Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Floating Around Manhattan on a Circle Line Tour

Sightseeing at the Statue of LibertyYou know us by now right? - I like to take photos and I'm a nerd for pretty much all things geographical. My wife likes her urban comforts and the sight of a coffee shop in a big city. We both also like taking random tours and seeing places from a different perspective.

So it came as no surprise that we ended up taking a guided boat tour around the island of Manhattan. It turns out that even in February we were not alone. We were just 2 of a couple of hundred others who had bought tickets to spend 3 hours on the Circle Line Full Island Cruise that day.

 Being February, we were again very lucky that the weather was dry and sunny with bright blue skies (though still cold and by the end of the tour were very glad we'd still dressed up warm for the occasion). To begin the tour we waited in a very long line at the time we'd been told to. The wait was for the other passengers from the previous tour to disembark the boat. Eventually we boarded the ship but not before they'd made everyone wait for people to have their photo taken in front of the boat which would be attempted to be sold to them later. We're not ones for having our photos taken, especially when it's not our own camera, so when we eventually got to the point where they were calling us forward we asked to skip it and instead made our way onto the ship and up to the open top deck.

With the sun there and in our warm coats it was rather pleasant. Once everyone was on-board and the guide on the boat had introduced himself, the tour and the safety stuff, we set off into the Hudson River. The tour went around Manhattan anti-clockwise so first up were scenes of the lower west side of the island - with the Empire State Building poking up from the urban jungle.

Empire State Building from the Hudson River

As we passed by the Chelsea piers there were sights like Pier 54 - the former Cunard White Star Line Pier where some of the survivors from the Titanic disaster were brought after their rescue and as far as I understand, it's where the Titanic would have docked had it made it across the Atlantic safely (though what is there now is the tiniest symbolic piece of a large complex that existed at the time).

Pier 54 Hudson River

Then we saw the financial district of lower Manhattan and the scenes here became familiar from our trip on the Staten Island Ferry from our previous time in New York.

Downtown Skyline NYC

The main difference to the skyline being the construction of One World Trade Center. Before we motored around the point of the island and into the East River, there was a detour into the bay where we saw Ellis Island

Ellis Island NYC

And the Statue of Liberty a bit closer up than last time on the Staten Island Ferry - this wasn't the closest pass of the Statue, we did get closer but everyone's seen a million photos of that landmark... this is what it looks like with people taking photos of it.

Statue of Liberty from a sightseeing boat

 The financial district loomed over head as we were passing by.

Manhattan from the East River

 As did the tall ship at South Sea Port

South Street Seaport from the East River

Before long we we were approaching the famous Brooklyn Bridge which we walked across last time.

Brooklyn Bridge from Below

 This time we got a different perspective from underneath the bridge.

The underside of the Brooklyn Bridge

 Here are some of the other highlights of the cityscape and scenery along the way:

Brooklyn & Williamsburg Bridges with the Statue of Liberty
New York Skyline
Power Station and the Chrysler building
As Norngirl pointed out in her post about this tour and the shape of Manhattan, I too was intrigued to discover how far up from Central Park Manhattan actually extends. Most surprising was this part of the tour... the Harlem River. As you leave the East River, you find many bridges. Such as Ward's Island Bridge.

East River and Ward's Island Bridge

 Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium from the River

 The High Bridge Water Tower

The High Bridge Water Tower from the River

Did I mention bridges? Here are some more!

Harlem River Bridges
Broadway Bridge on the Harlem River

 And some rather striking buildings and man made creations...

Reisdential Building on the Bronx Waterfront
Funky Building on the Harlem River
Big C

 Not to mention the place where all the subway trains are taken.

Subway Storage

The most pleasantly surprising part of the whole tour for me was waiting for us where the Harlem meets the Hudson River. For just a mile from one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world there is an almost picturesque setting.

Yes this is New York City Panorama

Almost amazed at the scenery only a stones throw from one of the most populated places on earth, we passed under the Washington Bridge along the upper West side.

George Washington Bridge
Jeffrey's Hook Light

At this point the sun was beginning to set and most folks headed inside. Norngirl and me and the competitive couple behind us braved the cold as we'd all come prepared. I can happily say I may have not been able to feel my hands or legs afterwards but I made it the whole way around above deck (#thingsIprobablyshouldntbeproudofbutreallyreallyam) It was worth staying out there for the sunset and the reflection of red and orange bouncing off the glass windows of the buildings in the Manhattan skyline.

Sunset reflected back into the Hudson River

 And the more relaxed view of New Jersey.

New Jersey Sunset

 As I was just about loosing the feeling in my camera holding hand we made it back past the Intrepid

Big buildings, Big Aircraft Carrier

 And docked by the other Circle Line boats.

Sunset on a boat tour

The trip was certainly worth doing, we got a perspective of the size and shape of Manhattan that I think would be very hard to visualise in any other way. Our guide for the day was very good and very diplomatic in his history... and was very kind to us Brits even though if I do say so myself, we have a somewhat pesky past in some parts of the world. For the length of the trip and the distance travelled I'd say it was actually pretty good value though I'd had maybe been in two minds had it of been terrible weather. I got a lot out of it on the day we went though as with most sightseeing trips, a lot of the enjoyment probably boils down to the weather that day. We were happy with our trip and I know this sight will stick in my memory for a long time:

Manhattan from the boat

Certainly well worth a few hours if you want to experience it for yourself. Personally, if we ever make it back to New York again, we want to go in a warmer month when the speed boat might be running... that looked like awesome fun too!

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