Short-lived cruises offer different perspectives of the Hudson

BY Terese Loeb Kreuzer

New York City’s Hudson River is never more beautiful than in the fall when scarlet and yellow foliage frames the majestic Palisades, the sleepy river towns and the Westchester and Rockland County estates, glimpsed among the trees.

Several ferry and excursion boats cruise the river at this time of year, some going as far as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a little beyond.

New York Water Taxi boats leave from the South Street Seaport, rounding the southern end of Manhattan and continuing north. Classic Harbor Line vessels (an 80-foot-long sailboat and a 1920’s-style luxury yacht) leave from Chelsea Piers at 22nd Street.

Manhattan is just 13.4 miles from end to end; a Hudson River cruise reveals how much is packed into the small space between the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan and Inwood Hill Park on the north, which has the island’s last salt marsh and last stand of natural forest.

On the west bank of the Hudson, development abruptly ends north of Fort Lee thanks to New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt and New Jersey Governor Foster Voorhees. In 1900, quarry operators had already destroyed parts of the Palisades, which are around 200 million years old, when Roosevelt and Voorhees persuaded the legislatures of their respective states to form the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. J. Pierpont Morgan and John D. Rockefeller were among the philanthropists who bought up miles of land on the Palisades to be preserved as parkland. Today, the contrast between the ancient rocks and the rampant development elsewhere along the lower Hudson is startling.

As the cruise boats head up the Hudson toward the Tappan Zee Bridge, which is around 25 miles north of New York City, the river grows wider. Tugboats pushing barges and oil tankers pass by, along with speedboats and sailboats. The foliage grows more intense in color.

Finally, for those going that far, a turn in the river reveals the Bear Mountain Bridge, which was completed in 1924 and was for awhile, the longest suspension bridge in the world.

There are unique reasons to take each of the fall foliage cruises. A sailboat cruise brings an intimacy with the landscape that a motorboat can’t provide. But there’s no shelter in case of bad weather, and it can get very cold! The motorized cruises vary in length and include varying amounts of food, reflected in the price.

The Hudson River fall foliage cruise season is all too brief. It begins at the end of October and is over by the end of the first week in November.

Classic Harbor Line is offering four more fall foliage cruises this season — on Saturday, November 6 and Sunday, November 7. The Manhattan, a 1920s-style yacht with an enclosed observatory as well as deck space, leaves at 10:30 a.m. from Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers. The three-hour cruises include a brunch buffet and complimentary beverages (Bloody Mary, Mimosa, beer, wine champagne, juice, coffee and tea) for $95. The schooner Adirondack departs at 11 a.m. on a four-hour cruise that includes a box lunch of sandwiches, fruit, salads or chips and cookies with wine, beer, hot chocolate and other beverages at a cost of $90. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to https://www.sail-nyc.com/.

New York Water Taxi has a five-hour fall foliage cruise on Saturday, November 6 leaving at 11 a.m. This cruise includes breakfast (rolls, pastries, fruit) and lunch (sandwiches, cole slaw, potato salad, fruit, cookies, brownies) with coffee, tea and juice available at all times. Beer and wine are available for a fee. Entertainment includes a singer and a large screen TV tuned to football. This cruise goes up the river just beyond West Point and costs $75. A four-and-a-half hour fall foliage cruise on Sunday, November 7 leaves at 12:30 p.m. Hot apple cider, fruit and chips are included. The price is $45. Both cruises leave from Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport, with boarding a half hour before departure. For more information or to purchase tickets go to www.nywatertaxi.com