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.
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.
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.
English is the predominant language and is spoken with lots of accents -- some local, some international.
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.