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Circle Line cruise
Photograph: Courtesy Circle Line

Everything you need to know about taking a cruise around NYC right now

Ready to stretch your sea legs? NYC's party boats are preparing to set sail.

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New Yorkers are eager to have as much of a normal summer as possible, and part of that is soaking up the sun on the open waters of New York Harbor.

With New York City finally in the process of reopening, knowing what we can and can't do can be confusing—for instance, can we actually enjoy a pleasure cruise with other people? And what will taking one actually look like now that there are social distancing rules in place across the city?

Many of New York City's cruise lines, touring vessels and party boats are open for business and ready (or getting ready) to take on passengers for the summer. But your excursion out on the water will still involve masks and social distancing.

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Classic Harbor Line is back with various trips available including a sightseeing cruise, an evening sunset cruise and two-hour daytime sails and sunset sailing excursions in New York Harbor. Hornblower Cruises and Events, which has dining cruises, tours and sightseeing, has tickets available beginning in July, while Circle Line, which has several sightseeing cruises, has plans to open late July.

New York City's floating lobster shack, North River Lobster Company, is launching its first cruise on July 16 for guests who want to watch the Manhattan skyline slide by while indulging on clam chowder, truffle parmesan fries, lobster rolls, and drinks.

Clearly, summer isn't canceled and we will get back out on the water. It just comes with a few caveats. To operate, each cruise line must follow CDC-compliant guidelines set by the Passenger Vessel Association.

For one, when boarding vessels, there will be contactless check-in, meaning you won't be handing your ticket or phone to staffers. You'll also be asked for your contact information so if someone on your trip is found to have coronavirus, you can be notified and quarantine yourself. That being said, everyone will have to get their temperature taken before boarding, and in some cases, take a health questionnaire. Of course, everyone will need to wear a mask at all times. (No, it won't be glamorous. But it will be mandatory.)

Expect fewer people aboard your boat since capacity of vessels, like other businesses in NYC, will be cut in half. However, this could be a welcome change! Having more of the boat to yourself sounds like a good thing. That being said, each reservation will likely be assigned an onboard zone or table to keep people distanced. Windows aboard the boats will be open to bring in fresh air to indoor sections. 

Staff, who will also go through their own health checks, will also be tasked with keeping things clean and sanitized between cruises and throughout the day. 

Unfortunately, for the immediate future, dining and drinking on board may not be offered.

Hornblower Cruises has outlined what these changes will physically look like with a graphic: 

Classic Harbor Line Director of Operations Sarah Pennington said that with the measures they put in place, "I am confident our team is ready to welcome guests aboard once again."

As always, use your best judgment when booking an outing. Anchors away!

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