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Bus tours in the Big Apple.
Gray Line New York Sightseeing Tour (New York City)
Member Name: Dexter01
Gray Line New York Sightseeing Tour (New York City)
Date: 25/10/09, updated on 13/11/09 (216 review reads)
Advantages: Easy way of getting around. Great if the guide is good.
Disadvantages: Not nice if weather is poor, rubbish guides, no time table anywhere.
Gray Line are one of the tour operators in New York city. They operate serveral different bus tours through out the day. If you have been to New York before, then you will most certainly have seen the ticket sellers, who seem to be on every corner in Midtown Manhattan, trying to sell what ever they can to you. Unbeknown to me, until my most recent trip, they have a sales office located on 8th Avenue, not far from Times Square.
The bus tours that Gray Line operate are:
Uptown Loop-taking you uptown, above Central Park, through Harlem and back to midtown down 5th Avenue. Operates 8:30am to 4:40pm and lasts approx. 2 hours.
Downtown Loop-takes you downtown from Times Square, all the way to Battery Park and South Street Seaport, before making it's way back to Times Square. Operates 8am to 6pm and lasts approx. 2 hours.
Brooklyn Loop-Departs from South Street Seaport, takes you across the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn, tours some of the neighbourhoods and then goes back across the bridge to the Seaport. Operates 10am to 3:30pm and lasts approx. 2 hours.
Night Tour-Starts at Times Square and completes most the Downtown Loop, but also takes you over into Brooklyn and shows you a small part of that, before heading back to Times Square. Operates from 6pm to 8:30pm and lasts approx. 2 hours.
These are the main bus tours for Gray Line. With the expection of the Night Tour, the other 3 are hop on-hop off loops. This means that they stop at various places, so you can get off and catch a different tour later on from the same spot or head to a different stop to catch it. Each tour is approximately $40 for an adult, but there are always offers on the go throughout the year.
When we were there this time, my wife wanted to do the Night Tour, as we had done this before and I wanted to do the Uptown and Brooklyn Loop, to see a different part of the city. We looked at a leaflet found inside the sales office and discovered the All Loops Tour with NYC Duck tour for $60 each. This comprises of 48hours worth of each bus tour and a ride on the Duck bus. Considering buying tickets for the 4 main tours seperately would cost $160 alone, this makes the $60 a bargain. With it being 48 hours as well, you can get on and off any of the tours as mcuh as you want in that time.
Having seen the Duck buses driving around, we decided to go for that first. The Departure point is in Times Square and the first thing we noticed was that there was no time table anywhere. In the leaflet we had, it just had what the tours were in, nothing about times the buses ran and the same for the departure points.
Anyway, we joined the queue and within 10 minutes, a 'duck' had arrived. The thing you notice about these is that the bus looks like a gallieon ship on a set of wheels. You had to climb, what they call a ladder, but I call a steep set of steps to get on and find a seat. There are no seatbelts for you to use on any of the buses. This tour set off and heads towards the Hudson River.
A tour guide is pointing out all the good bits of the tour, etc. We had a exceptionally good guide for our ride, who seemed to know his stuff and was very good with everyone on board. At the river, you go into a shed to have the wheels washed and watch a short film. You get squirtted with some water and next thing you know, you are heading down a slipway into the river. The boat shape then becomes clear. The bus/boat heads up river for a short distance, before stopping and the guide came round and took pictures of everyone onboard with there own cameras, with the City Skyline in the background. A very nice touch.
You the head back to where you entered and make your way back to Times Square. This tour did not seem to have a specific route, it seemed to depend on traffic at the time. It lasted around one hour and was a pretty fun thing to do. I would recommend this to anyone.
After this, we decided to jump on the Downtown Loop and get off at the Seaport to get the Brooklyn Loop. Having been on a night tour before and knowing it takes you on the downtown loop, we were not to bothered about doing this tour again. The tour guide was good, but had nothing on the boat tour guide, so we just spotted things we hadn't spotted before.
At the Seaport, we decided we were hungry, and having seen a small queue waiting for the next bus to come along, we went for some food. This is where the fact that there are no time tables anywhere spoils it a little bit. After getting food, we headed back to the queue, to find everyone on a bus and no more queue. The bus had nothing on it to distinguish what it was for and there is no signs anywhere to tell you where to queue for the tour.
I ended up finding a tour operator from Citysights, Grayline's rival company and asked him if he knew. The bus that was waiting was the bus we needed and that was the place to queue. The reason we couldn't ask the bus driver or Gray Line operator, was due to the distinct lack of them being around. We stand by the bus, to eventually be told it's full by a driver, who arrives and then drives away. Fair enough, if it's full, it's full.
So we wait for the next one. A operator asks if we are waiting for the Brooklyn tour, we respond in the affirmitive and he tells us to queue where we are. All hunky dory. The the clock strikes 3:15pm. Still not knowing any times, we just queue. All of a sudden, a different tour man appears, stands about 15 metres away from us and shouts "I don't know why your all waiting for, there ain't no more Brooklyn tours today". As quick as he appeared and said that, he disappeared. A downtown bus appears and everyone crams on to that.
So, we find ourselves back in Times Square, myself being a wee bit annoyed for what has happened. We decide we will jump on the Uptown Loop instead. This was good. It was a real eye opener, to see different parts of Manhattan. Lower Manhattan appears to have lots of money everywhere. Going through Harlem, you see that none of that money goes above Central Park. You see alot of different things and it is nice to get a different perspective on everything. The downside of this tour for us was the tour guide.
She was rubbish and that is being very kind to her. We were driving along and there would be some sort of statue or building that looks like it has history to it and they would mention it, but she would be silent. Then she would direct your eyes to a building by saying "note, to the right, the supermarket". So you look at the supermarket, thinking hat is the special part of it going to be. Has it appeared in films, who knows. No, it turns out, it's just a supermarket. There is nothing special about it. Then she points out a building that was a bank, but is now reused as a drug store. Seriously, I never knew that sort of stuff happened. I mean, in this country, we don't have supermarkets and then just leave building's empty once the previous occupier has gone. The worst part by far about her though, was her incessant asking for tips. Past a certain point, she started asking for tips every 100metres or so. She also had a thing about children and would point out every child that was playing in a park.
After that, we decided to skip the night tour. It is a very good tour if you get a good guide. It is the downtown loop and a bit more in the dark, with all the lights in the city on.
The next day, we went for the Brooklyn tour again. This time, we were lucky and got on it at first attempt. I can't really recommend this tour. It is good, you do get to see some of Brooklyn, but you do't go that far into it or go to alot of different areas. Unfortunately, we didn't have a very good guide for this one and he spoke exceptionally fast, making it difficult to understand what he was pointing out.
With the exception of the Brooklyn Loop and Duck tour, the buses are open top double decker buses. They do have some seating inside downstairs, but due to advertising on the side of the bus, you can't really see out. The Brooklyn Tour is a single decker enclosed bus and the duck is a boat type thing.
Out of all the tours, I would recommend the Night Tour, the Uptown Loop if you fortunate to get a good guide and the Duck tour. I would look out for deals though, as getting these seperate will be expensive.
Summary: Good to do if you're looking for something to do.
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