The Big Apple
‘The Pope is making his first visit to New York at the same time as our visit. I have contacted the Vatican to invite him for lunch on board!’ announced Captain Burgess, during our crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on board Aurora on our way to New York.
A visit to New York had always been on our bucket list. So my husband Howard and I followed our dreams and booked to go on Aurora’s 24-day cruise visiting New York and then heading up the east coast of America and on to Canada in September 2015. We were accompanied by our college friends, Viv and Colin, who were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.
Knowing the Pope was in town, we found out the closure times of affected streets and re-thought our plans for our time in the city as we sailed, to help us get everything we wanted from the trip. The six days on board during the crossing to New York were full of things to do – talks, advice, relaxing in the spa, going to the gym, dancing, lectures, cards, art classes, quizzes of every sort, excellent evening shows. The list is endless. And, of course, there is always food… We even survived the gale force ten winds as we crossed, hardly noticing a thing in our room.
The Big Apple welcomes us
The sail into New York was magnificent. I will never forget that beautiful morning as we watched the amazing skyline emerge, the buildings I’d only ever seen before in the movies. The Statue of Liberty welcoming us in, we had arrived. Now for some serious sightseeing.
We spent the afternoon visiting Broadway, Fifth Avenue, Grand Central station and Times Square. The Pope was holding a service at the Cathedral opposite the Rockefeller Centre the day we arrived, so Fifth Avenue was swarming with security. The New Yorkers were even taking photos of the empty streets – they had never seen Fifth Avenue empty of traffic!
We booked an evening tour that night which was brilliant, and something I’ll never forget. Seeing many of the famous landmarks, including the 9/11 memorial and the Dove of Peace, we got to experience the city all lit up at night, and heard all about life in the city. Going over Brooklyn Bridge, the views were just so special. Then, we were let loose on Times Square – it was buzzing, alive and vibrant, and we even saw ourselves on the big screen. The flashing lights, music, billboards and a myriad of colours, smells, sounds and images were an assault on our senses – and this was only the first day!
Second day of exploring
An early start found us at the Top of the Rock before 9am, which meant it was quiet and we could stay as long as we liked. It was a clear day, marvellous for photos. We could see Central Park and the stage where the Pope was talking later that day. We admired the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and we could just see Aurora’s funnel between the skyscrapers…
As we walked towards Central Park we found Madison Avenue was a no-go area and the top half of the park was secured and closed. We did manage to walk around the Zoo and along the east side though. Central Park was full of joggers, squirrels... and police! We even managed a visit to the Guggenheim Art Gallery, which is a fantastic building.
Having walked for miles, we jumped in a cab and negotiated the roadblocks to head back to the ship. As we set sail for Newport, I vowed to the Statue of Liberty that I would return to the Big Apple again – I didn’t get to shop at Macys!
Although we didn’t see the Pope in person, we did spot him on television that night. But I think Captain Burgess is still waiting for the Vatican to get in touch about that lunch on board!