The last time that I took a trip on the Circle Line was in 1990 on my first visit to New York. When I left the end of W42nd Street for a tour around Manhattan that day, I had no idea how deeply connected I would become to the city and to Hell’s Kitchen. There’s a special place in the heart of visitors for this cruise service — “There’s not a soul that comes to this city that doesn’t want to see the city from this perspective,” said singer and HK native Alicia Keys, who performed a show on the Circle Line in 2017.

Sailing under the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Tappen Zee Bridge
Sailing under the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Tappen Zee Bridge. All photos: Phil O’Brien

Yesterday, we were invited to go on a Spring Fling Day Cruise by the folks at New York Cruise Line (who run Circle Line, North River Lobster Company and La Barca Cantina — and are advertising partners with The trip is a special adventure as you sail up the Hudson all the way to Ossining — heading under the George Washington and the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Tappen Zee Bridges.

Circle Line was founded in 1945 with ships that had been used as Navy landing vessels in the Philippines, South Pacific and China during the Second World War. The company has now taken more than 80 million tourists out on the rivers around Manhattan. In January 2009, they even took part in the rescue of “Sully’s Plane” — US Airways Flight 1549 — when it landed in the Hudson River at the end of W42nd Street.

Our journey lasted four-and-a-half-hours — and there’s what they call a “light narration” from a tour guide. For the curious — and we won’t spoil your trip by giving the stories away — you get the chance to learn interesting anecdotes about everything from Rosie the Riveter to Randolph Hearst and from Psycho to Howard Stern. During the trip, an Americana and country-rock band, Divining Rod, played a mix of soulful originals and eclectic covers — which we enjoyed from the deck below as background music while others sat up close and personal and enjoyed the show. We took along books and papers to sit and read — we could have been on the Rhine or Danube. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday on the river with the bright skies and the sights.

Leaving Manhattan behind under the George Washington Bridge
Leaving Manhattan behind under the George Washington Bridge.

The cruise is taking place every Saturday and Sunday through to May 15. The triple-decker ship departs at 10am and returns at 2:30pm. Tickets begin at $49. More details here…

Leaving Hell's Kitchen and Hudson Yards behind
Leaving the cruise ships of Hell’s Kitchen and Hudson Yards behind.
Little Red Lighthouse George Washington Bridge
The Little Red Lighthouse nestled under the George Washington Bridge.
Sing Sing Prison
The ship turns around at Ossining opposite Sing Sing Prison.
Divining Rod band play on Circle Line
Divining Rod band entertains during the cruise.
Dobbs Ferry
Dobbs Ferry is one of the towns you might have seen before from the train, but not from the river.
VIA and W57th Street Billionaires Row
Looking down Billionaires’ Row — VIA and W57th Street.
Circle Line America's Favorite
The Circle Line calls itself “America’s Favorite Boat Ride”.

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  1. If you are interested in reading a brief eye-opening history about New York harbor
    read “Crime Circles Manhattan” By Jeremiah Timothy Driscoll.

    “From Sheepshead Bay to New York Harbor, this 1980 non-fiction book is an expose of New Yorks City’s decades of corruption, indifference and methodical destruction of its waterfront’s potential. “The history of New York sightseeing by water, Circle Line, and how it became the last remaining sightseeing line.
    It is also interesting in retrospect for its call for the real potential of multiple commuter ferry services, with proposed routes and schedules, to be recognized by the City, at a time when the City called the idea “unfeasible”.”

  2. As a native New Yorker this is an eye-opener! I haven’t taken the Circle line either in decades. You have inspired me to go for it. Thank you for the info.

  3. My teenage nieces are visiting this summer and we are taking them on this – to show them the island all around. I think I’m more excited than they are now!

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