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New York City and Niagara Falls

Author: cruisenut2001 (More Trip Reviews by cruisenut2001)
Date of Trip: April 2007

Outings: Our TA arranged through NYC Vacation Packages some tour vouchers and today was the Lower Manhattan Walking Tour. We met our guide, Marty, at Cosi’s (2 blks from the Crowne) and left for the subway at 9:00. We walked a few blocks west to catch a red train to Ground Zero. Foundation work on the new Freedom Tower was in full-swing, we were told by Marty that the original World Trade Center subway flooring and signs will soon be gone as construction progresses. Tour books are nice, but I don’t think anything beats having a local guide for getting the latest information. We walked to Firehouse-10 to view the memorial, then to St Paul’s, but the church was closed for repairs. We took a short break at a coffee shop across from the church before walking to Wall Street. Trinity Church was next and this is also where the tour guide leaves as the tour is now over. Marty gave us directions for getting back and we looked around the cemetery for awhile.

We took the subway to 34th so we could shop at Macy’s for a baby shower gift. We returned to the hotel and just relaxed until dinner. We were both hungry for lamb, so we checked the restaurant guide that’s in the room and picked a Greek restaurant called Kellari Taverna (19 W 44th). I wish I had made a copy of that Manhattan address guide that I saw on the web site; Kellari was further east of Broadway than I had thought. We knew after looking at the menu that this was going to be our big, expensive, NYC meal. They didn’t serve a white Zinfandel, but the waiter’s suggestion of a lighter Greek red wine was very good. The lamb chops ($32) were the biggest, juiciest, and most flavorful that I have ever had (and I roast an excellent rack). The total cost was around $110 for drinks, salad, entrée, and dessert. The restaurant also has a good selection of fish displayed on ice that they serve whole and charge by the pound.

Day 7, April 20, Friday

Statue of Liberty, Grandfather, and Sushi.

Outings: The Statue of Liberty was another NYCVP tour. We left Cosi at 8:00, took the subway downtown, had a brief visit with The Bull for pictures, and were in line for the ferry at 8:45. They were announcing a 60 minute wait time (for people just getting their tickets) before the line stated to move and while we were in the first security tent they announced the wait was 90 minutes. The guide told us that spring is the busiest time for schools. We were given subway cards, ferry tickets, and S of L tickets by our guide before we left Cosi. The security checkpoints are well documented so I’ll skip those details. The guide left us once we reached Liberty Island and we were on our own. We took the ranger’s guided tour; it was short and sweet. We waited for the elevator to take us to the platform rather than take the 150 steps. Very good view of the Hudson and NYC, but with kids everywhere it was sometimes hard to get a clear opening for a picture. Went to Ellis Island and walked through a few of the exhibits, I think I failed the Mental Test. Spent some time on the AFIHC computer ($5 for 25 minutes) looking for relatives and my wife found her grandfather and his brother on the same ship. She was a very, very happy camper. We bought the manifest for $25.

We arrived back at Battery Park at 15:00. We had a voucher for Gray Lines’ All Loops Tour and after exchanging the voucher for tickets we took the Downtown Loop. The loop took about 3 hours to complete; very congested on a Friday rush-hour. We decided to try a Japanese restaurant we had passed during one of our walks and it was only a block from the hotel. The Aoki (294 W 48th) has a very small store front, but has ample room once inside. We didn’t try any of their raw fish; we like the Americanized style of Japanese food. We had mixed tempura, cooked shrimp sushi, California rolls, salad (love the ginger dressing), miso soup, and ice cream. We spent close to $60, but I made a mistake and ordered the full dinner tempura rather than the small order so the bill was about $10 higher. We also had a second Cal roll. The sushi was about double the price that we normally pay per piece. My DW had green tea ice cream for dessert and I had the red bean ice cream. The food here was really good. We did notice on our shrimp there wasn’t much wasabi and had to add more.

Day 8, April 21, Saturday

Carriage ride, Empire State Building, and Dallas BBQ. I had time this morning to try the breakfast buffet at Samplings ($23) and it was very good. Going ala carte doesn’t make much sense here, because the cheapest item was over $13. The omelet, cheese, cold meat, and fruit I had were delicious.

Outings: We took the subway to Central Park for a carriage ride we had a voucher for. The ride is advertised for 20 minutes, but it lasted only about 12 minutes. It wasn’t like our driver was racing; all the carriages were following each other around the same loop. It was a nice sunny day, lots a people in the park, and the band was playing. It was something we wanted to do, but doubt if we’ll ever do it again. The bicycle drivers actually do a longer distance on a different loop for a better price, but not too romantic. We took the subway to the Empire State Building and got there about 14:30. Bad timing; Saturday afternoons must be the worse time to go. Ticket line 30 minutes, 1st elevator line was 100 minutes, 2nd elevator line on the 80th floor was another 30 minutes. There is a photo stop on the 80th where everyone gets to pose by a backdrop. Even though it took almost 2 hours, the view was worth the wait. It was fun to try and find everywhere we had been. The Statue of Liberty looked so small.

We went back to the hotel and decided to try and find the BBQ restaurant that we’ve smelled all week. We asked a security person on Broadway and were directed to the Dallas BBQ (241 W 42nd). This restaurant was too far away to be the one we smelt, but what a find. This has to be the best value in Times Square. The price is average, but the food is great! The tables are set close together in a very large open room. Drinks are served in ½ gallon size glass goblets. The atmosphere is wild and noisy. I had the BBQ combo which is pulled pork and brisket on ½ buns with a baked potato and coleslaw. My wife had the honey mustard chicken. The cost was $35 and was worth every penny. When we left the line was very long. There is a movie theater just west of the restaurant.

Day 9, April 22, Sunday

Hard to believe this is our last day. We still had vouchers for a museum and haven’t been on the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, I guess we’ll just need to come back. We left for JFK very early based on what we were told: “Plan for the taxi ride to be 2 hours”, “Sundays at JFK are terrible”, and “The security lines will take over an hour to go through”. None of these were true and we got to the airport too early to check in. The taxi ride took 30 minutes, maybe three people were in the Jet Blue ticket line, and the security check took about 10 minutes. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The seats were the normal width on the larger jet and with the extra legroom the non-stop trip back home was very comfortable. Yes, we were in the take-off traffic jam (19:30) at JFK and we were told that we were number 29 in line; about an hour until take-off. We must have had a good tail wind, because we arrived only a few minutes late. Grabbed our bags, took the shuttle to economy parking lot, and had a relaxing drive home. So ends another wonderful vacation.

Overall Impressions

We could have done more if we packed every moment with activities, but I think with all the cruises we’ve been on lately we have learned to balance our day between excursion time and relaxation time.

We found the tourist areas to be very safe and clean. Many of the popular areas had merchant associations that hired their own security and street sweepers. Police actually walk the beat in New York. I’m sure there are pick-pockets and we were not on the subway after 21:00, but never did we feel threatened or wish we had a Kevlar vest on. People on the street and on the subway were friendly when asked for directions.

We were never treated rudely by any waiters or other staff members; I would have felt bad not leaving a tip. We felt the higher than normal prices paid were justified, because the quality of the food and the ingredients used for cooking were of the highest quality.

We may not return solely for a NYC vacation, but we are looking into cruises that leave from New York. We know what to do with our 2-3 day pre-cruise stay.

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