At 6:45 pm Monday, we met for the nighttime city lights tour. At first, this seemed like a fun way to see the city. Our bus journeyed south, through Chelsea, SoHo, and Tribeca and crossed the city on Canal street through Chinatown to the Manhattan bridge, crossing over to Brooklyn. We were let off the bus near the River Cafe, and rewarded with amazing views of the Downtown skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. Our next stop was the Empire State Building. Keep in mind that we were here on a Monday night in late October. We got our group tickets and proceeded to the security checkpoint; at this location, we found out that the wait time for our group to get to the 86th floor observing platform would be at least an hour. My back was not feeling well at all and I knew I would struggle to stand in line for an hour. I told the guide that we did not want to wait that long (Steve agreed). Our guide offered the group an option to continue waiting or we could take the bus back to the pier, skipping Times Square. We were the only folks who left; we have been to the viewing area before (not having to wait that long that time for just two people). We were glad we came back to the ship, because I would guess the tour ended very late and Times Square is, IMHO, quite intimidating, especially with crowds at night. I guess we chalk that one up to experience; probably time to get my back checked again when we get back.
This morning we had breakfast, then walked a fairly short distance to the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum, located a couple of piers south. The USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier and anti-submarine air support vessel, was commissioned in 1943 and saw significant action during WWII, including battles in the Marshall Islands, Palau, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa. It was damaged by a torpedo and two separate kamikaze attacks and was briefly decommissioned after the war. Intrepid then went went through upgrades to support jet aircraft and participated in NATO and Cold War exercises, as well as being designated as the carrier to pick up Scott Carpenter after the flight of Aurora 7 (Mercury program) and the crew of Gemini 3 (John Young/Gus Grissom). Undergoing more retrofits, Intrepid saw more action during the Vietnam war, setting speed records at the time for consecutive aircraft launches, and was finally decommissioned in 1974. The museum concept was developed in the early 1980’s and the carrier was moved from a scrap yard in Philadelphia to New York. Intrepid is now home to the shuttle drop test vehicle Enterprise, which was moved from the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy museum near Dulles, Virginia to New York in 2011; it also has a large number of military aircraft and helicopters of various vintages, a companion cold-war submarine (Growler), a Concorde aircraft and many other exhibits. It was quite interesting to visit this facility, although it was overrun today with loud and unruly school groups.
We sailed at 4:00 pm and had incredible views again of midtown and downtown; we thought the light would be flat with the haze and a few high clouds as we left, but it was amazing, especially with all of the water traffic. We saw that the QM2 was docked in Brooklyn, so it was good to see that large ship again after our transatlantic on her in June, 2010. We have a day at sea tomorrow (Wednesday), then we arrive in Bermuda on Friday at noon.