of themed tours, such as a sunset tour. Cruises run daily, and run from 1 – 3  hours in length.  Commentary is provided throughout the tour, and there is a bar on board where guests can purchase drinks.  All Circle Line boats leave from 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!  Likewise, if you are considering a hop-on, hop-off bus ticket for your time in NYC, Open-Loop offers land and water combos starting at $41.



  • Best of NYC — This 3 hour cruise/tour circles around Manhattan and includes commentary on the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Harlem, and Yankee Stadium, among other things.



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.  CitySightseeing also offers both a hop-on, hop-off boat and bus tour and they offer several packages that offer steep discounts.


Hop-on, Hop-off Boat Tours NYC


  • Boats depart from Pier 78 (map) every hour on the hour from 10 am until 4 pm.
  • $29/Adult, $18/Child
  • Can also be booked as a nighttime cruise.
  • Free entry to Madame Tussauds with cruise (online purchase only)
    • Cost is $37 and the ticket includes entry to the Marvel 4D Experience, but not the Ghostbusters: Dimension exhibit. Purchase online only from the Madame Tussauds website. (Scroll down on the tickets page to COMBOS).  NOTE: You must redeem your boat cruise ticket at Madame Tussauds prior to going to the boat cruise. Purchasing



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.

  • Tickets are $28/adults, $25/seniors and military, $20/child + taxes.
  • Goldstar is currently offering tickets for $18.75/adult (limited time).
  • May – October 10: times daily 9:30 am, 10 am, 11 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 5:00 pm.  November – April 5: times daily 10 am, 11:30 pm, 1 pm, 2:30 pm, 4 pm
  • If you are considering purchasing a hop-on, hop-off bus ticket for your time in NYC, then keep in mind that Big Bus Tours offers a 2 or 3 day land and sea combo ticket for $57 which includes this cruise for free.


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This is a hop-on, hop-off service with several terminals, including South Street, DUMBO, the World Financial Center and Midtown. They also offer twilight and night tours.   The entire route takes 90 minutes if you do not get off.  They also offer a rainy day guarantee, which allows you to use your boat ticket at a number of popular indoor attractions.

Ticket Price:


Hop-on, Hop-off Boat Tours NYC


2016 Schedule:

Pier 78 – 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm
World Financial Center – 10:20 am, 11:20 am, 12:20 pm, 1:20 pm, 2:20 pm, 3:20 pm, 4:20 pm
DUMBO – 10:50 am, 11:50 am, 12:50 pm, 1:50 pm, 2:50 pm, 3:50 pm, 4:50 pm
Pier 11 – 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm



Like the previous company, New York Water Taxi offers hop-on, hop-off boat service that takes 90 minutes to complete (if you were to not get off the ferry).  NYWT offers 6 piers to explore compared to 4 with Citysightseeing.

Ticket Costs:

  • $31 – Adult
  • $19 – Child
  • Purchase tickets here.
  • Included for free with the purchase of either the New York Pass or Explorer Pass discount cards.
  • To save 20% on tickets, and you don’t mind jumping through a small hoop, spend a few minutes to sign up for a free membership to Ikea’s Friends and Family. Not only will you save 20% on your NY Water Taxi cruise, you’ll always get discounts at Ikea in ANY country! To take advantage of this discount, join the Ikea family first, and then call New York Water Taxi at 212-742-1969 and mention code IKEA.

  • East River Ferry – The most economical choice for hop-on, hop-off service.  As the name suggests, this ferry service rides the East River and is part of the New York Waterway system, which is not a tourist company.  This is a commuter boat, with single ride tickets starting at just $4 and daily passes at $12.  You can also check more free (and almost free) options to get out on the water.


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Dinner cruises are great because they allow guests to really relax and enjoy the facilities of the cruise, while also seeing different sites around the city. The tours last between 2-3 hours. Prices are typically higher for a dinner cruise, but keep in mind that you are getting both a meal, live music and a tour, so often it could be a good value!  Also, consider booking a reservation for a weekday evening, as prices are usually cheaper (and less busy!) than Friday or Saturday night cruises. Another great way to save, is to take a brunch or lunch tour instead of a dinner tour. Lastly, some of the dinner cruises offer discounts to guests with certain tourists passes. Be sure to check if you qualify!

  • New York dinner cruiseSpirit 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.
  • Hornblower Cruises — Departs from Pier 40 in the West Village and Pier 15 at the South Street Seaport. They also offer special holiday cruises.  The New York Pass entitles you to $10 off any of their cruises plus a complementary glass of champagne.  The flagship Manhattan Dinner Cruise costs $120 per person.
  • World Yacht — Departs from Pier 81. This dinner cruises serves a 4 course meal, and also offers brunch and holiday cruises.


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There are 3 speed boat companies, which offer guests a bit of a thrill ride as well as a tour! These boats travel very fast, make sharp turns, and guests are often splashed with water. These speed boats are usually a huge hit with families.  Additionally, The Beast and The Shark are included on all tourist passes except the City Pass. Be sure to watch the video below so you have a good sense of what to expect!



  • 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.  Departs every hour on the hour 10 am – 6 pm from from Pier 81 (map).
  • The Shark – Very similar to the Beast. Guests get to enjoy guided commentary, music, and an intense thrill ride!  Tour departs from Pier 78 and runs every hour between 10 am and 6 pm.
    • Tickets are $28/adults and $19/children.
    • Get 15% off if you combine this with just one other NYC attraction with the Smart Destinations Build Your Own Tourist Pass.
  • The Sea Wolf – A new and incredible way to experience the New York City skyline by riding a RIB Boat. A RIB Boat is a “Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boat” and sight-seeing on one is a unique and spectacular experience. You are in an open boat, close to the water, feeling the wind blow and seeing the skyline of a fantastic city. You see so much in a short time while your adrenaline rushes through your system. RIBs are both safe and exciting. Tours start from multiple departure points.
    • Tickets for different tours start at $25 .
    • Book online today and use promo code ‘FTBF’ to receive a 5% discount at check out.
The Sea Wolf


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Many of the cruise companies that we’ve already listed also offer sunset and evening tours! The New York City skyline is beautiful at all hours, but it’s especially nice when lit up at night. Remember, this is the city that never sleeps, so a night cruise is a great way to see New York really come alive after dark!

Also, consider learning more about the sites you’ll be seeing by taking our daily 10 am Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO or SoHo, Little Italy Chinatown tours, or follow your cruise up with our 8pm Midtown Manhattan tour!

  • NYC – CitySightseeing Cruise – 90 min twilight/night cruise is probably the most popular choice for visitors to NYC, due to it’s price.  Cruises depart at 7:30 pm (19:30) from Pier 78 (map).
  • Water Taxi – 60 min Statue by Night Tour.  Highlights include on complimentary glass of champagne for adults and a cash bar.   Cruises depart at 7:30 pm (19:30) from Pier 16/South Street Seaport (map).
    • Adults $31, children $19.
    • Included for free with a the Explorer Pass.  It is not available with the other tourist passes.
  • Circle Line – 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).


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Sail Boat Cruises 

  • New York Sail boatClassic Harbor Line — There are 3 types of boats available, including the Luxury Yaht Manhattan, the Schooner Adirondack, and the Schooner America 2.0. Each offer different tours of surrounding sites, as well as a brunch option.
  • Manhattan by Sail —  Manhattan by Sail  has 2 different types of boats including the Shearwater and Clipper City, though each runs a huge variety of tours. Manhattan by Sail is a good option for those using the NY Pass as it is also included.


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Statue Cruises is the only company that is allowed to drop guests on Liberty Island. They depart from 2 locations. The first is in Lower Manhattan, and the closest subway stations are Bowling Green, which is accessed by the 4 and 5 trains and South Ferry Station, which is accessed by the 1 train.   Read our post on how to get to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

If you are not interested in actually visiting Liberty Island, but would still like to get a close up look at the Statue of Liberty, then consider taking one of the many boat tours that cruise nearby. They do not allow guests off at the island, but do offer great views and commentary on its history.

  • Circle Line Cruises — As stated above, this is the most popular cruise company in NYC. They offer a wide variety of tours, but the three most popular that include the Statue of Liberty are:
  • Water Taxi – 60 min Statue by Night Tour.  Highlights include on complimentary glass of champagne for adults and a cash bar.  Adults $31, children $19.  It is included for free with a the Explorer Pass.  It is not available with the other tourist passes.  Cruises depart at 7:30 pm (19:30) from Pier 16/South Street Seaport (map).
  • The Shark — Speedboat that passes directly by the Statue of Liberty.  Guests get to enjoy guided commentary, music, and an intense thrill ride!
    • Tickets are $29 adults and $23 children (prices as of September  2016)
  • Spirit Cruises – This company specializes in dinner cruises, but their trips from Manhattan each include views of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Lady Liberty Cruises – A 4 hour cruise that departs from Port Washington and then heads toward the New York Harbor for an intimate view of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Staten Island Ferry — This is by far the most budget friendly option, as it’s completely free!! To learn more, check out our post on the Staten Island Ferry.

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Bus/Boat Tour Combos 

If you interested taking both a boat and bus tour while visiting New York, it’s often cheapest to purchase those two tickets as part of a combo deal.

CitySights is offering a pretty good combo deal. – $225/adults + $215/children – includes a 15 minute helicopter ride, 2 days of hop-on, hop-off bus services, a 90 minute boat cruise and free entry to both the Museum of the City of New York and the New York Historical Society.  Many of CitySights packages include boat tours.

Big Bus — With the purchase of a Deluxe Big Apple ticket, guests receive a “free” sightseeing boat tour.

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