Our trip was a stay and cruise.
We flew from Edinburgh to Newark New Jersey with Continental Airlines which was a good experience, well looked after and not the worst legroom. In-flight personal amusements were good.
Our stay was at the Hilton Penn Station and make sure you understand, that is at Newark NJ and not at Penn Station New York.
This hotel was good and although we were not made aware that there was a free shuttle between the airport and hotel, it does exist. Take the Sky Train at the airport (monorail) to station P4 and the shuttle coach will arrive shortly. Incidentally, if you have time to kill on the return, as RCI kick you off the ship in the morning) you can get a shuttle here to take you to the New Jersey Mall. 9$ return and they run till past 8pm and frequently.
The hotel is just across the road from Penn Station Newark and is only 2 stops from Penn Station New York. One full tiket and one senior ticket-returns about $13 each.
The journey takes about 20 min. and they run about half hourly at least to midnight if not beyond.
Most of the things to see are within walking distance if you are fit but there is a subway system that might be useful.
There are several companies offering bus trips around New York. City Bus Trips offer a $50 package that lasts for 3 days and includes an evening tour. These are hop on, hop off buses and there are different routes and run frequently.
The Rockefeller building is good to visit to the top (Top of the Rock) and gives great views north to Central Park and south to the Empire State Bdg and in the distance, the statue of liberty.
Tickets for Broadway shows can be booked on the day in Time Square at 40% discount but are not always available. 2:0pm and evening shows available.
The cruise leaves out of Bayonne New Jersey, not the cruise terminal in NY. A shuttle can be booked from the hotel in Newark for $47.
Portland Maine is the first port and if you don't want to pay for excursions, the local Metro Bus does a loop around town and also runs to surrounding areas all day for $5.
To be honest, there is not a lot to see. The observatory is an interesting visit.
Bar Harbor was the jewel in the crown for us. Again the local buses are free. They cover the whole island and the only charge is $5 to enter the national park. You can hop of and on and switch between them. The mountain climb is the only destination not covered by them. The coast and countryside is great with trails for pedestrians and bikes. The town is quaint but tourist orientated. Whale watching is available but not running when we were there.
St John and Halifax were not sufficiently unlike home for us and the weather was not good. The maritime museum at Halifax was interesting as was the immigrant museum adjacent to the ship berth.
The reversing falls at St John could be impressive if you were there long enough to see both tides but otherwise......
Boston has hop on hop off buses for $20 which includes a harbour sailing. You can do the circuit then take the boat around the harbour, get off at "Old Ironside" get back on the bus from there and return to visit Quincy's market etc. A nice city.
The transfer to the airport from the ship is bookable but I can't remember how much it was. We were able to book in our bags in the morning and get the shuttle bus to the Jersey Mall. You can easily get a train back into NY but this was the 10th of September and preparations were being made for 9/11 and we didn't take the chance of delays to transportation back to the airport.
Exporer of the seas is a nice ship and didn't feel crowded with +3000 passengers.