Ten unforgettable city cruises

  • SumoMe

Some of the most spectacular cities in the world have a sea- or harbour-side setting. Think of Sydney, with its breathtaking harbour; or downtown Vancouver, hemmed in by Coal Harbour and the Burrard Inlet; New York, Cape Town, San Francisco, Hong Kong, and the list goes on. The best way to really appreciate the beauty of these cities is often from the water. Most of these cities have tourist boats to take visitors on a leisurely cruise, with guides on board to point out the sights. Most of these cities also have a water transport network, an alternative way for tourists to enjoy the sights in the company of local commuters.

I’ve been on many city cruises and local ferries in cities around the world and all of them are absolutely noteworthy. However, I’ve limited myself to listing ten of my favourite city harbour cruises (it would be a very long list if I didn’t!) 🙂 If you’re in any of the cities below, get on a boat and enjoy the views!

1. Cape Town – take the Robben Island ferry from the V&A Waterfront for spectacular views of the Cape Town skyline with its famous Table Mountain backdrop.

table-mountain-cape-town-photo

Cape Town view from Robben Island.

San Francisco

San Francisco

2. San Francisco – San Francisco is blessed with one of the most magnificent harbours in the world. For some absolutely stunning views of the city skyline and the harbour, hop on a ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf to Angel Island (a gorgeous state park). An alternative is to hop on a cruise that takes you from Fisherman’s Wharf around Alcatraz island, under the Golden Gate Bridge, to the harbour entrance.

3. New York – one of the best ways to appreciate the Lower Manhattan skyline as well as Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the impressive Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is to hop on the world-famous Staten Island Ferry. The best part is: it’s free!

4. Rio de Janeiro – Flanked by hunchback-shaped mountains and gorgeous white sandy beaches, Rio’s bay certainly has a high ‘wow’ factor! A great way to see the skyline, including the Sugarloaf mountain, is to take the ferry from the city centre across the bay to Niteroi.

sugarloaf-mountain-rio-photo

Rio de Janeiro

5. Sydney – the Sydney water transport network is extensive, making it a breeze to use public ferries to enjoy the wonders of Sydney Harbour. From Circular Quay, I can recommend the ferries to Manly (a popular ocean-side town) and Taronga Zoo. Both lines offer truly unforgettable vistas of the harbour and the Sydney skyline.

sydney-harbour-bridge-photo

Sydney Harbour Bridge seen from Circular Quay

6. Hong Kong – the ‘Manhattan of Asia’ surely lives up to its name. The best way to view the stunning skyscrapers on both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon (on the mainland) is to take a ferry along Victoria Harbour. Of all the ferry services, the Star Ferry is the most famous and plies between various points along the north shore of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. An alternative is to take the ferry to the outlying Lamma or Lantau islands, or further afield, to Macao.

hong-kong-star-ferry-photo

The Hong Kong Star Ferry

Istanbul

Istanbul

7. Istanbul – a cruise across the Bosphorus is an absolute must for anyone visiting this amazing city. There are many tourist cruise lines that take visitors past the gorgeous sights such as the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Golden Horn, the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosques, and the many splendorous villas and palaces that dot the Bosphorus. A cheap alternative is to take the municipal ferry from Eminonu. The ferry route offers unrivalled panoramas of the city skyline and passes various palaces (including the Dolmabahçe) and fortresses, as well as quaint villages and smart neighbourhoods as it zigzags between the European and Asian banks of the Bosphorus.

8. Yokohama – Tokyo also has a lovely harbour cruise but I prefer the Yokohama cruise. It takes visitors on a leisurely ride under the city’s impressive Yokohama Bay Bridge and around the port, one of Japan’s busiest. It also offers fantastic views of the Yokohama skyline that includes Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building. On a clear day, the majestic Mount Fuji provides a spectacular backdrop.

Shanghai

Shanghai

9. Shanghai – Located at the mouth of the Yangtze river, Shanghai certainly has one of the most impressive skylines in the world. A great way to experience the sights and sounds of this magnificent city is the Huangpu River cruise. It takes visitors along the Bund, with its stately colonial buildings, and past the glittering skyscrapers in Pudong such as the Jin Mao Tower and the World Financial Centre. Along the way, the never-ending flow of boats that ply the river will keep you entertained if your neck starts to ache from looking up at some of the tallest buildings in the world.

10. Vancouver – Vancouver has arguably one of the most spectacular locations in the world. A typical harbour cruise around Vancouver offers panoramas of the gorgeous city skyline, imposing snow-capped mountains and views of the city’s many parks and beaches. Some harbour cruise lines head out under the Lion’s Gate Bridge and past Stanley Park into the Burrard Inlet. One of my favourite lines is the cute False Creek Ferry which offers services between downtown (Aquatic Centre) and Granville Island, and to the Plaza of Nations.

false-creek-vancouver-photo

False Creek in Vancouver

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23 Responses to “Ten unforgettable city cruises”

  1. Don Nadeau 01/12/2011 1:42 pm
    #

    Instead of regular tourist-oriented and more expensive bay cruises, take a boat operated by government run Golden Gate Ferry, a great “on-the-cheap” alternative in San Francisco. These can be used in conjunction with Golden Gate Transit once you are “across the bridge” in Marin County.

    The most popular run takes you to Sausalito for fine views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Oakland Bay Bridge, and the skyline of San Francisco.

    Golden Gate ferries leave from the Ferry Building at the east end of Market Street, within easy walking distance of most hostels and hotels. Or, you can take the historic “F” streetcar line from anywhere along Market Street or from the Fisherman’s Wharf area to the Ferry Building.

    http://www.goldengateferry.org/

    http://www.goldengatetransit.org/

    travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/north-america/united-states/california/sausalito/overview.html

  2. dhow cruise abu dhabi 02/11/2010 8:44 am
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    Thank for your informations

  3. Juno 04/09/2010 3:29 pm
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    Oh I love the view of Rio! What a wild view!! Awesome. One of my best was a ferry between north and south island of New Zealand. It was stunning weather, and the view! All nature green.
    Great list!

  4. Lilian 02/05/2010 12:09 pm
    #

    I’ve only tried the Hong Kong and Shanghai one before so far. Look forward to trying the rest in future!

  5. velvet 29/01/2010 6:03 pm
    #

    Thanks for your comment and tip Sophie! The Oslo cruise is indeed beautiful. The Stockholm harbour cruise is another gorgeous trip.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  6. Sophie 29/01/2010 6:01 pm
    #

    Since you only have one harbour cruise in Europe, I’ll suggest adding Oslo, taking in moutains, forests, fjords, islands, a medieval castle/fortress and the fabulous new Oslo Opera House, rivalling Sydney’s 🙂

    Hop-on hop-off minicruises operate several times daily in Oslo harbour and you can get off/on at City Hall, the Bygdøy Maritime Museums and the Opera House. For more info, see http://www.nileguide.com/destination/oslo/things-to-do/minicruise-on-the-oslo-fjord-hop-on-hop-off/731188

  7. velvet 25/11/2009 6:46 pm
    #

    Hehe, I’m saving places like London, Paris & Amsterdam for another post (on river cruises)! 🙂 This post deals specifically with harbour cruises. Watch this space! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Keith

  8. jen Laceda 25/11/2009 6:30 pm
    #

    I’m partial to Paris also. he he. I know, I know, so touristy…but it’s also sooooo romantic!! Hey, why is Amsterdam not on this list? hehehe….

  9. velvet 22/11/2009 4:30 pm
    #

    Thanks for your comment Anil. Yup, the ferries are indeed a great way to see Istanbul for a pittance. If I remember correctly, I think the ferry in Istanbul costs 50 euro cents.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  10. Anil 22/11/2009 2:47 am
    #

    The ferries in Istanbul are a great way to get around or just see the sights at fairly low prices.

  11. velvet 18/11/2009 11:42 am
    #

    Thanks for your comment. That’s a great idea – the sunset cruise in Cape Town.

    Hi Nico,
    Thanks for the idea. I once walked the length of the Golden Gate to the park on the other side (can’t remember the name), then walked back across the bridge. A bicycle-ferry combination would’ve been a better idea. Haha!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  12. saveoursmile 18/11/2009 5:51 am
    #

    for cape town, they have a nice catamaran sunset ride starting from 6:30 PM to 8 PM that is worth a try

  13. AirTreks Nico 18/11/2009 12:38 am
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    The San Francisco Bay is pretty gorgeous, you’re right, with some of the world’s most famous landmarks visible from the water.

    A fun thing to do is rent a bike and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, a little town on the Marin County side of the bridge and take the ferry back to the Ferry Terminal. It’s super popular and it costs $8 for the ferry and about $30 for the bike for the full day.

    I also once did a harbor cruise in Hamburg, Germany. Saw the 2nd largest container ship in the world (at the time)! It was pretty thrilling for teenager.

  14. Gourmantic 17/11/2009 11:53 pm
    #

    Great list! I’d love to cruise the Bosphorus one day.

    Having just returned from there, I’d add a Lake Como cruise to my favourites. The views were stunning!

    Nice to see my hometown Sydney featured in your list 🙂

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