It is almost impossible to generalise America’s East Coast. After all, how can you compare the skyscrapers of New York City with the seafood shacks of New England? And the excitement in the air around Times Square is a million miles away from the exclusive ambience surrounding the manicured mansions of Newport. Cruising the East Coast, during fall or otherwise, offers you the chance to draw your own comparisons.
Most East Coast explorers arrive via the Atlantic, their ships docking at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook. In mere minutes, you are in Manhattan.
This is New York. Concrete jungle yes, but one “where dreams are made of”, if the less than grammatically-correct lyrics of homegrown talents Alicia Keys and Jay-Z are to be believed. If you are chasing the American Dream, it is here that you head. It hides on the stages of Broadway and in the fashion studios of the Garment District; it waits for you at the top of the Empire State Building, tempting you with enough of a view to guarantee that New York never wanders far from your thoughts again. Spend a New York Minute and you’ll pray that time stands still long enough for you to rack up a lifetime in the city that never sleeps.
It’s hard to put your finger on what makes the Big Apple so appealing, but when you’re rowing a boat on Central Park Lake, with the sun on your back and the city’s skyscrapers rising around you, there’s no denying that it is something seriously special. The same feeling creeps in when you join the tourist masses in Times Square and find yourself awestruck amongst the billboards, and you’ll sense it as you wander through the West Village, surrounded by the kind of people who are so impossibly cool, they’d look right at home in the movies set on those same streets. Eat pizza at Grimaldi’s and steak at Peter Luger, drop some serious dollar on Fifth Avenue and watch your own West Side Story develop from the High Line. All of the above are rites of passage for first time visitors and they leave a lot for the rest of the East Coast to live up to.
Newport, Rhode Island
Fewer than 200 miles separate New York City and Newport in Rhode Island, but the two couldn’t be further apart. Whilst New York is an epicentre of modern life, Rhode Island built its homes and its reputation on old money. It is on these New England shores that America’s Nouveau Riche, including the Vanderbilts, spent their summers and their vast palatial residences remain as a reminder of the Gilded Age. Tours to these unapologetically ostentatious holiday homes always incorporate two Vanderbilt residences within their rounds; The Breakers and the Marble House, and these are the grandest of all eleven Newport mansions.
Newport’s attraction continued long after the Vanderbilts left town (with the exception of a great-granddaughter who continues to summer rent-free on the third floor of The Breakers), and much of its appeal centres around the sea. Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State, and there are over 100 beaches along its 400-mile coast; not bad for a state measuring just 38 miles wide and 48 miles long. Every Newport town is bordered by a beach and there are few simpler pleasures than watching the Atlantic Ocean crash onto the sands, whilst you manoeuvre your mouth around a lobster roll. One of the best, Easton’s Beach, delivers sea food and sea views in equal measure, and is also the starting point for windswept strolls along the jaw-dropping Newport Cliff Walk.
Of course, you cannot cruise New England without visiting Boston and walking a different kind of path. The Freedom Trail is the most historic two-and-a-half miles in America, its 16 sites all having played a significant role in the American Revolution. With entry to 13 of the sites provided free of charge, the 2.5-mile route is arguably one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Boston has a reputation for being hip and historic in equal measure, and you’ll find plenty to do aside from the Freedom Trail. Boston Common is regularly compared to New York’s Central Park, despite having been established over 200 years before its leafy counterpart in 1634, and is the oldest public park in America. If the park looks strangely familiar, along with the Beacon Hill neighbourhood which sits on its outskirts, it is because both have played a starring role in some of Hollywood’s biggest Boston-based blockbusters, including The Departed and Good Will Hunting. Beacon Hill’s Bull & Finch Pub is instantly recognisable to many, having served as the exterior of the famous Cheers bar.
The only green space for which Boston is more famous is the iconic emerald turf of Fenway Park; home of the Boston Red Sox and the oldest baseball park in Major League. The charm of Fenway Park is that it looks much the same today as it did when it opened in 1912 and you needn’t be a sports fan to appreciate the thrill that comes with sitting on the stadium’s slatted wooden seats, singing along to Sweet Caroline during the seventh-inning stretch. Of course, those who are sports fans will already know that Boston is home to NFL’s Super Bowl winning giants, the New England Patriots, too.
For all the greatness of America’s East Coast cities, it is New England’s nature that attracts many to this part of the world. Bar Harbor, despite being little more than a tiny fishing town on the coast of Maine’s Mount Desert Island, is a big hitter in the world of cruising. Mountains, lakes, woodland and wildlife have drawn holidaymakers to Bar Harbor and the surrounding Acadia National Park for centuries, and the jewel in Maine’s crown hasn’t dulled its sparkle since the days when the Astors and Rockefellers would frequent its island estates. It was John D Rockefeller Jr. who laid the 47 miles of rocky Carriage Roads that today allow some three million visitors to visit Acadia National Park every year. Walk the roads in a New England fall and you’ll find yourself surrounded by shades of rust, russet, evergreen and ochre, the colours created by a forest of birch, aspen, spruce and firs.
Besides the foliage, New England’s claim to fame is its seafood, and whilst you’ll find chowder, clambakes and more on the menu, the real star of the show is the Maine lobster. Take a seat at a gingham covered table and tuck your serviette into the collar of your shirt, before jumping whole-heartedly into a feast of lobster bisque, lobster rolls, broiled lobster casserole and poached lobster tails. Bar Harbor is as passionate about its lobster as Bubba Gump was about his shrimp.