A city of endless possibilities, high energy and great diversity, New York has always been the benchmark for first-rate dining, unparalleled shopping and cultural activity. For visitors, it's an exciting city and, at times, is more than a little intimidating. New York natives always seem to be in a hurry, but with midtown traffic often at a complete standstill, it may be faster for them to walk across town than to take a bus. When you hear a foreign language, it could be international tourists -- flocking to the city in droves because of the weak dollar -- or it could be a New Yorker.
It's love at first sight when the Empire State Building comes into view, and the Statue of Liberty awes even the most blase tourist. Broadway shows will wow you; browsing Bloomingdale's will amaze you. It's always possible to stumble upon an unforgettable meal -- an oven-fresh slice of perfect pizza, Chinese food in Chinatown or a haute-cuisine dinner by candlelight. The views from the Staten Island Ferry are a knockout, and downtown nightlife will keep you busy in the city that never sleeps.
You'll find Central Park smack dab in the middle of New York with many of the city's best museums on either side. Check out the Upper East Side -- particularly Madison Avenue, between 50th and 99th streets -- for high fashion. On the Upper West Side, you'll find Time-Warner Center's luxurious shops and restaurants at Columbus Circle; operas, concerts, dance and theater at Lincoln Center; and bustling neighborhood street life along Broadway, including Columbia University.
Surrounding Manhattan are Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Many Brooklyn neighborhoods have become as popular and chic as Manhattan's. Smart shops and trendy restaurants have spread like wildfire, drawing Manhattanites across the river for fashionable dining and serious shopping. Five Brooklyn communities that are definitely worth a look are Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Park Slope -- down from Prospect Park -- Williamsburg and Brighton Beach.
The Bronx has experienced some gentrification, creating attractions beyond the Bronx Zoo, such as the New York Botanical Garden, Yankee Stadium, City Island -- which has the feel of a New England village -- and Woodlawn Cemetery -- the final resting place of Duke Ellington, George M. Cohan, Miles Davis, F. W. Woolworth, J.C. Penney and R.H. Macy.
Meanwhile, Queens offers the Queens Museum of Art, memorabilia from two Worlds Fairs, a fabulous panoramic model of New York City, contemporary art at Public School No. 1 and vibrant ethnic neighborhoods like Asian Flushing, Greek Astoria and Indian Jackson Heights.
Beyond the ferry terminal, Staten Island has a cultural center at Snug Harbor, its own zoo and a Tibetan art museum. Richmondtown also features a collection of New York City buildings, some as old as 300 years.
Manhattan Cruise Port Address: 711 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10019
Cruise ships now dock in four locations. The traditional passenger cruise terminal is located on the West Side of Manhattan, between West 48th and West 52nd streets. Piers 88 and 90 have been thoroughly renovated. A vehicle entrance is located at 55th Street and 12th Avenue.
The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at Red Hook opened in April 2006 on the site of a former container terminal, south of Brooklyn Heights and not far from the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. It has one berth and is used mainly by Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and Princess Cruises. Visit our Brooklyn port profile for more information on cruising to or from Brooklyn.
Since May 2004, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships have tied up at Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne, on the New Jersey side of New York Harbor. It is seven miles from New York City and about 15 minutes from Newark Liberty International Airport. Visit our Cape Liberty port profile for more information on cruising to or from Cape Liberty Cruise Port.
Small coastal vessels, including those of American Cruise Lines, dock at the Chelsea Recreational Piers on the Hudson River, near streets in the West 20's.
The New York Cruise Terminal is a 15- to 20-minute walk to Midtown. Besides taxis, there are buses at 49th, 50th and 42nd streets, but there is no subway service from the port. If the taxi queue is long, cross 12th Avenue to hail a cab. The terminal has telephones, bathrooms and a snack bar.
Though New York is incredibly safe for a large city, use the same good judgment you would in any other port of call to minimize unwanted attention as a tourist. Keep wallets concealed; zip up purses, and hold them near to your body, particularly in crowded areas; and don't flaunt expensive jewelry, cameras or cash. Remain aware of your surroundings. If you are staying in town before or after your cruise, stick to main streets after dark, and hop in a cab if you don't know where you're headed.
Getting to New York's Passenger Cruise Terminal: Three principal airports serve New York City -- John F. Kennedy International Airport, La Guardia Airport and Newark International Airport. The New York Cruise Terminal is approximately 10 miles from La Guardia and Newark airports and 17 miles from JFK. Travel time from La Guardia and Newark is approximately 45 minutes. Add another 20 to 30 minutes if you're traveling from JFK. If you're traveling from outside of the city, you can access the terminal by car, via the New Jersey Turnpike North/South to the Lincoln Tunnel. Follow the signs to West 42nd Street, and turn left onto 12th Avenue (West Side Highway). Parking is atop the terminal ($30 per day, with a maximum of $300 for up to 30 days) and is payable by cash, Visa or MasterCard -- assuming the credit card machines are working. Bring cash if possible. Some cruise lines with regular sailings operate direct bus services between Northeastern cities and the pier.
New York Airport Service provides daily transportation service from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. (every 15 minutes from JFK, every 30 minutes from La Guardia) to and from Grand Central Terminal, Port Authority Bus Terminal and Penn Station. JFK: Tickets are $13, and approximate travel time is 60 minutes, depending on traffic. La Guardia: Tickets are $10, and travel time is approximately 40 minutes, depending on traffic. A short taxi ride from Port Authority to the cruise terminal will cost about $6.
Newark Liberty Airport Service provides transportation every 15 to 30 minutes; costs are $15 each way or $25 roundtrip (those 62 or older pay $7.50 or $15) to the Port Authority Bus Terminal or Grand Central Terminal. This service is also available to and from many Manhattan hotels. Reservations are not required; just go to the ground transportation desk at the airport, or use the courtesy phone in baggage claim.
Super Shuttle (you'll recognize the company's popular blue vans) serves all three area airports, providing door-to-door service to Manhattan every 15 to 30 minutes, around the clock. Be aware that there are multiple stops, and yours may be first or last. Reservations aren't necessary; just go to the ground transportation desk, or use the courtesy phone in baggage claim. Tickets are $21 from Newark and JFK (additional passengers pay $12) and $16 from LGA (additional passenger pays $15).
Cruise Shuttle Express provides transportation to Manhattan's cruise terminal for local travelers and passengers from Maryland, Delaware, Pennyslvania and New Jersey. Cost varies depending on pick-up location.
Amtrak offers frequent service from the Northeast Corridor -- including Boston, Providence, Hartford, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. -- to Newark Penn Station for Cape Liberty, Bayonne and New York's Penn Station (on 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues). Travel time from D.C. is about three hours (the Acela Express is faster but a bit more expensive), 1.25 hours from Philadelphia and 4.25 hours from Boston (3.5 hours with Acela).
Taxis are readily available at all airports, and fares are either fixed or metered, not including tolls. The fixed rate between JFK and Manhattan is $45, plus toll. From La Guardia, the metered fare will run about $25, plus toll. A 15 percent tip is customary. The fixed fare from Newark's airport ranges from $35 to $40, depending on final destinations. A Manhattan yellow taxi to Newark's airport is a metered fare (about $45), plus $15, plus tolls both ways. Taxi fares to Cape Liberty Cruise Port are about $35 from Newark Airport; $65 from JFK, plus tolls; and $70 from La Guardia, plus tolls. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is 20 miles from JFK and will cost you about $45 in taxi fare or, from LGA, about $30 for the 12-mile trip.
For more transportation information for all three airports, call Air-Ride (800-247-7433), which offers recorded details on bus and shuttle companies and private car services, 24 hours a day. S
Getting Around in Manhattan: Think Uptown-Midtown-Downtown and East Side-West Side. Avenues run uptown and downtown, and many are numbered. Fifth Avenue is the dividing line between the East and West sides. East Side avenues, from Fifth Avenue to the east, include: Madison, Park, Lexington, Third, Second, First and York -- plus lettered avenues in the East Village. West Side avenues, from Fifth Avenue to the west, are: Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue to locals), Seventh, Broadway, Eighth (becomes Central Park West above 59th Street), Ninth (becomes Columbus above 57th Street), 10th (becomes Amsterdam above 57th Street), 11th (becomes West End Ave above 57th Street), and 12th, which is also called West Street or West Side Highway. Streets above Houston Street run east to west (crosstown) and are numbered consecutively up to 263rd Street in the Bronx. Below Houston is a labyrinth of street names, such as Delancey and Duane, Canal and Christopher, Wall and Water.
Walking is the transportation of choice, but there are plenty of options if you prefer to ride. Subway and bus fares are $2 per ride, but rush hour travel is crowded. The Downtown Connection offers a free hop-on, hop-off bus service between South Street Seaport and northern Battery Park City.
Yellow cabs are abundant -- there are about 12,000 -- and can be hailed from any location. You'll know the cab is available by checking the rooftop light. If it's on, the driver is available, but if the "Off Duty" light is on, you're out of luck. Fares are $2.50 for the initial drop, $0.40 for each additional 1/5 mile and $0.40 for every 60 seconds of stopped or slow traffic. There is a $1 surcharge between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and a $0.50 surcharge 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. daily. There is no surcharge for luggage or additional passengers -- but don't forget to tip. The 24-hour hotline for information is 212-NYC-TAXI.
Words of advice: It's best to hail a cab in the direction you're traveling to save time and money. It's a good idea to take the automatically printed receipt, since it includes the taxi number, which will help if you leave something behind. You can pay in cash or with a credit card. The driver must turn on the air-conditioning on demand. The driver cannot ask you where you're going before you get in because he or she must take you wherever you wish within the five boroughs. You have the right to ask the driver not to smoke, to turn off a radio or cell phone, or to take any route you request.
Buses operate 24/7, though service is less frequent late at night. Some buses are marked "Limited" which means they will only stop at major cross streets (i.e., 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd) rather than every two or three blocks. All buses require exact change in coins or a swipe of your MetroCard. If you're paying cash and will be transferring to another bus or subway (which you will need to do within two hours), be sure to ask the driver for a transfer, which will automatically allow one free transfer. The $2 fare paid by MetroCard allows for direct transfers within the subway system on all lines. With a MetroCard, you can transfer to any bus within two hours of entering the subway or transfer between two buses -- just not to one on the same route.
The subway also operates 24/7, but service may be altered late at night and on some weekends, due to track work. However, an alternate route is nearly always available. Subways are a fast way to get just about anywhere in all five boroughs -- you'll find them clean, well-lit and air-conditioned during the warm weather season, though the stations themselves are hot in the summer. Subway entrances are marked by an illuminated Metropolitan Transit Authority (M.T.A.) lamppost. If the illumination is red, it means that particular entrance is closed. As well, some entrances are marked "uptown only" or "downtown only" -- so be sure to take notice. Once down at track level, each side (uptown or downtown) generally has a local and express track -- so again, take heed of all the signs above you. System maps are posted in every train car or in the subway station, and free maps are sometimes available at station booths.
MetroCards are sold at subway stations, many newsstands and some stores. You can purchase several combinations, including an unlimited seven-day card ($29).
The currency is the U.S. dollar. International visitors will find easy access to cash at numerous ATM's. Exchange bureaus, frequently found in Europe, are not common in the U.S., but major banks also provide exchange services. Banks are generally open from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., but many are open later and have Saturday morning hours.
Dining out need not break the bank. Transportation is cheap -- or even free, as walking is often the best way to see the city.
For Casual Dining:
Cabana is a highly rated spot at the South Street Seaport. Great Mexican food, great drinks, great river views! The sauteed shrimp with garlic and white wine is divine. Per-person cost for three courses, including wine, will run about $25. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. 89 South Street Seaport at Pier 17.
Gigino at Wagner Park offers terrace dining -- facing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island -- available in warm weather. The view could not be better, and the moderately priced Italian food lives up to the setting. In the off-season, the tiny inside dining room retains a view from behind glass. A three-course meal will run about $45. 20 Battery Place at West Street.
The Food Court at Grand Central Terminal opened after the complete restoration of this magnificent 1912 railway terminal. The tile-valuted lower level houses a long line of ethnic food counters -- Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai and more. Kosher sandwiches and soups are also available. Patrons sit at tables decorated with railway memorabilia. It gets very busy at lunchtime, but the terminal is a quintessential destination itself. 42nd Street and Park Avenue.
Say what you will about this beloved 24/7 joint, but some say Gray's Papaya is a rite of passage, even for locals. They serve up the best slim and snappy dogs in the city, along with frothy fruit drinks that tout a secret ingredient. Three locations include Midtown (Eighth Avenue and 37th Street) and Greenwich Village (Sixth Avenue and Eight Street), but the one on the Upper West Side is the original. Per-person costs, including drinks, will run about $3. No credit cards. Broadway and 72nd Street.
Gus' Place: the West Village's award-winning -- and somewhat romantic -- Greek-Mediterranean food (with an occasional twist) is what you get here at a new location, small and with a sidewalk patio. The fresh fish dishes are wonderful. Per-person cost for three courses and wine will run about $35. Monday through Saturday, noon until 4 p.m. 192 Bleecker Street, between MacDougal Street and Sixth Avenue.
More Upscale Fare:
Casa Lever: Hot, hot, hot! Experience New American food in a futuristic setting in the landmark Lever Building. The lobster tempura is amazing, and the desserts are all to-die-for. Per-person cost, including wine, will run about $75. Reservations are a must! Monday through Friday, 11:45 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. 390 Park Avenue at 53rd Street.
The Oyster Bar at Grand Central is the one and only and has been stationed at this location -- on the terminal's lower level -- since 1912. It's famous for the daily selection of oysters, fresh fish and rich pan roasts. If there is a price next to an item, it's on the menu that day. The long wine list is all-American. Diners have a choice of eating at the oyster bar -- a long, zig-zag counter with checkered tablecloths -- to watch the preparation or in the handsome wood-paneled saloon and bar. Park Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue.
Take home a Yankees cap or anything that looks like the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building.
From world-renowned department stores like Macy's (34th Street and Seventh Avenue), Bloomingdale's (59th Street and Lexington Avenue), Saks Fifth Avenue (50th Street and Fifth Avenue) and Henri Bendel (56th Street and Fifth Avenue) to specialty shops, charming boutiques and bargain basements, Manhattan is truly a shopper's heaven.
The city also offers districts of stores devoted to particular items, such as furs off of Seventh Avenue in the West 30's, hats on West 37th Street, diamonds on West 47th Street and musical instruments on West 48th Street. For buttons, plumes, sequins and other sewing notions, check out the West 30's, along Sixth Avenue. The crystal district -- between 58th and 63rd streets, along Madison Avenue -- is another great stop.
On Cortlandt Street in Manhattan's Financial District, Century 21 was once appropriately nicknamed "New York's best-kept secret." No longer is that the case for this store. It's pretty doubtful you'll leave empty handed, considering this is the bargain hunter's mecca for deeply discounted designer merchandise. Be prepared to elbow your way through weekend crowds of savvy New Yorkers and international tourists to find your size. But who cares? It's worth it.