Most itineraries are round-trip from New York or Boston. Credit: Shutterstock

Cruise port guide to New York City

Author: Sarah Riches

Published on:

Updated on:

Step into film sets and discover vibrant food halls, night markets and street art in the Big Apple’s hipster neighbourhoods, says Sarah Riches

There’s really nothing new about New York.

Native Americans were living here 13,000 years ago, and the first European – Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano – arrived in 1524.

A century later, Dutch colonists established the settlement of New Amsterdam on what is now known as Governor’s Island, and in 1664 this became New York when the land passed into British hands as one of 13 crown colonies along the northeast coast.

Discontent with British rule prompted the American Revolution, with the colonies uniting to gain independence, and George Washington taking office as the first US president in 1789.

New York became the city we know today when Manhattan joined forces with Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx in 1898. Immigration rocketed, and now 8.3 million New Yorkers, their forebears from all over the world, live in the city’s five boroughs.

Today, the Big Apple is a dynamic, multicultural metropolis renowned for its skyline, diverse culture and global influence in the arts and entertainment, and world-class shopping.

It’s time for a visit.

9/11 Memorial’s twin pools. Credit: Shutterstock

Three unmissable things to do

Statue of Liberty

From Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, hop on a ferry bound for Liberty Island to get up close to the Statue of Liberty.

A symbol of freedom and democracy, the copper-skinned monument was completed in 1884 under the direction of the architect Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution.

After admiring the harbour, you can climb up inside the statue’s crown to enjoy a panorama across Manhattan. There’s an engaging exhibition, too, so allow three hours for your visit.

9/11 Memorial

This museum makes for a sobering afternoon as it documents the terror attack on 11 September 2001 and honours the lives lost that day. Situated on the site of the former World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, it opened in 2011 and has since been visited by world leaders and dignitaries including the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Exhibits include victims’ personal belongings salvaged from the wreckage, steel beams from the Twin Towers and recordings of survivor testimonies.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Known simply as the Met, this national gallery opened its doors in 1870 in the middle of Central Park.

While its Beaux-Arts façade is characterised by arches and columns, the interior features domes and a marble staircase with a mosaic floor.

Its 490,000-strong collection spans the globe, from Egyptian, Roman and Greek art to African works and a contemporary costume gallery.

Permanent exhibits include celebrated works such as Vincent van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat,” Pablo Picasso’s “The Dreamer,” and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci.

Explore colourful New York for the first, or fifth time. Credit: Canva

Three activities for repeat visitors


Been to New York before and keen for a new experience?

For something beyond the city’s typical attractions, learn more about the US’s dark past on a Slavery & the Underground Railroad walking tour.

The railroad was a network of routes, places and people who helped enslaved Africans in the American South escape to the north.

Highlights include an African burial ground discovered during construction work in 1991, which is now a national memorial.


Could you be the next Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat?

For a deep dive into the city’s creative scene, consider joining a street art tour and graffiti workshop. Founder of Like A Local Tours, Lauren J Beebe, says, “Whether you choose Bushwick in Brooklyn or the Lower East Side of Manhattan, you will get hands-on experience creating your own piece of art.

It’s a unique way to engage with the city’s culture and leave your mark, quite literally! Plus, I think it gives you a deeper appreciation for the street art you will see around every corner in these neighbourhoods.”


For a fresh perspective on the city, swap New York’s bustling streets for the High Line, a former elevated railway track on the west side of Manhattan that is now a leafy landscape lined with art installations, street performers and locals having picnics.

Like A Local’s Lauren adds, “The High Line is a testament to New York’s ability to reinvent and repurpose its spaces into something new and beautiful.”

Trying local dishes in New York like pastrami sandwiches. Credit: Shutterstock

Four activities for curious travellers

Solo explorers

Hankering for hot dogs, pining for pizza or craving a Cronut?

If you’re travelling alone and don’t want to eat lunch at a table for one, then join an outing with Secret Food Tours.

By facilitating shared experiences – such as visiting an on-trend food hall like DeKalb Market Hall in downtown Brooklyn; trying local dishes like pastrami sandwiches, bagels or cheesecake; or tasting unfamiliar ingredients at a market – its foodie tours are designed to create connections among like-minded travellers.

You might even come away with a new travel buddy who will explain what a Cronut is – a croissant and doughnut hybrid.


A couple of streets from Green-Wood Cemetery – an eerily beautiful 19th century graveyard – is Industry City,
a historic warehouse developed by the team behind the fashionable food hall Chelsea Market.

Lauren Beebe says, “This huge complex represents Brooklyn’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, making it a must-visit. See where things are made, then shop, eat great food and imbibe from its brewery, distillery or sake producers. Visiting is an opportunity to support local businesses and take part in workshops or tastings that offer a deeper connection to the city’s culture.”


Teens can be hard to please on holiday but you’ll know yours are secretly into Summit One Vanderbilt by the number of selfies they take and post on Instagram.

Flanked by the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Centre, this skyscraper – which opened in 2020 – features an external glass-bottomed lift and an observation deck with a walk-on glass platform suspended 335m above the city streets.

But that’s not all. Expect interactive digital screens, mind-bending mirrored halls that appear to go on for ever and playful installations by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

Multi-gen families

Who doesn’t love a good show?

A matinee musical on Broadway such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long- running Cats is a guaranteed crowd- pleaser. Diehard theatre fans might also want to visit the Museum of Broadway or delve behind the scenes of the New Amsterdam Theatre with Talk Walks, where you can try on costumes from Aladdin and The Lion King.

Meanwhile, on an Inside Broadway Tour, actors divulge tips on how to make it in showbiz.

You'll be spoilt for choice for places to eat. Credit: Shutterstock

Three places to eat


You can’t visit New York and not have a burger. But a patty with limp lettuce and plastic cheese just won’t cut it.

Lauren Beebe says, “Superiority Burger in the East Village makes the critics’ pick list in just about every food publication. It’s a mostly vegetarian and vegan menu, and there might be a queue, but it’s certainly worth the wait. Plus, if you’ve never been to the East Village, you’re in a prime location for other cheap eats, shops and bars.” For dessert, try Junior’s Restaurant, which is renowned for its cheesecake.


The Standard Grill, nestled in the heart of the trendy Meatpacking District, may be part of the Standard Hotel, but you’ll find plenty of locals dining on its legendary duck breast and crispy potatoes.

“The Standard’s proximity to the High Line and the Whitney Museum of American Art makes it an ideal stop after a morning’s sightseeing,” says Lauren. “The restaurant’s chic ambience, combined with its classic American cuisine, captures the essence of dining in New York. Plus, a few blocks down you’ll find picturesque Greenwich Village.”


For a truly exceptional dining experience, consider Manhatta in lower Manhattan, a sophisticated skyscraper setting where executive chef Justin Bogle serves dishes such as sunchoke and black truffle dumpling with brown butter consommé, followed by a slice of chai tea cake with pear sorbet and pecan oat crumble.

Lauren Beebe says, “Manhatta stands out for its cuisine and extraordinary vantage point 60 floors up. Afterwards, you can walk off your meal with a stroll around the Financial District and South Street Seaport.”

Opt for the subway when travelling around New York. Credit: Canva

How to travel responsibly

Go beyond Manhattan’s tourist trail by visiting an outer borough and spread a little tourist wealth to parts of the city that don’t normally see it.

Get there on the subway (underground), take the bus for a more scenic route or – better still – walk or cycle to reduce your carbon footprint.

Exploring at a leisurely pace also means you’ll discover unexpected gems such as Brooklyn Bridge Park, which has a panorama of the Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn Bridge and a restored 1920s carousel.

It’s also close to Time Out Market in the gentrified district of DUMBO which has nothing to do with the cartoon elephant – the acronym stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Trip planner

You’ve been vowing to visit – or revisit – New York for years, so make it happen in 2024 by taking a cruise that calls into the city’s harbour.

Viking’s 12-night 'Eastern Seaboard Explorer' cruise aboard Viking Mars, from Montreal to New York City via Quebec City, Halifax and Boston, departs on 12 September 2024, from £6,240 including flights.

MSC’s seven-night 'United States and Canada' cruise aboard MSC Meraviglia, return from New York via Boston, Portland, Saint John and Halifax, departs on 12 May 2024, from £439.

Related articles

About Sarah Riches

After a five-year stint living in Asia, Sarah was inspired to become a travel journalist. Sarah has freelanced for Condé Nast Traveller and National Geographic Traveller and is the author of London Almanac (2010) and Culture Smart! The Essential Guide to British Customs & Culture (2024). She was also the deputy editor of Time Out Abu Dhabi, Where London and London Planner, digital editor of Wanderlust – the UK’s oldest travel magazine.