Cape Liberty or Manhattan Cruise Port: the classic tale of the new kid on the block and the tried-and-true landmark. Cape Liberty is in Bayonne, New Jersey, while Manhattan Cruise Terminal is situated in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Midtown Manhattan. Both offer stunning skyline views of Manhattan as your ship arrives or leaves, along with a quick pass by the Statue of Liberty.
Either port is equally convenient for many East Coast residents. So, what exactly separates the two cruise ports, apart from a bay and roughly 20 miles? Find out what the differences -- and similarities -- are between the Bayonne and Manhattan cruise ports.
Both Manhattan and Cape Liberty cruise ports have two piers each and can accommodate two ships at one time. Following extensive renovation that made the port suitable for the scale of today’s cruise ships, Manhattan uses piers 88 and 90. Cape Liberty opened its two cruise piers in 2004 at what was once a military ship terminal.
Due to their proximate locations, Manhattan and Bayonne offer many of the same itineraries: year-round cruises to the Caribbean and seasonal sailings to the Bahamas, Bermuda and Canada and New England. Transatlantic crossings and an occasional world cruise segment round out the schedules of both cruise ports.
Bayonne and Manhattan are served by three major airports (Newark Liberty International, JFK International and LaGuardia); interstate highways such as the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95); NJ Transit and PATH trains; and, of course, yellow cabs and other ride services. A ferry between Manhattan and Bayonne has long been promised but continues to be delayed as of 2023.
Cruise lines often offer passenger shuttles to and from select airports. For example, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity offer shuttles only to and from Newark, but not JFK or LaGuardia due to their distance from the port.
Cape Liberty Cruise Port opened in 2004 and is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It is operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd, so only cruise lines operated under its umbrella sail from Bayonne, which are currently Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.
The Manhattan Cruise Terminal, which was originally the New York Passenger Ship Terminal, is the oldest cruise terminal in the United States, operating under its new name since 1935. Two major cruise lines currently homeport in Manhattan: Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. A dozen or more additional cruise lines utilize the port, including Scenic, Oceania, Disney, Explora Journeys, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Viking, Seabourn, and occasionally Princess.
Although it's centrally located near many bustling cities (Jersey City, Hoboken, New York), Bayonne isn't really a destination unto itself. With the Big Apple just seven miles away, NYC provides a much bigger draw than hanging around a primarily residential area of New Jersey.
Cape Liberty cruise terminal is isolated, meaning once you arrive, there isn't a whole lot to do in the surrounding area. If you forget anything for your cruise, you'll have to venture through the surrounding industrial areas to find a drugstore or supermarket.
Sailing from Manhattan, on the other hand, you couldn't be more in the heart of the city. Although prices can be a bit staggering in parts of New York, it's an ideal destination for a pre- or post-cruise vacation. Famous museums, shops, eateries and sites (don't forget Central Park) are never far by taxi, subway or foot.
While the "City That Never Sleeps" might be a bit intimidating to some visitors, it's possible to navigate with your favorite map app. For those last-minute items, look for a CVS, Duane Reed or a corner convenience store -- colloquially called a bodega -- all available within a few blocks of the port.
New York City is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, so there is an overwhelming number of places to stay; just be aware of the three-figure price range. Ink48, just about a five-minute walk from the Manhattan cruise terminal, is the closest hotel to the port, but options for major hotel chains and boutiques are a short taxi or rideshare away.
The closest hotels to Cape Liberty are actually about 11 miles away in Elizabeth, New Jersey, clustered near the Newark airport. Expect chains like Country Inn & Suites, Extended Stay America and Residence Inn by Marriott.
Parking is available at both ports, but the parking rates are slightly higher at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal than the Cape Liberty cruise port. Privately operated parking nearby the Manhattan Cruise Terminal may be lower priced.
Renting a car in Manhattan is possible near the cruise terminal. There's nothing in the immediate area of Cape Liberty, but those looking for a car rental can use the Enterprise in Bayonne, which is about five miles from the port.
Although the cruise terminals are close, you'll probably pick your port based on the cruise line. If you're loyal to Royal, sailing from Bayonne is a no-brainer.
A stay in the New York area before or after your cruise is possible from either port, with Manhattan putting you in the center of the action and Bayonne probably saving you a few dollars on accommodations.