* Prices may differ from that shown
When visiting New York for the first time, you are looking for the easiest way around in order to be able to visit all the sights in the short time that you are there. CitySights NY appears to offer all this, as it is a hop-on hop-off bus tour with all its seats on the top-deck in order to provide you with the best possible views of New York. The truth is this was not the case for me when I visited in late August 2010.
I found getting tickets for the tours very easy, as they had a lot of staff on the corner of streets dressed in blue all around main tourist areas in New York, where you were able to pay on the spot and obtain tickets there and then. This is the better option to go for if you are looking to get tickets quickly. If you do not mind waiting, you should go the shop which is allocated in Madame Tussards, where I found them to be very short staffed. I had to wait in a queue for about 45 minutes. Whilst waiting two staff went for a break and stood chatting. Once I finally got to the front of the queue, I found the staff to be quite rude, I can understand that they were extremely stressed however, it is not hard to smile.
What they offer
They offer a wide range of tours which take you to every possible part of New York and they also have a Brooklyn tour which offers you a magnificent view of the New York skyline. The tours that I went on were:
Downtown Tour - which took you to famous places such as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Theatre District, Wall Street + many more. The buses departed from 7.45am - 6.00pm.
Uptown Treasures & Harlem Tour - which took you to famous places such as Fifth Avenue, Museum Mile, Central Park, Museum of Natural History + many more. The buses departed from 9.00am - 5.00pm
Brooklyn Tour - which took you to famous places in Brooklyn and also gave you a view of the New York Skyline. The buses departed from 10.30am - 3.30pm, this bus was not hop-on hop-off.
Night Tour - which was the same as the Downtown tour but with Brooklyn included and at night. The buses departed at 6.30 pm and 7.00pm, this was not hop-on hop-off.
Further Tours are available, which include boat tours, helicopter tours and daily trips to places outside New York.
The prices are quite reasonable if you buy an all around tour which offers all four of the tours above for one off price. The prices for the tours range from $39 (Adult) for each bus tour - $190 (Adult) for the helicopter tour. The price all depends on what you intend to do but other companies were similar prices. If possible I would recommend to buy your tickets in England before you go with the exchange rate not being too fantastic at the moment.
Your experience depended on the tour guide you got, I got a good tour guide about 1 out of every 5 times. I found many to be fed up, boring and unhelpful. One thing I did not like was at every stop they liked to remind you that they didn't get paid much and depended on tips, trying to make you feel guilty, however, it was impossible to tip every single tour guide or you would be out of pocket! On one tour, the tour guide did not talk and just sat there. On another the tour guide seemed more interested about her and just kept telling stories about herself instead of explaining what the attractions were. She then decided to leave us on an open top deck bus in the basking August heat while she stopped to have a chat with another tour guide. They weren't all bad though, and some even made the trips humorous, and were full of interesting facts.
This was when the real problems started, the service was simply not hop-on hop-off, as you were too scared to get off the bus, as you were not guaranteed to see another bus for about two hours. They did not appear to have enough buses, leaving you standing waiting for one to appear for ages. Additionally, if you were in a big family or at a stop where other people were waiting you were not guaranteed to get on the bus when it finally arrived due to there being no seats. Grayline is another company that offers the same tours and appears to have many more buses, for every CitySight tour bus there appeared to be 20 Grayline buses, which was not very comforting when you were waiting in the heat for a long time.
What was good
Not all was bad, as I have to say I learnt some interesting facts that I did not know before and went to places that I probably wouldn't have gone to, if I had visited places by myself.
If you do not have a lot of time I would definitely not go with this company as you will get no where and feel as if you have wasted your money. Your best option is to either go with Grayline which appeared to have more buses and went to exactly the same places. Additionally, you could buy a 7 day Unlimited Ride Metrocard for the subway which is $27 which is good value as you can use it as many times as you want for 7 days, a 1 day pass is $8.25 therefore the 7 day is a lot better value even if you do not use it for the whole 7 days. There are subway stations near all of the main tourist attractions, meaning the subways is very easy to use and gets you places a lot quicker.
This review is about the City Sights 3 hour cruise of Manhattan Island. This cruise being the one that goes the whole way round the island.
We didn't book our tickets online before we went and it was a spur of the moment kind of trip for us. We just happened upon it, much like Central Park Zoo. It wasn't something we planned on, but wandered to the Hudson River and there was the cruise area. It's located at 42nd Street on the Hudson River and is pretty easy to find if you are or in our case, are not looking for it.
Upon seeing it, we decided that we would participate in the 3 hour cruise that takes you around the whole of Manhattan. I can't remember how much it cost us, but on the website, it now costs $34 for the 3 hour cruise. They also do a 2 hour one that only takes you so far around the island and back again.
Now for your first piece of advice. We were in new York in August, which is the hottest month. We also went on this cruise around midday, the hottest part of the day. I can strongly recommend not going at this time. There wasn't much of a breeze on the journey and it got very very warm and uncomfortable towards the end. The actual cruise is good, but the heat was not.
Anywho, after purchasing our tickets at the hole in the window, all very straight and well ticket purchasing like, we joined the very long queue of people waiting to board the boat. It was a long wait in the sun, which was also not overly pleasant. You can however, purchase a cold ish bottle of water from a vendor for the bargain price of around $4!!! I know they have to earn a living, but seriously, $4!! That was £2 when we went, more now with the rubbish exchange rate.
Whilst waiting, I foudn out the boat goes around Manhattan by going Uptown first and then coming back Downtown. Thus, working out that everything in Manhattan would be on our right hand side and stated to the wife that we would sit on the right hand side (port or starboard for those sea faring readers and yes, I have no idea which it is.) to get that great view. So on getting on the boat, we made our way to some nice plastic chairs that move around on the right hand side quite near the front. Good seats I said, getting all giddy at my cunningness.
As you have probably guessed, being male, I was typically wrong. The boat, which I must say was very boat like, metal, propellor, cabin and standard tyres down the sides, made it's way out to sea, wwell river in this case and as you guessed, headed Downtown. I rambled on how we were going the wrong way, but it did not turn, just carried on. This now put us on the side that looked over New Jersey and no empty seats were available on the other side. Thwarted by my own cunning plan.
The boat itself went rather slowly on it's way and found us by the Statue of Liberty. It does get relatively close and does a circle near it to allow all cruisers the view of it, which was good. After this it then continues round the lower part of Manhattan and travels between the boroughs. Due to my plan, we could now see all the boroughs of Staten Island, albeit a small bit as it's a fair way away, Brooklyn, Queens and then the Bronx, before rounding the upper part of Manhattan and back down towards it's original start place.
At the very tip, we had to wait for a man to open a gate by some train track to let us through, which caused a slight delay. All through the cruise, there was a man giving tour commentary for everyone, but at times this was hard to hear. When we got to very tourist ares, ie, Statue of Liberty, etc, everyone seemed to crowd around the front of the boat, but we just stayed where we sat and could get an all round view when people weren't standing in the way.
I would certainly recommend doing this cruise, it was very good and we got to see some good sights. I would also recommend sittng on the side we sat on, as we got to see everything in the different areas of New York and New Jersey, instead of just everything we had already seen on Manhattan. Just don't go when it's really hot, the only downside to it. I can imagine it's the same when it's really cold as well.
Discover New York by boat, bus or helicopter!