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Bayonne (Cape Liberty) Overview
In 2004, Royal Caribbean, looking for an alternative to New York's overcrowded and under-efficient cruise terminal, moved its ships across the Hudson River to New Jersey. The cruise line set up shop at the former Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal (which has now been renamed the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor) on a 430-acre manmade point of land. And so Cape Liberty Cruise Port got its start.
In preparation for the arrival of RCI's Quantum-class vessels, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, Bayonne's Cape Liberty cruise facility underwent renovations to both accommodate the larger ships and to make passenger traffic flow more smoothly.
The port offers outstanding views of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan. But Bayonne itself is primarily a residential community, rather than a hot spot for tourism. Truth be told, the port is rather drab and industrial looking. Indeed, Bayonne's best asset is its proximity to bustling communities like Hoboken, Jersey City and, of course, the Big Apple, only seven miles (or a 10-minute drive) away. For most folks, the port is close enough to Manhattan to take advantage of all that the city has to offer.
Want to stay close to port? There are still some tourist-worthy diversions, like the city of Hoboken, birthplace of Frank Sinatra and baseball -- at least, that's what the sign says when you enter the city limits. The latter claim has been hotly contested through the years. Hoboken is also known as the "square mile city" because it's only one square mile. It's a pedestrian's dream, with shops and restaurants located within walking distance of the city's train station and ferry terminal. (Thank goodness for that, because parking in Hoboken is no picnic.)
While Hoboken has become an "in" place for young urban professionals to settle (or at least rent overpriced apartments in aging brownstones), droves of other Jerseyans -- and New Yorkers! -- come in the evenings and on the weekends to eat, drink and enjoy the postcard-perfect view of the Manhattan skyline from the waterfront. Another waterfront garnering major attention is that of Jersey City, the gateway (on the New Jersey side, anyway) to two of New York's most important sites: Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Liberty Island is, of course, home to Lady Liberty herself, and the main building on Ellis Island is a museum dedicated to the history of immigration.
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Other U.S.A. Cruise Ports:
Baltimore • Bayonne (Cape Liberty) • Boston • Charleston • Chicago • Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) • Galveston • Glacier Bay • Honolulu • Houston • Jacksonville • Key West • Los Angeles • Miami • Mobile • New Orleans • New York (Brooklyn, Red Hook) • New York (Manhattan) • Norfolk • Orlando (Port Canaveral) • Philadelphia • Port Canaveral • Port of Palm Beach • Portland (Maine) • San Diego • San Francisco • Seattle • St. Louis • Tampa • Wrangell
Anything New York-themed makes a great gift. Head into the Big Apple for your pick of souvenir shops that sell everything from Statue of Liberty figurines to "I [Heart] NY" T-shirts.
English is the language spoken.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the U.S. dollar. International visitors will find it easy to access cash at numerous ATMs. Exchange bureaus so common in Europe are not in the U.S., but major banks do provide exchange services.
Where You're Docked
Your ship will be docked at the Cape Liberty cruise terminal, located in Bayonne, New Jersey, just seven miles outside of New York City. Although the old terminal building still stands, a new one has been constructed next door, offering less space but a more efficient experience. (In theory, passengers go from curb to cruise in 10 minutes with expedited check-in via a cell phone app.)
Parking is available at the port, but you'll have to take a short shuttle ride to the terminal. A new 900-car parking deck is in the works. It will eliminate the need for shuttle service, but it's not slated for completion until March 2015.
The Cape Liberty terminal is in a remote location, and it's not possible to walk anywhere. The terminal has restrooms and free Wi-Fi but not much else. We've heard whispers about possible vending machines and food trucks, but nothing is set in stone just yet.
Cape Liberty Cruise Port is accessible from Newark Liberty International Airport, via the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95). Guest parking is available adjacent to the cruise terminal. Check their Web site for parking information and pricing. Direct buses, arranged by the cruise line, operate between northeastern cities and the pier on cruise days.
Once at Cape Liberty, cruisers can take the NJ Transit Hudson-Bergen Light Rail via the Bayonne station, which connects to Amtrak, PATH trains and ferry service to/from New York City via Hoboken Station. The rail station is about three miles from the port, but RCI provides a complimentary shuttle to and from the station on cruise days. The light rail connects Bayonne to Hoboken and Jersey City. Taxis are also readily available on embarkation and debarkation days.
There are no rental car companies set up at the port, but there is an Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Bayonne (1347 Kennedy Blvd.; 201-436-9814). Enterprise centers are generally willing to provide pick-up and drop-off service, but be sure to call for more information in advance.
Go Airlink NYC provides transportation to the cruise terminal at Cape Liberty for local travelers and passengers from Maryland, Delaware, Pennyslvania and New Jersey. Cost varies depending on pick-up location. They also offer private tours of NYC. (1430 Broadway, Ste. 507, NYC; 212-812-9000 or 877-599-8200)
The port is accessible from three New York City-area airports -- Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. Taxis are readily available at all airports, and fares are either fixed or metered, not including tolls.
Watch Out For
You can't walk to the cruise terminal from public transportation; you'll have to drive in, take a cab or shuttle bus.
Statue of Liberty: Lady Liberty was intended as a gift of international friendship from France to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. There was initially a joint effort wherein America would build the pedestal and France, the statue. Lack of funds on both sides delayed the project until Joseph Pulitzer (the creator of the Pulitzer Prize) successfully urged the American people to provide funds. (France used public fees, entertainment and lotteries.) The statue was finally completed in 1884 and, in 350 individual pieces that occupied 214 crates, was transported across the Atlantic Ocean. Dedication took place in 1886 -- a centennial gift that, ultimately, was 10 years late. Ferry service from Jersey City's Liberty State Park to the Statue of Liberty is available daily throughout the year, except Christmas. (8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting; 877-523-9849)
Ellis Island: This was the gateway through which more than 12 million immigrants passed between 1892 and 1954 (including Irving Berlin, Bob Hope, Knute Rockne and the von Trapp family) in their search for freedom. You can hear oral history interviews, see films and live theatrical productions, and view hundreds of photos of immigrants and exhibits of items they brought with them. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, the longest wall of names in the world, commemorates more than five million first-generation Americans. A computer allows you to see if your last name appears anywhere on the wall. You can also have easy access to ship passenger manifest records through a searchable database. If your search is successful, you'll get a reproduction of that manifest. Ferry service from Jersey City's Liberty State Park to Ellis Island is available throughout the year, except Christmas. (8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting)
Liberty Science Center: Located in Jersey City's Liberty State Park, the Liberty Science Center is where you'll find exhibits on The Invention Floor, The Health Floor and The Environment Floor. Highlights include a rock wall and insect zoo, and kids will love a meet-and-greet with Central American cave cockroaches or millipedes from Kenya. There is also an IMAX theater and a changing variety of seasonal exhibits. (Open daily during spring and summer, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; fall and winter Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Mondays; 222 Jersey City Blvd.; 201-200-1000)
For More: Virtual Tourist's Things to Do in New York City
Been There, Done That
Trip Trotter: If you've been to New York before and want some ideas that are a little more off the beaten path, plan an itinerary with Laura at Trip Trotter. She'll concoct a custom day of activities for you -- from pizza crawls to perfume studio visits -- based on your interests, preferences and schedule.
Hoboken: For the best shopping on the Jersey side of the Harbor, and a lovely near-port daytrip, take the light rail to Hoboken. Exit the train station (the light rail platform is at street level just south of the NJ Transit trains), and head left for Washington Street. The city's mile-long main drag is littered with charming boutiques that sell cutting-edge clothing and handmade handbags, kitschy florists, posh salons, long-standing bakeries and more. Shopping highlights include Sparrow Wine & Liquor Co. (126 Washington Street, Hoboken; 201-659-1500) was founded as Sparrow Cigar Company during prohibition in 1922, and it's one of the top wine and spirit retailers in the state, offering hard-to-find vintages and neat accessories. They also host tasting events throughout the year at The Brass Rail, a popular Sparrow-owned restaurant in town. Big Fun Toys (602 Washington Street, Hoboken; 201-714-9575), the hippest toy store in town, features toys for kids of all ages -- and a joke of the day.
Chief John T. Brennan Fire Museum: This museum -- often referred to as the Bayonne Firefighters Museum, Brennan Fire Museum or the Bayonne Fire Department Museum -- was first used as a firehouse in 1870 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Visit for a glimpse of more than a century's worth of fire-fighting history. To set up a visit, contact the Deputy Fire Chief. (10 West 47th Street, Bayonne; 201-858-6064 or 201-858-6199)
Hoboken Historical Museum & Cultural Center: This volunteer organization, dedicated to preserving the history of Hoboken, maintains a growing archive of artifacts and books, and has a really nifty gift shop. Stop by, pick up a map, and take a self-guided walking tour of the city. (Open Tuesday to Thursday 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.; nominal admission, free to children; 1301 Hudson Street, Hoboken; 201-656-2240)
Bayonne Bridge: If you've got a penchant for bridges -- or just general construction -- it might be worth your while to take a ride over the Bayonne Bridge. It spans the Kill Van Kull to link New Jersey with Staten Island, and it's the third-largest steel arch bridge in the world (behind New River Gorge in West Virginia and the number-one pick, the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai). The Bayonne Bridge was awarded the prize for the most beautiful steel arch bridge in 1931 (the year it was finished) by the American Institute for Steel Construction. Note: The bridge will be under construction through 2018 in an effort to raise it by more than 60 feet, allowing for the passage of larger vessels underneath it.
Kuhl's Tavern: For burgers, pizza or snacks, this is a great local, family-owned spot. Parking is easier there than at many other places in town. (53 Prospect Ave., Bayonne; 201-858-9469)
Piccolino Ristorante: This place offers Italian fare and has a tavern-like bar, as well. Lunch specials might include eggplant cannelloni filled with ricotta, prosciutto and spinach at a reasonable price. (Open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; 552 Broadway, Bayonne; 201-436-8800)
The Madison Bar & Grill: Local Hobokenites go crazy for lazy Sunday brunches; just about every pubby, clubby restaurant in the city offers a "prix fixe" brunch buffet, many with free bellinis, bloody Marys and mimosas, but this is the place to go. Don't miss the creme brulee French toast. (Open weekdays at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m.; 1316 Washington St., Hoboken; 201-386-0300).
Baja: This Zagat-rated Mexican favorite offers a Sunday brunch menu that features huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos and more. (Open daily at noon, Sunday brunch from noon to 3 p.m.; 104 14th St., at the far end of Washington, Hoboken; 201-653-0610; also at 117 Montgomery St., Jersey City; 201-915-0062)
Liberty Lounge & Grill: Not in town for Sunday brunch? This place is an "upscale" sports lounge (think big-screen televisions surrounded by funky lights and a neat mural of the New York skyline), featuring soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, pastas and pizzas. Three-hour parking validation is available with a minimum purchase at 15th Street and Park lot. (Open daily at 11 a.m.; 61 14th Street, Hoboken; 201-222-6322)
Sushi House of Hoboken: Try this local BYOB favorite for a terrific madame butterfly roll -- eel and avocado topped with shrimp tempura. (Open daily at 11 a.m.; 155 1st Street, Hoboken; 201-656-7788)
Johnny Rockets: If you're in the mood for feel-good food (burgers, fries, onion rings, shakes and the like) and oldies tunes, this is the place to eat. (Open daily from 8 a.m.; 134 Washington Street, Hoboken; 201-659-2620)
Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson: Located on Jersey City's Harborside Financial Center pier, this hotel is near the port, overlooks the New York Harbor and faces Wall Street. It features a fitness center, indoor lap pool and an in-house steak-and-seafood restaurant called Vu. (2 Exchange Place, Jersey City; 201-469-1234)
Editor's Note: For more places to stay, check out our New York port profile.
Staying in Touch
Carpe Diem Pub & Restaurant opens weekdays at 4 p.m. and weekends at 11 a.m. (1405 Grand Street, Hoboken; 201-792-0050)
Panera Bread has free Wi-Fi and many locations. (310 Washington Street, Hoboken; 201-876-3233)
Starbucks is a Wi-Fi hotspot for laptop users. (314 Washington Street, Hoboken; 201-222-2491)
For More Information
On the Web: www.hobokennj.org, www.cityofjerseycity.com or www.bayonnenj.org
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The Independent Traveler: New York Exchange
--By Melissa Baldwin Paloti; updated by Ashley Kosciolek, Ports & Copy Editor
Image of sunset over Bayonne Bridge appears courtesy of Jack Grasing and www.bayonnenj.org. Image of New York skyline appears courtesy of www.bayonnenj.org. Image of Liberty Science Center appears courtesy of Wolfgang Hoyt and the Liberty Science Center. Image of the Statue of Liberty is copyright Jeff Greenberg/NYC & Company, Inc. Image of residential Bayonne street appears courtesy of Fianna Reznik and www.bayonnenj.org.