NYC Cruises to Nowhere: The Magical Cruise Program That Lost Its Sea Legs

We're seasick over NYC Cruises to Nowhere getting struck down. But we can still reminisce over the fabulous adventures they once offered.

Updated February 12, 2024
Cruise ship leaving Manhattan with NYC in background

Once upon a time, in the choppy waters off of New York City, a giant ship set sail for a short cruise to nowhere. Ah, spending time on those aimless adventures around the Hudson was the glory days! Folks found it an affordable way to escape the hellscape that is fall and winter in NYC. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and a 2016 Homeland Security ruling outlawed these cruise ships' meanderings. But that doesn't mean we can't take a look back at what once was in hopes that it sails back around.  

The Cruises That Once Went Nowhere

New York City used to have a thriving Cruise to Nowhere business until the Department of Homeland Security got their little fingers involved. Specifically, The Jones Act and The Passenger Vessel Services Act tightened up security rules surrounding these cruises. Under this 2016 ruling, Cruises to Nowhere are required to have an all-American staff. But that's just not the case for most cruise lines. Any ship without an All-American staff is classified as "foreign-flagged" and therefore can't legally operate within U.S. ports.

I know what you're thinking: Why not just hire an American staff or make sure all employees have proper work visas? From cost issues to internal employment strategies, the list of complications that make this not an easy fix goes on and on. But don't worry, you're not the only one gripped with nostalgia for a cruise you never got the chance to take. Soothe your aching soul with some highlights from the once-great NYC Cruises to Nowhere that helped people sail away from their worries and be back before dinner. 

Need to Know

Circle Line and Liberty Cruise both offer a few different sightseeing tours that cruise on the water around Manhattan. Make sure you've got your camera handy because the views are amazing.

Norwegian Gem

Folks loved the price and entertainment for this two-night cruise to nowhere from New York. Typically embarking on the seas in late October or early November, the Norwegian Gem boasted a mood-lit bowling alley and a netted range to practice your golf swing. This ship was built in 2007 and completely refurbished in 2010 with ticket prices ranging from $199 to $1,329 depending on how fancy your cabin was.

Norwegian Breakaway

From December to February, the Breakaway ran a seven-day escape towards Bermuda with no port stops. This ship was the largest class to ever port in New York City and hosted a waterpark along with the most impressive rope course at sea. Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian oversaw all the dishes at the three restaurants on board, and you could catch Cirque du Soleil and Broadway-level performances. The cost was exciting, too — ranging from $179 to $1,299 per person.

Related: 9 Family Day Trip Ideas for Close-to-Home Adventure

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas

While not technically embarking from NYC, the Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas departed from nearby Cape Liberty, New Jersey which was close enough. It had a three-night sampler cruise designed to whet your whistle so you'd grab one of their lengthier stay packages for another time. The big boat had bumper cars, surfing and skydiving simulators, and unrivaled strolling areas so you could get all your steps in while on the sea. Setting you back around $849, it was still kind of a steal. 

Need to Know

If you've got your heart set on a cruise to nowhere, NYC comes through with special Event Cruises throughout the year that offer dinner, dancing, and other quirky themes. 

We Love to Rock the Boat 

It's a bummer that Homeland Security put an end to Cruises to Nowhere, but what can you do? Maybe someday the regulations will change and these affordable mini-vacations will regain their sea legs. They were glorious and highly coveted excursions, giving folks unforgettable experiences on the high seas. The pirate in you may be sad, but there's still plenty to see and do (even on the water) in and around NYC

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NYC Cruises to Nowhere: The Magical Cruise Program That Lost Its Sea Legs