Port of New York (Brooklyn, Red Hook)
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The allure of sightseeing amid the skyscrapers of Manhattan is strong, particularly for first-timers, and the Red Hook port is close enough for cruisers to take advantage of all the Big Apple has to offer (for more info, read our New York port profile. But, don't pooh-pooh the idea of kicking around Brooklyn before or after your cruise.
While Brooklyn may seem, at first glance, to be a lot like Manhattan -- with heavy traffic, sizzling nightlife and diverse people, cultures and cuisines -- it is a destination in itself. With 2.5 million inhabitants, it is the largest New York City borough in terms of population; if it were its own city, it would be the fourth-largest in the United States. And, it has its own personal identity. You'll find residential areas of brownstones and corner stores, trendy streets packed with bars and clubs, and a bustling downtown area where women in business suits and pumps walk alongside hipster artists in jeans and sneakers.
Indeed, Brooklyn is defined by its diversity: African-American history is prevalent in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park boasts its own Chinatown, and in Flatbush, you'll feel like you are in the islands, mon. (Brooklyn boasts the largest Caribbean population outside of the actual Caribbean.) Even if you don't have time to visit a variety of Brooklyn's neighborhoods, you can take in this cultural dissonance simply by strolling along Smith Street. Known as Brooklyn's "restaurant row," Smith Street is lined with funky shops and ethnic eateries, with options for all budgets and tastes -- French, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Asian....
In the words of one Brooklyn resident, "Sure, you can take a subway into Manhattan for the night, but why would you want to?"
Top New York (Brooklyn, Red Hook) Itineraries
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Where You're Docked
Brooklyn Cruise Port Address:
72 Bowne St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
The passenger ship terminal is located in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood, opposite Governor's Island on the Buttermilk Channel. From your ship, you'll be able to see Manhattan, Staten Island, Lady Liberty and even Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Parking is available at a rate of $23 for the first day and $20 for each additional day. You do not need to make a reservation for parking. The facility features pay-on-foot machines: When you return from your cruise, pay with cash or credit card at one of the machines. Porters are available to help you with your luggage. You can get additional information at nycruise.com.
The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is near a commercial strip, which is located along Van Brunt Street, three blocks from the terminal via a pedestrian gate. The B61 bus operates along the street to downtown Brooklyn. The terminal has vending machines, telephones and bathrooms.
Cobblestones peek through on Columbia and Van Brunt Streets, the two main thoroughfares. The neighborhood features an eclectic mix of shops, galleries, bars and restaurants, though at this point in time, few major points of interests are within walking distance of the pier. One of the more interesting foodie events in the region is also right in the neighborhood: In the summertime, usually from June through September, the Red Hook Ball Fields (at Clinton Street and Bay Street) are a magnet for foodies from around the New York City area. Join the crowds to sample Latin and South American cuisine, which you purchase from food trucks and eat at picnic tables. On a sunny day, it's the place to be in Brooklyn.
Good to Know
Red Hook is not as centrally located as the Manhattan cruise ship terminal, so you'll want to spend the money on a car service, rather than taking public transportation, in order to see the key sites of NYC in a compressed amount of time. While there are increasingly nice hotels in Brooklyn, first time visitors to New York City will want to overnight in Manhattan before or after their cruises in order to be close to museums and historic sites. Passengers who are just docking there for the day should consider cruise-sponsored shore excursions that drive to the key attractions.
Red Hook may not be the most central location in Brooklyn, but you still have plenty of options for getting around. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is accessible by taxi or private limousine service, as well as by car and bus.
If you're driving, follow signs from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel or the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the cruise ship terminal. There is ample parking at the terminal (see above).
For local travelers who don't wish to drive to reach the port, Cruise Shuttle Express provides transportation to Brooklyn's cruise terminal for passengers from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Cost varies depending on pick-up location.
While in port, taking a taxi or car service is your best bet; Red Hook lacks a subway line and is separated from neighboring Cobble Hill by a major highway. A ride from the pier to the downtown area of Brooklyn should be just less than $10. Consider calling Arecibo, a popular Brooklyn Car Service, at 718-783-6465.
If you wish to take a bus, you can catch the B61 at Van Brunt Street and Seabring Street, heading toward downtown. The cost is $2.25, and you can use the bus to get to subways that will carry you into Manhattan and throughout Brooklyn. Go to hopstop.com for directions, maps and times.
The NY Water Taxi also connects Red Hook to Brooklyn Heights, Wall Street and Midtown Manhattan, but the service is limited to certain times of the year, and the pier is a hike from the cruise terminal, particularly for passengers with luggage.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the U.S. dollar. International visitors will find it easy to access cash at numerous ATM machines. Exchange bureaus so common in Europe are not in the U.S., but major banks do provide exchange services. Banks are generally open from Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., but many are open later and have Saturday-morning hours. For current exchange rates, visit XE.com.
Language It's English. If you're hoping to hear the stereotypical Brooklyn accent, you may be out of luck, since so many people living in Brooklyn these days are transplants from elsewhere.
Food and Drink
Best for Families: Junior's world-famous cheesecake, cut into huge slices, is worth the calories. The recipe has remained a family secret for three generations. You'll find it at 386 Flatbush Ave. It's open Sunday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. and Friday and Saturday, 6:30 a.m. until 2 a.m.
Best Brooklyn Pizza: Ask any Brooklynite where to get the best old-school pizza, and the answer will nearly always be Grimaldi's. Brick oven slices? Fuhgeddabout it. Patsy Grimaldi began making pies at the age of 10 the old fashioned way -- in a coal oven -- and continues to do so today at his pizzeria in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) district. Located at 19 Old Fulton St., it's open 11:30 a.m. until 10:45 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. through 11:45 p.m. on Friday and noon until 11:45 p.m. on Saturday.
Pizza newcomers include Lucali, a short taxi from the port in Carroll Gardens. They don't take reservations at this tiny, trendy spot, but you can call ahead to put your name on the list (718-858-4086). Find it at 575 Henry Street. It's open Wednesday through Monday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Best for a Luxe Lunch: The River Cafe is an elegant waterfront restaurant with gorgeous views of the New York skyline. Lunch offerings include crispy duck, lobster salad and osso buco. (For a really over-the-top experience, try their $65 caviar service.) It's open for a la carte lunch from noon until 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday; a Sunday brunch is offered from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at 1 Water St.
Most Convenient Brunch: Right on Red Hook's main drag, Van Brunt Street, Kevin's serves up light and fluffy blueberry pancakes and coffee from locally renowned Stumptown. Afterward, follow the crowds down the street for sweets at Baked and browsing through galleries and boutiques. Check it out at 277 Van Brunt Street. Brunch is offered Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Grab dinner Thursday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to 11p.m.
In a tie with Kevin's for "best brunch near the dock," nearby Fort Defiance serves up old-time egg creams and fabulous muffaletta sandwiches, served on bread commissioned from one of Brooklyn's best Italian bakeries. 365 Van Brunt Street. Mon, Wed-Thurs from 8 a.m, to midnight; Fri-Sun 8 a.m.- 2 a.m.; Tues 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Take home a Brooklyn Bridge print or postcard. Foodies will want to check out the shelves at Jacques Torres' chocolate shop at 66 Water Street.