Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises

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Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
Circle Line Logo.jpg
Circle Line X.jpg
LocaleManhattan, New York
WaterwayEast River, Harlem River, Harlem River Ship Canal, Hudson River, New York Harbor, Spuyten Duyvil Creek, Upper New York Bay
Transit typeWater Tours
OperatorCircle Line Sightseeing Cruises
Began operation1945
No. of vessels8
Daily ridershipApproximately 2,740

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises is a boat-based sightseeing and entertainment company in Manhattan, New York. Its principal business is operating guided tours of New York City from its base at Pier 83 in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.


Circumnavigation of Manhattan became possible in 1905 with the construction of the Harlem Ship Canal, the first regularly scheduled trip being the Tourist captained by John Roberts in 1908.

On June 15, 1945 Frank Barry, Joe Moran and other partners merged several companies to form Circle-Line Sightseeing Yachts, offering boat tours of New York operating out of Battery Park.

Circle Line cruise, 1973. Photo by Arthur Tress.
The Circle Line XVII touring the Harlem River

In 1955 it began operating at Pier 83 in Midtown. In 1962 it bought the famous and venerable Hudson River Day Line, keeping it as a separate brand until 1985.[1]

Fireworks at Pier 83 in 2006.

In 1981, the Circle Line split into two companies—Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises and Circle Line Downtown.

In 1988 the company bought World Yacht's operating upscale dining cruises from Chelsea Piers - currently World Yacht Dining Cruises. In 1998 the 42nd Street company also launched The Beast, a speedboat ride which takes tourists around the Statue of Liberty and goes 45 mph.

In 2007, the United States National Park Service said it was going to terminate Circle Line Liberty franchise and give a 10-year contract to Hornblower Cruises which provides service to Alcatraz.[2] It was noted in the announcement that since 1953 Circle Line has transported 70 million people to Liberty Island. Among the items cited in the transfer was a newer fleet (although Hornblower will have to buy the Circle Line boats) and the possibility of new service to Gateway National Recreation Area. The New York Times reported on December 8, 2007 that the price of the Circle Line boats to be sold to Hornblower was in arbitration, forcing Hornblower to bring in new boats.[3]

In 2009, Circle Line took delivery of the third of three new vessels constructed by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in Somerset, Massachusetts.

In January 2017, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises purchased New York Water Taxi—among the assets acquired was the latter company's Circle Line Downtown brand, reuniting both Circle Lines under one owner.[4]


Circle Line was awarded with proclamations by two New York City mayors. In 1985, then Mayor Ed Koch proclaimed April 23 "Circle Line Day." Approximately 20 years later current Mayor Mike Bloomberg proclaimed September 17 "Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises Day" in 2008.


Video from 20 minutes after US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River, with numerous ferries and rescue boats surrounding the aircraft
The plane in the Hudson River surrounded by Coast Guard, FDNY, NYPD, and ferryboats

In 2001, Circle Line vessels helped transport victims of the September 11 attacks back to New Jersey.

After US Airways Flight 1549 was forced to land in the Hudson River in 2009, Circle Line Sightseeing vessels were among the first to respond.[citation needed]


Currently, Circle Line Sightseeing operates 8 vessels with an additional two under construction, including:[5]

  • Sightseer XII - commissioned in 1933 as the United States Coast Guard patrol boat Argo, sold in 1955 and later acquired by Circle Line.
  • Circle Line XVI - commissioned in 1934 as the USCG patrol boat Nike, decommissioned in 1964 and sold to Circle Line in 1966.
  • Circle Line XVII - commissioned in 1934 as the USCG patrol boat Triton, decommissioned in 1967 and sold to Circle Line in 1973.
  • Circle Line Manhattan - purpose-built in 2008 to replace Circle Line XI.
  • Circle Line Brooklyn - purpose-built in 2009.
  • Circle Line Queens - purpose-built in 2009.
  • The Beast - speedboat that entered service with Circle Line in 2011.
  • Circle Line Bronx - built by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding and delivered in January 2017.[6]
  • Circle Line Staten Island - built by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding and delivered in May 2017.[7]
  • Circle Line Liberty - built by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding and delivered in March 2018.[8]

The Bronx, Staten Island, and Liberty constitute Circle Line's new Empire-class boats, which claim to be state-of-the-art, and include modern amenities like digital screens and improved sound systems.[5]

Additionally, while she has been retired from service, the Circle Line X is retained by Circle Line.[5] Circle Line X was originally built for the US Navy in 1944 as a Landing Craft Infantry (Large), designated USS LCI(L)-758. 758 participated in several landings during the Pacific Theater of World War II, including those during the battles of Leyte, Ormoc Bay, Mindoro, and Lingayen Gulf.[9] 758 was decommissioned in 1946 and sold to Circle Line, who converted her into a tourist vessel and renamed her Circle Line X. She served in this role until her retirement in 2007, and as of 2015 Circle Line plans to turn her into a floating museum and terminal alongside Pier 83.[10]


The Beast prepares to cast off

Circle Line Sightseeing continues to operate on the Hudson River and is dedicated exclusively to sightseeing.

Cruise types[edit]

  • Full Island Cruise - navigates the entire island of Manhattan.
  • Semi Circle Cruise - goes through half of the island of Manhattan, circles sights twice.
  • Liberty Cruise - sails directly past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
  • Harbor Lights Cruise - same route as the Semi Circle cruise at sunset.
  • The BEAST Speedboat Ride - New York's first speedboat, cruises up to 45 mph on the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty and back.
  • Special Events Cruises - Santa Cruise, New Year's Eve, etc.
  • Kids Cruises - cruises themed specifically for kids, often with kids-specific entertainment.
  • Private Charters
  • Groups


  1. ^ George, Horne (October 6, 1962). "Hudson Day Line Bought By Circle". The New York Times. p. 50. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  2. ^ Ramirez, Anthony (June 29, 2007). "Circle Line Loses Pact for Ferries to Liberty Island". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
  3. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (December 8, 2007). "Crossing a Continent by Water to Another City by the Bay". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
  4. ^ "Circle Line owner hops on New York Water Taxi". Marine Log. January 12, 2017. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "The Boats". Circle-Line Sightseeing. Archived from the original on 25 June 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Circle Line has new sightseeing boat from Gladding-Hearn". Workboat. January 10, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  7. ^ "Gladding-Hearn delivers second sightseeing vessel to NYC". Workboat. June 5, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "Gladding-Hearn delivers new passenger vessel to Circle Line". Workboat. March 27, 2018. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  9. ^ "USS LCI(L)-758". Navsource. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  10. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (29 June 2014). "A Historic Warship, Reborn as a Tourist Draw, May See Another Revival". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 March 2017.

External links[edit]