There is no such thing as a mid-day arrival after a Transatlantic passage into the harbor of New York City and therefore a bucket list item for everyone! I remember how disappointed we were upon check-in in Southampton, that our scheduled overnight stay on the Bermudas had to be cancelled due to heavy storms over the Atlantic Ocean. And that the ship had to evade towards Madeira instead. But what was a tremendous frustration at first sight, turned out to be a marvelous day-time experience that most cruisers do not get to see when crossing the Atlantic.
What a crossing! After the change in the itinerary and our visit to the beautiful island of Madeira (ok, it was beautiful, but hey, could there be anything adequate around to make up for a missed overnight stay on the Bermudas????), we faced five rocky days at sea before reaching the safe haven of New York.
This was our fourth passage from Europe to the New World and by far the most uncomfortable one. Winds and waves were so strong, that you could hardly do anything but hanging around either in your cabin or on a comfortable lounger in the Observation Lounge on the top deck.
The outside decks were closed for the majority of the trip between Madeira and New York and on the worst days, the spray was whipped as high as Deck 16 and you could feel the entire ship shaking whenever a breakwater smashed against the bow and the sides.
We were dining one night in one of the speciality restaurants aboard and all of a sudden, the entire wine shelf was emptying itself over the floor. What a mess! We had my best friend and her husband along. It was their very first cruise and they truly fought hard with the movement that we continuously faced at sea.
But it was not before the last night that wind and waves had finally lessened and as always during a passage, the day suddenly appeared as if nothing had happened before. The temperatures were still fierce, but the sight was crystal clear and the sun surprised us with a marvelous firework of colors, just as if she wanted to apologize for the trouble that had happened so far.
The captain had informed us during lunch that the scheduled arrival time to the port´s entrance would not be before 10:00am, so that would add at least an additional 45 minutes before reaching the cruise terminals up on 49th Street. Knowing that Queen Mary 2 normally arrives in the early morning hours and docks at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, this would give us the advantage to see the sail-in during daytime plus passing almost the entire island of Manhattan up the Hudson River. Simply amazing!
The morning that we reached New York, we still had enough time to take a cosy in-room breakfast in our stateroom before it was time to keep watch on the balcony. Upon booking, I had chosen a cabin on the starboard side. This would ensure that we would not miss a thing when passing the skyline up the Hudson River.
It was outrageously cold outside. Thank goodness I had packed my winter jacket (it was November), a hat and thick gloves. Otherwise, I think I would have lost all of my ten fingers while waiting for the perfect shots with my camera.
All ships that arrive to/leave from New York have to pass underneath the mighty Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that spans from Brooklyn to Staten Island. This is like the official entrance to the harbor and sailing underneath it is at least as spectacular as passing the Golden Gate in San Francisco or the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver. At least, when it is your first time.
Thanx to the clear sight, the skyline of Manhattan was already glittering in the early morning sunlight in the background and I could not wait until the ship had finally taken the curve into the open basin of the port.
And suddenly, there it was. I don´t know what it is, but New York´s skyline takes my breath away every single time. And I have been hundreds of times there. To me, it is one of the most perfect skylines in the world.
The way, the different architectures and buildings have been put together make it so unique and extraordinary, that even the missing Twin Towers have not changed a thing to it.
After all these days of grey and misty skies, New York welcomed us with a picture perfect winter´s day. My fingers were almost frozen already from standing all the time on the balcony, but thanx to my loving hubby, I could warm them up on a steaming hot Americano while the city slowly woke up in front of us.
Being able to experience this during daytime was such an extraordinary experience, and I felt so happy to be able to be here in this very special moment. All the frustration about the missed stop on the Bermudas were wiped away instantly.
Our friends´ cabin and ours were only separated by one cabin in between us, and it was funny to watch how the four of us were clamped to the railing while staring with astonishment at the scenery that slowly passed us.
How beautiful this was. How out of the ordinary. It makes such a big difference to arrive by ship into the city than by plane. Even though the view from the clouds can be (depending on the route) definitely similarly impressive as this one. But there was a different touch to it.
It were the feelings that aroused from deep inside. A mixture of relief to have made it over the Atlantic Ocean and the happiness of finally reaching land again. For a moment I felt like an immigrant long time ago, who had left his home to find a new life. Full of hope and expectations and maybe with a little sorrow of leaving the world behind, that had given home and shelter for so many years.
I could literally feel the anxiousness, that these people must have felt as they saw the Statue of Liberty ahead. Not knowing if they were allowed to stay or if they had to leave back home again, with nothing to return to. Shivers ran down my back.
My eyes were glued to the passing skyline. The perspective from Deck 8 onto Manhattan was simply gorgeous. It is a funny feeling to pass a city on a moving highrise, enabling you to see this concrete jungle as if you were flying by on a dragon.
Downtown, midtown, it all spread out in front of me. Just as if I could reach out and touch it.
Unfortunately, the journey came soon to and end and the ship took its last maneuver to dock at the pier. Since this was our first arrival into the United States after leaving Europe, we had to take our passports with us upon leaving the ship as the regular immigration procedures were conducted.
Most pleasantly, we had our scheduled overnight stay in New York City ahead. So as soon as the ship was cleared by customs, we ran to the gangway to begin our NYC adventure.
One day later, it was time to wave good-bye again. The ship departed late in the evening and we stood outside the terrace of the onboard fitness center, which gave excellent panoramic views over the city and the harbor.
And as perfect as the arrival was one day before, as wonderful was our sail away past Lady Liberty that evening. My face muscles needed afterwards at least half an hour to be able to move again, but the wait was well worth it.
This part of the cruise would stay in my memories forever! While the passage to or from New York on Cunard´s QM2 is a thing for itself, this particular timing on our Transatlantic crossing on Celebrity Eclipse was way above expectations! An enriching travel experience not to be missed and therefore an absolute candidate for my section “Fantastic Waterways“.
So my recommendation to you: If you plan to visit the Big Apple by cruise ship, definitely take the time and look closely at the times within the itinerary. Because it makes a huge difference at what time you arrive in New York in terms of lighting. Find out at which terminal the ship is expected to dock (Brooklyn or Manhattan) and decide upon choosing your cabin, at what time of day you would like to see the skyline from your balcony. Starboard for daytime arrival, port side for evening departures from the Manhattan cruise terminals.
This was an extraordinary moment in my cruise life and I hope, I will be able to experience it again in the near future! Here are a few more mouth-watering photos! Enjoy and, as always, share this article if you enjoyed it! Thank you and happy sailing!