A cruise to or from New York lets you explore the iconic city that never sleeps says Becky Wiggins

NewYork

Buzzing, vibrant and friendly, New York is one of the most enthralling cities in the world. It’s easy to navigate, too, so you can walk pretty much anywhere, but pace yourself, because there’s a huge range of incredible experiences on offer. Whether you love restaurants, museums, shopping or sightseeing, there’s always something fabulous to see and do.

Hit the big tourist attractions, uptown streets and trendy downtown villages, take a boat trip, swim in one of the free outdoor pools, ice-skate at the Rockefeller Plaza or cycle through Central Park. New York is very much an all-year-round destination and there’s never a dull moment.

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Where to stay:

From the top-hatted porter who helps you from your taxi (and can summon one instantly with an ear splitting whistle) to the concierge who can get you tickets for ‘anything, madam, just try me’, the luxury Roosevelt Hotel on E45th and Madison oozes New York glamour. Don’t expect modern and blingy, but embrace the proper old-world charm. The rooms are traditionally furnished and the cocktails are first class. It’s ideally placed for discovering Midtown. Our room had views of the Met Life building and Grand Central Terminal (theroosevelthotel.com).

Further west, the Westin Times Square is ideally situated at the ‘Crossroads of the World’, perfect for Broadway and the Theater District. Rooms are ultra-modern and beautifully furnished with super cool bathrooms and views over Manhattan and the Hudson River (westinny.com).

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Where to eat:

The Vander Bar is right next door to the Roosevelt (46th and Vanderbilt) and popular as an after work watering hole with the locals. Drop in for happy hour (3-6 pm Monday to Friday with $8 cocktails and $5 appetisers). Stay for the Cobb salad with lobster and amazing burgers. Service is fast and the atmosphere is lively and there’s also a roof terrace (vanderbar.com).

Smith’s Bar in Hell’s Kitchen serves proper burgers, fries, shakes and sandwiches. It’s an authentic New York diner complete with booths and friendly waitresses. Go there hungry and order the Jack Daniels burger, served medium with fries and a pickle (smithsbar.com).

Pause for a hot chocolate from the kiosk at Bryant Square a peaceful green space nestled between skyscrapers. Stella 34 Trattoria is on the 6th floor of Macy’s. Shop ‘til you drop then head up for authentic Italian food in this funky, popular trattoria. Dine on traditional pizzas made in the huge wood burning pizza ovens while checking out the great views over Broadway and the Empire State Building. Don’t leave without sampling the chocolate hazelnut gelato (facebook.com/Stella34Trattoria).

Ideally situated at the base of the Rockefeller Center The Sea Grill overlooks the ice rink (until late spring when it becomes an outdoor eating area). The food is artfully presented and, as the name suggests, the seafood is spectacular, with incredibly good sushi, oysters and lobster, and a stonkingly good wine list. Book ahead and linger (rockefellercenter.com/shop-and-eat/the-sea-grill).

Don’t miss Hundred Acres in SoHo for creative brunch dishes, a selection of Bloody Marys and the fluffiest buttermilk pancakes in a bright, modern space. If you can, ask for a table in the greenhouse-like area at the back. Make sure you try their trademark gooey cinnamon buns (hundredacresnyc.com).

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What to see:

Depending on how much time you have, it helps to split the city into sections. Get your trainers on and you can cover most of Midtown in a day. Start by grabbing a CityPASS (citypass.com/new-york) which will give you free entry to lots of attractions like the Empire State, The Metropolitan Museum and the Circle Line boat trip, which passes all the major landmarks – the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center and the Brooklyn Bridge – and is excellent for getting your bearings. Hire bikes in Central Park and spend a bit of time discovering this beautiful green space.

Channel your inner Liz Lemon and head to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The Top of the Rock observation deck provides beautiful views across Central Park and beyond. No trip to NYC is complete without a visit to the Empire State Building. Go early, at lunchtime or, ideally after 10 pm when the queues are minimal and the views of Manhattan spectacular. Again, jump the ticket queue with a CityPASS. Grand Central Terminal is bustling and beautiful (and celebrating its centennial year). Wander and experience an array of restaurants, bars and shops, and a huge Apple store.

Times Square is worth a visit to soak up the atmosphere. Go after dark for the full bright lights experience but head away to eat as restaurants tend to be expensive. Downtown there are beautiful areas to explore. Greenwich Village and SoHo are full of cool buildings, shops, cafés and restaurants. The Meatpacking District is über trendy. Hop on the High Line, a public park built on an old train track at Gansevoort Street, has beautiful views.

If you have time to go further afield, head across the Brooklyn Bridge. Downtown Brooklyn and Williamsburg are well worth a visit. Foodies will also love Smorgasburg, Williamsburg’s fun and fabulous weekend food market.

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Getting around:

It’s easy to get around on foot and the grid system of avenues and streets is simple so you won’t get lost. The subway is cheap and safe but plan your journey before you set off (the CityPASS has directions on the back of each attraction ticket) to avoid being tutted at by locals while dithering at the ticket machine. Cabs are reasonable. Stick to licensed yellow cabs which have metering and clear pricing.

For longer journeys book a car service like SuperShuttle in advance – useful for airport transfers if travelling independently (supershuttle.com). The Manhattan Cruise Terminal is easily accessible and most ships leave from the same area as the Circle Line tour. In good traffic it’s a ten-minute cab ride from Times Square.

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Getting there:

Three nights in New York with Virgin Holidays, with flights from Heathrow and room only stay at The Roosevelt Hotel from £965pp (virginholidays.co.uk/0844 557 3859). Price is based on two adults travelling and sharing accommodation, including all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a 4 November 2014 departure.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise here.