One of the most iconic cities on Earth and home to a number of its most famous tourist attractions, New York remains one of the world’s must-see destinations. The combination of classic architecture, culture, shopping, entertainment and of course, the opportunity to visit all those places from all those famous films you grew up with are all reasons why you should go, but taking a bite out of The Big Apple before or after your cruise means you can combine the experience of what could be the ultimate city break with the most historic of ocean voyages; the transatlantic cruise.
Saluted in the world of cruising most directly by Holland America Line, who christened their Nieuw Amsterdam vessel in honour of city’s original name (it was colonised by the Dutch in 1624), New York truly was one of the original cruise destinations, back in the days before planes, when crossing the Atlantic from Britain to New York was an epic journey and the only way to travel was on the waves. Take a cruise to New York with a number of some of the world’s biggest cruise lines, such as Cunard, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean and you’ll arrive in the city’s famous harbour, watched over by the Statue of Liberty just as all the settlers of the early 20th century were all those years before.
OK, so New York’s not a destination especially known for its choice in beaches, but for the purposes of blog consistency if nothing else, it can in fact contribute a number of them. With its rich Russian heritage, Brighton Beach is a free stretch of sand close to Coney Island, Brooklyn, which is a little off the beaten path but rewarding if you’re in search of some cultural authenticity with your sun. For all the fun of the fair, there is of course the beach at Coney Island itself – probably the most popular beach and most similar to the tourist resorts you’d visit on your bank holiday trip to the coast in the UK. Not to be confused with Long Beach in Los Angeles the City by the Sea, as it is also known, was originally developed as ‘the Riviera of the East’, with buildings constructed in a Mediterranean style. After chequered history, the area entered a period of growth and renewal and though it is currently being refurbished following the devastation wrought by last year’s Hurricane Sandy, it’s still home to one of the whitest beaches to be found on the coast and offers the perfect seaside escape from the big city.
Broadway, billboards, glitz, glamour, neon lights – New York’s THE place for dinner and a show, so if you find yourself with a night or two in the city that never sleeps, stay up late and take in one of the many performances on offer in theatre land. There are so many shows to choose from, so no matter what floats your boat theatrically, this is certainly the place to dive in. During their runs, many of these shows are some of the city’s biggest tourist attractions but if your budget can’t stretch to attending a performance, it’s enough just to walk around and soak up the bustling atmosphere, and who knows, you may even catch sight of someone famous and not necessarily a star who’s performing on stage – this is New York after all! As well as the theatres, there’s a huge choice when it comes to dining and most of the restaurants open late to cater for the theatre-going public.
Think of greenery in New York and you can’t fail to picture the huge famous rectangle of leafy abundance that is Central Park and it’s the nearest place for fans of the outdoors to escape the hustle-bustle of the city. It is in itself one of the city’s most famous attractions and though it can’t claim to be natural (it is in fact entirely man-made) it’s a master class in landscaping, offering all manner of forests, gardens lakes, lawns and features. Take a stroll, or even a horse cart ride through the park, have a picnic, even feed the ducks! For animal lovers, there is of course Central Park Zoo, home to more than 1,400 species of animals, including a number of rare birds; it’s a real natural oasis in the city and a great way to get closer to nature while still being in the city.
There are of course, a huge number of architectural sites in New York which are culturally important and if you’ve never visited, the aforementioned Statue of Liberty is a must. If you’re not content with viewing it from your ship, then the Staten Island ferry will take you there for free. The Empire State Building is another must but the best views of the city are to be had from the Rockefeller Centre’s ‘Top of the World’ observation deck, which as you may have guessed, is pretty high up. The neon wonderland of Time Square is arguably the city’s most celebrated cultural hub and the stuff of New York big screen legend, where you’ll find shopping and entertainment choices galore, as well as all the latest fashions. Fifth Avenue meanwhile, is the place for that upmarket boutique experience and a golden opportunity for people-watching, if the budget won’t stretch to a label-heavy spree. For an altogether more poignant cultural experience, the 9/11 Memorial honours the almost 3,000 people who lost their lives in the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks, where visitors can pause for reflection at the two huge pools which were once the places where the World Trade Centre’s twin towers stood.
By Simon Brotherton
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