Updated: March 31st, 2019
I’m a big fan of tradition. Whether it’s eating at all my favorite places when I go back home, or watching all the same Christmas movies every year even though I’m a total scrooge, or even riding the same ride at Disney World every year no matter how much my friends have had to drink up to that point. I mean, Spaceship Earth was basically built for naps, no? Any time I do the same thing more than once, it becomes a tradition—a tradition that must be continued annually until the end of time despite how little everyone begins to care. Annoying people with my traditions: also a tradition.
Well, I have a new annual tradition. Or maybe you can call it an “anti-tradition”—you tell me. Each year my husband and I try to find new and interesting ways to spend Thanksgiving that don’t involve spending thousands of dollars on plane tickets and/or spending hours in a kitchen. Two years ago we spent Thanksgiving in New York City at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (with a fabulous dinner at my favorite Irish pub, and, no, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive), last year my family joined us in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving dinner with Pilgrims and Native Americans at Plimoth Plantation, but this year’s will be hard to beat. If you haven’t figured it out yet by the title of this post (already hitting the nog, I see), Hornblower New York invited me to experience one of their NYC Thanksgiving dinner cruises and it was ah-mazing.
WHAT IS HORNBLOWER?
Hornblower is more than just a funny word or what you’d imagine would be the name of a Looney Tunes character. Hornblower is a yacht company that provides all kinds of cruises for all kinds of events: brunch (yes, in New York City brunch is most definitely an event), weddings, holiday parties, sightseeing, album drops, new year’s eve, and so on. They operate cruises in New York City, up and down the California coast, and even Niagara Falls—perhaps my next one! They also operate Statue Cruises, the company taking you to visit the Statue of Liberty and back.
My NYC Thanksgiving dinner cruise was my second Hornblower cruise, my first being their Jazz Brunch Cruise (featuring unlimited mimosas and yes I feel that’s a necessary point to make). My friend and I had so much fun on our first Hornblower cruise that I couldn’t wait to take another. And now another.
THE NYC THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE
Hornblower offers three NYC Thanksgiving dinner cruises:
- Nautical Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise | On the lower level of the yacht Sensation, with shared style seating and buffet menu
- Admiral’s Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise | On the second level of the yacht Sensation, with the same shared style seating and buffet menu
- Premier Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise | On the smaller, more intimate yacht (hello oxymoron!) Esprit, with private tables, family style dining, and premium open bar
In addition to the awesomeness that is eating dinner on a boat, these cruises offer a three-hour tour from Pier 40 on the Hudson River, down around lower Manhattan, up the East River passing under the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges, then down to the Statue of Liberty… and back. You’re greeted with a glass of champagne upon arriving on the boat despite the fact that you’re already stumbling like a moron (boats + heels tho) then another to toast Lady Liberty and her more seaworthy footwear. I personally took the Nautical Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise that also offered coat check, a cash/credit bar, as much free water and soft drinks as your insulin levels can handle, and, for whatever strange reason, free Baileys. And free Baileys just happens to be what I am most thankful for this year.
The cruises go from 5:00-8:00pm and all options come with a live DJ who’s totally open to compliments and some of the best views in New York City.
NYC THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE | THE FOOD
Because they don’t want to throw you for a complete untraditional loop, these NYC Thanksgiving dinner cruises do serve traditional Thanksgiving food–but like, way better than anything I could make. I had a meltdown last week trying to make green bean casserole for Friendsgiving, i.e. the easiest damn Thanksgiving dish to make. That’s literally why I chose it. I made it as far as step one—get out the dish—before I failed at even that and threw the spatula at my husband and stormed off. I cannot exaggerate how much I hate cooking.
Aaaanyway. The food on the Hornblower cruises always wows me. On my first brunch cruise, I was expecting… oh, I don’t know… something more like I would cook. And by that I mean, something from a box that says “just add water”. In reality, the food was (and always is) really good. Not “good for a boat” good, but actually really, really good. So of course I didn’t hesitate at all booking a cruise to celebrate a holiday that 100% revolves around food. And as expected, the food on my NYC Thanksgiving dinner cruise was nothing short of impressive.
The food was served buffet style—the best style imo—and the menu included:
- Assorted bread, corn bread, and biscuits
- Mixed greens salad with cranberries, candied pecans, goat cheese, roasted shallots, and Dijon vinaigrette
- Penne Bolognese
- Maple glazed turkey breast
- Some kind of amazing yams whose description I didn’t catch but nom nom nom
- Mashed potatoes + gravy
- Candy crusted pecan sweet potatoes
- Brussels sprouts with pancetta
- Seared salmon for those, like myself, who don’t actually like turkey on Thanksgiving
- A pork loin carving station
…And for desert: pumpkin cheesecake and apple caramel bread pudding for everyone else, Baileys on the rocks for me.
NYC THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE | THE ATMOSPHERE
The Hornblower yacht Sensation—which I will henceforth refer to as “my yacht” because this is my blog and I can do what I want—is a beautiful tri-level watercraft. I don’t actually know any real boat words so bear with me. The first and second levels are the indoor dining levels with the top level being completely outside with a variety of seating options and mood lighting that makes it almost impossible to get a picture of yourself where you don’t look like Grimsby from the Little Mermaid.
There’s music and dancing on every floor, whether it’s for fun, to stay warm, or a side effect of your third helping of desert Baileys. The whole boat turns into one big party—crazy enough that you absolutely don’t regret ditching your family for the holidays, but not so crazy that Miss Judy can’t celebrate her 93rd birthday.
There were, my guess would be, somewhere between 150-200 people on my yacht. That’s a rough estimate as I couldn’t see much of the other guests whilst shoveling goat cheese into my mouth by the forkful. On board were cuddling couples of varying ages, whole families including those with young children, people celebrating birthdays, singular guests, and one blogger taking up-close pictures of the buffet while people looked on and judged. One of the guests to my husband: “She’s taking pictures of the food?” My husband’s response: “Yeah, she does that a lot.”
NYC THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE | THE VIEWS
The views from the Hornblower cruises are some of my favorite. You can see all of lower Manhattan and around into Midtown as you head towards the Williamsburg Bridge. During the day it’s gorgeous. At night, even gorgeous-er. One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and all those other buildings in between. You sail under the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Williamsburg bridge and that, to me, is such a fun and unique experience, especially at night when you can see into the trains crossing the bridges.
The boat then heads over to the Statue of Liberty where it gets closer than you’d ever expect. It pauses there for a few minutes for a much-appreciated champagne toast, some Sinatra, and for all the photo-ops your fingertips can handle before they freeze right off. If your fingers can make it here, they can make it anywhere!
NYC THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE | THE STAFF
The staff aboard Hornblower’s NYC Thanksgiving Dinner Cruises are consistently some of the nicest people in Manhattan. Our server Anthony was so great, as were the people in the check-in office, the guys who help you get on the boat without falling over, the greeters and seaters, the guy who hands you a tray of champagne of which you’re only supposed to take one I think, to the bartender, the pork loin carver, and even the girl in the restroom who helped me use that weird fancy sink. Everyone is so nice and friendly and helpful and an absolute pleasure to spend your time with. And I know nice—I’m Southern. When a staff is this pleasant, especially when working on a holiday, it shows they really love their jobs and that says everything to me about a company.
WHO IS A HORNBLOWER NYC THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE FOR?
Well, everyone. As I mentioned up there ⇡, I saw couples in their 30s and 40s and maybe 50s but I’m a terrible judge of that sorta thing. I saw families with young(ish) children. I saw Judy celebrating her 93rd birthday. And I saw single guests, well, singular guests. Their relationship statuses were not as much of a concern to me as were the yams.
A NYC Thanksgiving dinner cruise is perfect for anyone like me who HATES THE KITCHEN WITH AN UNRELENTING PASSION; who’d rather zip through the drive-thru at Taco Bell than fuss with a casserole. It’s for families looking for a new Thanksgiving tradition or for anyone else looking for a fun, unique way to spend a holiday. Who says Thanksgiving has to be spent with family members you’d otherwise never hang with (i.e., strangers), discussing politics, and counting down the minutes until you can bolt? Who says you have to pretend to give a shit about football while your cousin complains about his job? Who says you can’t have salmon and champagne and Irish cream for desert?
It’s for anyone who wants a break from the cooking and the cleaning for a change; it’s for birthday-havers and anniversary-celebraters; it’s for those of you who maybe can’t travel to visit family in the first place; and it’s for all y’all who spent your morning with the three million other people at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade who are just too exhausted to leave the city.
TIPS FOR ENJOYING YOUR NYC THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE
⇢ Bring a coat. The boat is plenty warm but the best views are from the top level where it’s colder than my attitude towards casseroles.
⇢ A hat, gloves, scarf, thermal leggings under your leather pants, all of it. Because it’s windy on a boat. It’s also November.
⇢ Book your Hornblower NYC Thanksgiving cruise as early as possible as they tend to sell out. There was still room on all three when I booked my spots on October 1st but availability was already limited.
⇢ Come hungry. How much you can eat on your NYC Thanksgiving cruise is limited only by what your belly and your waistband can handle.
⇢ Don’t forget to check in. Cruises start at 5:00, boarding starts at 4:30, but first you need to check in at the Hornblower office to the left of the yachts. Bring your email confirmation or printed tickets to exchange for actual boat tickets.
⇢ Mingle! The Nautical and Admiral’s cruises offer family-style seating at large tables. Chat with your table-mates and make new friends. Everyone is on a NYC Thanksgiving cruise for a different reason and it’s fun to hear the stories.
⇢ Pier 40 confused the hell out of me on my first visit. When looking at the front of Pier 40, Hornblower is found on the right of the building. You’ll see the boats. Follow the signs towards check-in or see my fancy map below.
⇢ Convince everyone else you know that traditional Thanksgiving is boringgg.
HORNBLOWER NYC THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE INFO
As I’ve said tons of times before, Hornblower Cruises continue to wow me. It’s always so great (and rare) to come across a company that does everything right. I sincerely can’t wait for my next cruise. Another big thanks to Hornblower New York for hosting me!
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