My alarm went off at 5. I woke up, rubbed my eyes, and looked out the window. Lights! Land!
The captain told us that we’d be passing under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (which connects Staten Island to Long Island) sometime between 5 and 6. So if we wanted to see the approach, then we’d need to be up by then.
I grabbed my camera, Stephanie bundled up, and we headed out onto the deck. The view behind the ship was dark except for a few lights on the horizon. The air was humid. We climbed the stairs to the wings on either side of the bridge for an unobstructed view forward. The other passengers were already there. After nine days spent crossing the Atlantic, the lights of Manhattan were just coming into view.
We were treated to a stunning “blood orange” morning twilight behind Manhattan as we entered New York Harbor (aka Upper New York Bay). We were also able to spot Lady Liberty, quite minuscule in the distance, before making a sharp turn away from the city and into the narrow tidal straight of Kill Van Kull.
We went under the steel arch Bayonne Bridge (which connects New Jersey to Staten Island) with only a few feet of clearance. An interesting aside: once the Panama Canal expansion project is complete (which we saw in progress last year), the bridge’s height will constrain the size of ships that can access the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal. Apparently the Army Corps of Engineers is considering a proposal to jack up the bridge to increase its height by 40 percent (or 60 feet).
With the aid of several tug boats, we made a sharp right turn into Newark Bay, followed by a sharp left turn towards our wharf. It’s funny because technically we were arriving in New Jersey, not New York. The sun was coming up, and it was looking like it was going to be a spectacular day. What a perfect welcome.
By 7:30 we were docked—and ravenous. We went down to the officer’s mess for a big breakfast, and then immediately up to the clearance office to be admitted back into the United States. It’s hard to believe that we’d been out of the country for nearly a year. We actually made it all the way around the world! With one last stamp in our passports we were officially back—almost. Our transport wouldn’t be picking us up until 1, so Stephanie took a nap, I finished packing, and then we went down for our last lunch aboard the ship before they turned us loose.