Cruise from New York – the essential guide

“It’s hard to put just how fantastic New York is into words. We had a packed 3 days with great sightseeing, good food and fun activities – everything from skyscrapers, boat rides and world-class museums to Broadway and neon lights. It was a perfect way to start our vacation before boarding a luxury cruise for complete relaxation!”

New York City is a city for all seasons. From the hustle and bustle of summer to the more laid-back pace of winter, there are many sights to see and activities to do in New York. But what if you only have 3 days to explore before you cruise from New York? This article helps you decide how to spend your time in the city before you begin your cruise adventure! 

How to get from the airport to your hotel in New York

There are three main airports servicing New York city.

The most expensive way to travel from the airport to your hotel will be a private transfer service by car. You can most often book this directly with your hotel when you make your room reservation.

Alternatively you can travel between the airport and your hotel using one of the following:

JFK International

The airport is located about 21km south of the Manhattan. 

Taxi: A Taxi from JFK to Manhattan will cost around $60 plus tip to your driver (around 15% of your fare). This is the most convenient and direct way to get to your hotel.

Bus: New York City Express bus is the shuttle service that offers transporation from the airport to Midtown Manhattan. A return ticket costs around $35 per person. This will get you into Manhattan but is not a door-to-door service.

Shuttle Bus: Go Airlink NYC offers a good shared-ride shuttle service from the airport directly to your hotel. You book online before you leave home. Beware though your journey time may be extended depending upon the number of hotels the shuttle bus stops at. A ticket costs around $25 per person.

Train: There is also a commuter train and subway combation but we do not recommend this when visiting the city. There are just too many stops and it’s too complicated to navigate with luggage.

Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey

The airport is located approximately 30km west of Manhattan, in New Jersey.

Taxi: A Taxi from Newark Airport to Manhattan will cost around $80 plus tip to your driver (around 15% of your fare). This is the most convenient and direct way to get to your hotel.

Bus: New York City Express bus offers transporation from the airport to Manhattan. Buses go from terminals A, B and C and take you into Midtown Manhattan, but not directly to your hotel. The stops in Midtown Manhattan are:

  • Grand Central Station (41st Street between Park & Lexington Avenues) 
  • Bryant Park (42nd Street & 5th Avenue) 
  • Port Authority Bus Terminal (41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues)  

Unless your hotel is within walking distance you will need to get the subway or taxi from here.

Shuttle Bus: Go Airlink NYC offers a good shared-ride shuttle service from the airport directly to your hotel. You book online before you leave home. Beware though your journey time may be extended depending upon the number of hotels the shuttle bus stops at. A ticket costs around $25 per person.

Train: The Airtrain departs from all 3 of Newark’s terminals and is very convenient, running every 15 minutes. Follow the signs at the airport and buy your ticket at one of the machines before boarding. Get the Airtrain to Newark Liberty Airtrain Station (journey time about 10 minutes) then change trains. You need a New Jersey transit train to get you to New York Penn Station, about a 30 minute ride. A one-way fare is around $16 per person.

La Guardia

As a smaller airport La Guardia services domestic flights and is located just east of Manhattan in Queens.

Taxi: A Taxi from La Guardia Airport to Manhattan will cost around $50 plus tip to your driver (around 15% of your fare). This is the most convenient and direct way to get to your hotel. However, traffic is unpredictable and the journey could take only a half hour, or if busy then over an hour.

Shuttle Bus: Go Airlink NYC offers a good shared-ride shuttle service from the airport directly to your hotel. You book online before you leave home. Beware though your journey time may be extended depending upon the number of hotels the shuttle bus stops at. A ticket costs around $22 per person.

Train/Subway: You can use the underground subway to get to Manhattan from La Guardia. Buy a metrocard at the machines at the airport and follow the signs.

Swipe you card at the entrance to the subway. It will take you to Broadway and W. 106 Street. If you have heavy luggage we do not recommend this option.

Where to stay before you cruise from New York

Let’s start with where to stay before you start your cruise from New York. Staying in Manhattan will enable you to make the most of your stay and get around easily to all the major sites and attractions and experiences the city has to offer.

Here are our recommended hotels in Manhattan!

Sixty SOHO

Sixty SOHO is a edgy, intimate hotel in the heart of new york’s Soho district. This is a good choice if you are a couple travelling. You will find shopping, restaurants and nightlife within walking distance. There is a great restaurant and a wonderful rooftop bar, A60, where you can see the NY skyline in all its glory.

The hotels standard rooms are quite small but beautifully furnished. Perfect for a couple, however a family of 4 with older kids you would need to book 2 rooms. What we love about this hotel is the location. You are right in between Lower Manhattan and Midtown, and very close to the vibrant Greenwich Village.

Courtyard by Marriott Soho

This Courtyard by Marriott hotel is great is you are a family and need a room for maximum 4 people. They offer rooms with two double beds, alternatively a double bed and a sofa that converts to a double. Perfect if you are travelling with kids, tweens or teenagers and you want to save on the cost of booking two separate rooms.

Holiday Inn Manhattan 6th Avenue, Chelsea

Located about a 12 minute walk from the Empire State Building, this Holiday Inn is in a good, convenient location. They have family rooms that comfortably sleep up to 4 guests, and as with all Holiday Inn hotels you can include the price of breakfast in your booking if you want to.

Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan

If you want to really be in amongst the bright neon lights then the Crowne Plaza Times Square is a hugely popular choice with visitors. Located on Broadway, you are within walking distance of all Midtown Manhattan sights. And Strawberry Fields in Central Park is less than a 30 minute walk from your hotel.


What we love about this trendy hotel is the City Kitchen, a food market open 7 days a week offering a taste of the city’s best dishes. Right at your hotel.

Holiday Inn Wall Street

Do you prefer the buzz of Downtown and want to be close to the Financial District? Then this is the hotel for you. Well priced for the location and surrounded by cafes, bars and restaurants, Holiday Inn will give you comfortable accommodation and excellent front-desk service.

3 ways to see the best of the city before you cruise from New York

When it comes to what to see and where to start, we cover three broad areas of the city, each of which you can explore as much or as little as you have time for. And in any order you like.

In a city with so much to offer, it’s a good idea to add a pocket guide book to your cruise packing list so you don’t miss anything. And remember not to just walk it, but explore too. Take time in the New York library, or the One World Obervatory, or boating in Central Park, depending on what you want most out of your trip. Travelling with kids or teenagers? They will love New York too, we promise!

Day 1: Lower Manhattan

9/11 Memorial and Museum

Start early at Ground Zero. Site of the former World Trade Center and now the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Experience through media and naration the effects of the events of 9/11 and see and read the stories for yourself. The memorial is free but you will need to purchase museum tickets in advance. This is an incredible experience and we spent around 2 hours here, so start early to make the most of your visit.

As you leave the memorial remember to look up at the spectacular architecture surrounding you. Go inside the Oculus. That’s the building of white graceful lines that looks like wings. It’s the transportation hub of the World Trade Center. Go inside to explore the plaza and shopping mall.

When you leave, walk 10 minutes south to arrive at the Federal Hall National Memorial, just at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street. Stand besides the statue. You are now on the spot  where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States in 1789. 

Trinity Church and Stock Exchange

From here walk straight up Broadway until you reach Trinity Church. where you will find the grave of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers and the historical figure portrayed in the Broadway hit, Hamilton.

Walk over to the Stock Exchange but expect long queues if you want to go inside. The neoclassical facade hides a hive of activity, with traders shouting their messages to each other and constant news updates on giant screens.

After some photos besides the famous bronze bull, grab a morning coffee and pass the bronze Charging Bull statue to sit in Bowling Green Park, the oldest public park in New York. 

Battery Park, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Continue towards the Cunard Building which now houses the New York Post Office and take a look in at the beautiful interior, before heading towards Battery Park.

Lying alongside New York’s harbor, Castle Clinton National monument marks the spot where the first immigrants into NYC landed. Walk through Battery Park and you’ll see one of the most iconic views of New York, the Statue of Liberty. Here you can buy a ticket to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

A visit to Ellis Islands immigration museum will take you a good couple of hours and we bought a ticket through statue city cruises. The last entrance is at 5pm so aim to be on the ferry by mid-afternoon at the latest.  We bought a priority entrance ticket with access to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island with the audio tour. But if you buy a New York City Pass you will save on the entrance price when you book.

Day 2: Midtown Manhattan and Central Park

Start you day early at the train station! Your starting point today is the fantastic beaux arts style Grand Central Terminal. Probably the most beautiful train station you will ever visit. The station has been designated a National Historic Landmark and has many snack bars, boutiques and a great food market. So grab a coffee and start your day here.

Empire State Building

Exit Grand Central Station on West 42nd street and walk until you turn south onto 5th Avenue. You will walk past the New York Public Library. If you want to go inside visit the Rose Main Reading Room – famous for  its 50-foot vaulted ceiling and elaborate chandeliers. You can peek inside without any entrance fee.

Continue down 5th Avenue to the Empire State Building. The elevator to the 86th floor (the main deck with open air viewing platform) takes less than a minute. Inside the elevator you see a great movie showing the history of the building of the skyscraper before you get to the exhibits.

The observatory offers 360° views over New York and Central Park 320 m up from the ground. You can see all the way uptown into Harlem or downtown to Brooklyn Bridge. If you have time, take the elevator from the 86th floor up to 102nd floor, the top deck. You’ll have to upgrade your entrance ticket first to do this. This viewing deck is much smaller and glass enclosed.

Tip! If you purchase the New York City Explorer Pass you get entrance to both the Empire State Building and to Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. If visit the Empire State Building in the evening instead, you’ll see the city in lights – an unforgettable sight!

A short 5-minute walk away you can get your fill of shopping before lunch at Macy’s Herald Square. This iconic department store covers a whole block in the heart of New York. Get clothes from Ralph Lauren, cosmetics from Estée Lauder and electronics from Sony all under one roof. Macys is located on Broadway and West 34th Street.

Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Radio City

Head north on 7th Avenue to Times Square and marvel at the neon lights, the noise, the traffic, at one of the word’s best known Squares. From here you can visit Rockefeller Center, Saks 6th Avenue, Radio City Music Hall  and the Museum of Modern Art. This area is packed with sights and endless shopping possibilities.

Rockefeller Center is located on Sixth Avenue and West 48th Street. This iconic building houses commercial offices, restaurants and a famous ice-skating rink in wintertime. You can pay to take an elevator up to the observation deck for some of the best views over Manhattan.

Take your time and enjoy before heading up in the direction of Carnegie Hall, home of the most prestigious concert stage in the USA. From here you are a short walk away to the edge of Central Park.

Central Park and world-class museums

At Central Park you have Metropolitan Museum of Art on one side and the Natural History Museum on the other. The Natural History museum is one of the world’s largest art museums. Pre-book tickets online avoid queues for entrance tickets which can be hours long! There is a whole floor devoted to dinosaur exhibits, with more than 30 fully-mounted skeletons. It’s a great place for kids too.

Enter the center of Central Park and stroll around this vast open space and explore Strawberry Fields (John Lennon’s memorial). Visitors from all over New York City flock here for a breath of fresh air. It’s a much-loved oasis surrounded by skyscrapers.

If you have enough energy, continue further up the east side of the park and visit the famous Guggenheim museum. At the end of your day take a taxi or the subway back to your hotel.

Day 3: Greenwich Village, Union Square and The High Line

What we love about Greenwich Village is that the orderly north-south/east-west grid system of  the city is broken. You find yourself in a tree-lined maze of smaller streets full of charming low-rise brownstones.

Greenwich Village

Explore MacDougal Alley, Washington Mews, Grove Court and Cherry Lane Theater. You’ll soon have an appreciation of how these traditional buildings stand in stark contrast to Manhattan’s modern skyscrapers. And why Greenwich Village is so loved. Walk between West 4th and West 8th streets. It’s packed full of small shops and cafes. The historical italian café Caffe Reggio on MacDougal street is a great place to relax with a coffee.

Washington Square Park and Union Square

Time for a scoop of gelato from DO, Cookie Dough Confections on LaGuardia Pl. and West 3rd St. Walk over to Washington Square Park. Named for George Washington with its iconic arch, here you are mixing with locals, artists, chess players and university students. Head to the fountain. You are now standing where Bob Dylan sang his first protest songs. 

Walk through the arch and onto 5th Avenue. After about 15 minutes turn east onto 15th St and head into Union Square. Here is a busy pedestrian plaza and food market, Green Market, and a good choice of lunch venues.

Exit the park on the other side and head north on Broadway to reach the Flatiron Building. The iconic narrow steel building shaped like an iron. From here we walked about 30 minutes into Chelsea. Once there we made our way to the start of the High Line.

The Highline and Little Island

The Highline is one of the best places to take a walk in New York City. This 2.3 km long park built on an old elevated rail line has become a destination for visitors and locals alike. So much so that it’s worth planning your visit around the schedule of events happening at various points along this stretch. The Highline stretches through Greenwich Village, the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Midtown Manhattan with fantastic views. It’s also an ideal walk to do with kids.

Along The Highline, there are plenty of highlights to see as well as a few places where you can stop for lunch or coffee.

There are multiple starting points for your walk along the Highline. The south end of The Highline is at Gansevoort St. and Washington St. This is where many tours begin if you prefer to have a guide. But we did the walk over a couple of hours by ours with family members of all ages and it was great.

Closeby the Highline in the Meet Packing District, is the newly opened Little Island public park. This wonderful, free public park is located at Pier 55 in Hudson River Park at West 13th Street. Inside the park is an amphitheater, a stage and a plaza where you can buy food and drinks. The idea is that is this outdoor space is open to everyone to enjoy an green oasis in the middle of the city. You can see live performances and listen to music. All with a back drop of the NYC skyline. Find out more information before visiting and what’s on in the park on thier website.

How to get to your Cruise Port from Manhattan

New York has three cruise ports:

Check your cruise ticket to see which port your cruise departs from and allow plenty of time to get there. Traffic can be pretty much a nightmare at any time of day in Manhattan.

We strongly recommend that you pre-book a transfer service with private car from your hotel to your cruise port. Alternatively ask your hotel to book you a taxi cab. There are alternative ways to get there using public transport, but honestly it takes too much time with too many changes along the way. This, together with carrying luggage makes for an exhausting transfer.

Keep it easy and trouble-free by taking a car or taxi. We transfered from our hotel in Greenwich Village to the Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal in Bayonne, NJ for our cruise with Royal Caribbean International. It took nearly an hour. Allow plenty of time to get there. Traffic in New York is chaotic and unpredictable. Even if you arrive at the port earlier than your designated boarding time, you most like will be able to board your cruise within a short time of arriving and checking in.

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Meet the Author

Mattias has nearly 2 decades of travel industry expertise, working with cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, IT providers, hospitality suppliers and everything else in between that makes the travel industry tick. more..