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Classic Harbor Line sunset jazz cruise
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out

We took a sunset jazz cruise around Manhattan and it was absolutely magical

A jazz trio played live music as we journeyed toward the Statue of Liberty.

Shaye Weaver
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Shaye Weaver
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On Tuesday evening, I found myself in the middle of the Hudson River—somewhere I never imagined I'd be. The sun had just begun to set and the water was a bit choppy with storm clouds rolling in over Lower Manhattan.

Luckily, I was on a yacht, safe and sound. I was on board the Classic Harbor Line's Evening Jazz Cruise Aboard Manhattan, a 1.5-hour cruise at sunset set to live jazz.

The evening began by taking a seat inside the '20s-style Yacht Manhattan—made extra cozy with ample pillows and corner tables—and ordering a glass of champagne, which was included in the ticket price (everyone gets one beer, glass of sparkling/still wine, soft drink, still or sparkling water on the house).

We soon started crusin' around the island, going due south, to the live jazz sounds of the Boat Band, led by Michael McGarril on the starboard side.

Classic Harbor Line sunset jazz cruise
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out

There were about 10 couples aboard the yacht, which was covered with windows you could open and skylights that let the sunshine through. I had never been so close to the river water before, but even so, we were in no danger of getting wet. Even the clouds that were threatening rain before we launched at 6:30 had moved out.

As we passed the west side of Manhattan, we saw the new Little Island and its not-yet-unveiled amphitheater, the imposing One World Trade tower, sailboats gliding peacefully and Jersey City's many high rises. As the sun got lower in the sky, the light bounced off different buildings, especially the Empire State Building, which seemed to glow like a torch in the sky.

As we took in the views and sipped on our drinks, the Boat Band (which included Dustin Kaufman on drums and Christian Nourijanian on keys) played jazz standards of the 1990s, including a Billy Joel tune that one of the boat staffers actually sang to, impressing guests.

Before we knew it, we came right upon the Statue of Liberty. I forgot just how massive she is. It's rare to get so close to her when not taking a ferry to Liberty Island, especially for an NYC resident. When we reached her in her green glory just after 7pm, the sun was setting right behind her and we were treated to an incredible view. 

Classic Harbor Line sunset jazz cruise statue of liberty
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out

The cruise was fantastic, not just because of the views and the champagne, but because it gave me a zoomed-out view of my beloved city. There was also some camaraderie between people on the water, from the yacht's crew to the musicians and even those already out on the water sailing. Folks boating with Hudson River Community Sailing even waved to us and danced to our jazz music.

I asked Michael McGarril, the bandleader and saxophonist, what it's like to play a gig while moving across water and he said he and his bandmates have to be very versatile to play on these yachts since every trip is different. Sometimes they're aboard a different yacht and sometimes there are some heavier waves that tip the drums a bit. 

"You get used to it," he told us. "It's just preparation and the balance of things. We're lucky to be able to play like this."

I could get used to it, too.

To have your own little evening jazz cruise, tickets are $104 per person for two to three guests or $86 per person for four or more guests — on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings in May. (Sunday won't be offered in June, however). Departure times depend on the sunset time, but are generally either at 6:30pm or 7pm, with an occasional 6pm:

May 13, 18 (6:30pm departure)
May 16, 20, 22, 25, 27 (7pm departure)
May 29, 30 and June and July Saturdays (7:15pm departure)
June and July Wednesdays (6pm departure)

Starting Saturday, June 5, Classic Harbor Line’s Live Jazz City Lights or Sunset Sail in NY Harbor begin. For this trip, the live jazz sail leaves at 6:45pm for a two-hour jaunt down to the tip of Manhattan on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is $96 per person, also inclusive of one beverage. The 1.5-hour City Lights Jazz Sail is on Saturdays at 9:15pm and is $78 per person, and includes one beverage as well. You can reserve your trip at classicharborline.com or call the Classic Harbor Line NYC phone number (212) 627-1825.

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