Updated: Nov 10
Early Thursday morning the captain had entered the New York harbor, passing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and along side the Statue of Liberty before berthing at Pier 88. All done in the dark, I was sound asleep until the announcement that the ship had been cleared for passengers to leave. Due to a lighter than usual number of diners, I was seated solo, but Janis joined me for a cup of coffee as I finished my oatmeal. We compared notes on our day’s plans, and headed back to our cabins to get ready.
Heading down 48th street from 12th Avenue, I zigzagged through Hell’s Kitchen to the subway entrance at Times Square. [I stopped in Hard Rock Cafe to see about t-shirts for my room stewards, but at $38-40 a piece, I balked!] I hadn’t found my old MetroCard, so I got another, rather than touch-screening a credit card each time I needed it. From Times Square I hopped on a #3 to Brooklyn and the first cathedral on my list.
Back in 2017 I’d returned to New York City with a list of 20 cathedrals that I’d found in my research online. I was able to visit all of them, except two in Astoria. My 2020 transatlantic crossing was supposed to let me visit them, as well as 5 others I’d “discovered.” This unplanned visit to NYC would give me a chance to get them into my camera.
[My comment about this being an unplanned stop is due to a HAL-driven change. I select my cruises based on itinerary, rather than cruise line. The original transatlantic trip had left mid April from Ft Lauderdale, with stops mid-Atlantic at two islands in the Azores, then full day stops in Cherbourg and Zerbrugge, before ending 14-days later in Amsterdam. In December HAL announced that this would be a reverse itinerary of the original Rotterdam liner from 150 years before, over a 16 day voyage. Stops would be overnights in NYC and Rotterdam, and daytimes in Plymouth and Dover. I was unable to change this booking, as I’d made it through my agency and 30 days had passed, which would result in loss of funds.]
In Brooklyn, my first stop was St Nicholas Antiochian, which was locked. As I walked the half mile to St Ann and Holy Trinity Church, I kept smiling as the star magnolias were in bloom - which reminded me of my mother’s small tree on our corner property. Wrapped in scaffolding, this dark stone building on the corner didn’t appear approachable. Walking down the block, I found the church offices and entered, asking if I might be allowed in the nave. Ed, the facility manager, came and escorted me into the church, confirming my records that the church had been a pro-cathedral for the Episcopal diocese of Long Island - in fact, it is still a pro-cathedral. Very dark inside, it has lovely galleries and bronze plates in the floor.
The subway returned me to Manhattan, where I exited on the border between Little Italy and Chinatown. Situated beside a firehouse, Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral was closed, behind a locked gate. Proceeding down Prince Street past a park, I passed the Old St Patrick’s Cathedral (known as The Basilica) which was also closed. Reaching the N train, I rode out to Astoria, Queens.
Astoria is home to a vibrant thriving Greek-American community, so I was not surprised to locate two cathedrals. On 30th Drive, Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral was open! Climbing stairs into the vestibule, I ventured in. A woman was wiping down the pews, while Philippos kept an eye on visitors. I learned there had been a fire with water damage, and restoration is slowly underway. A beautiful interior, there is some stunning stained glass and lovely iconography. He suggested I also visit their parish church St Catherine’s, which I missed.
Probably another mile, after crossing RFK Bridge approach and the BQE, I found I really needed a facility. So I stopped at Macoletta Astoria, a pizza restaurant. A small pizza and a draft from Montauk Brewery truly hit the spot - the pizza had great gravy (okay, you might call it sauce) and super flavors.
Saint Markella Greek Orthodox Cathedral on 26th Street was also open. Faced in white tile with brick trim, it sits mid block on a side street with several door entries off a front porch. The main color scheme was gold and white inside, with the cathedra and the iconstasis all covered in gold. Sixteen arched windows in the dome, with the expected Christ alpha-and-omega icon in the center, fill the nave with light. Of particular note, the nave walls are filled with iconography of probably 3 dozen saints on each opposing wall - with one wall primarily women saints, while men fill the opposite!
Exiting, I walked to the Ditmars Boulevard subway entrance, riding to Times Square where I changed to the Broadway local, riding uptown to 79th Street. As I walked down 82nd Street, the neighborhood residents’ beautification team had filled the bases of the trees with daffodils and jonquils - a delightful sign of the arrival of spring. (Western Easter was that next weekend.)
St Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral sits midblock between Amsterdam and Columbus on the south side. Pairs of stairs paralleling the sidewalk bring parishioners to the front door. All doors were locked, but a facilities man for the church was loading his car, and, after securing the priest’s permission, offered to escort me into the church.
Formerly a synagogue, the interior is a rectangular space with very high ceilings extending even higher than the galleries on three walls. A large arched stained glass window fills the south wall behind a two-tier wood and gold iconstasis. Truly a wonderful and blessed space. Checking on how to return to the ship, I opted to ride the bus down Columbus Avenue, passing many changes to the neighborhood I’d lived in in the late ‘70’s. The bus dropped me at 9th Avenue and 50th Street, for the crosstown bus, which I just missed and had to wait 15 minutes. Once at the pier, it was a zigzag to get back on the ship.
After explaining my quick visit to Hard Rock and the cost of t-shirts, Bambang agreed that they were indeed too pricy. I took my camera with me as I climbed to the Crows Nest and the upper decks to take pictures of the neighboring USS Enterprise and the NYC skyline. My phone was exhausted, so I left it for a charge before heading to the dining room for dinner.
Just the core quartet, I started with a salad and deviled egg appetizer. Our missing tablemate Joan, who had missed her flight from Long Island to Ft Lauderdale to join us at the start (actually, Delta had canceled her flight,) arrived on a mobile cart as she’d had dinner at Tamarind but would be joining us thereafter. Pian and Deni then brought out my salmon with bearnaise sauce, which I enjoyed with a glass of the Cote du Rhone. The fruit crisp of the day was rhubarb, which I tried.
The entertainment that evening in the main theatre was a showing of Devotion, a film set during the Korean War and focused on the racial issues with black and white aviators. Rowena, Hank and I were able to see the final half before I headed to the cabin to backup my photos and get ready for bed.
Friday started at 8am for me, with breakfast at a shared table for 6, including Janis. We all compared notes on our first day in the Big Apple while I had my usual oatmeal. Leaving the ship, I walked across to the E train at 50th Street and 8th Avenue, riding down to West 4th Street and changing to the B. I rode for a long while, exiting about 11am at the Sheepshead Bay station. A totally new area for me, I’d never reached this southern end of Brooklyn. Google Maps directed me around a few corners and down several streets until I approached the corner of Ocean and Voorhees Avenues. Fear kicked in, as there was a derelict boarded-up church directly on the corner. As I got closer, this Methodist church was being renovated, and I spotted a golden onion dome behind. Entering on the Ocean Avenue side, I discovered a service was underway. As the service was at the distribution of the sacrament, I figured I had a half hour wait to get my interior pictures of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Forerunner.
Once it looked like it was over, and the celebrant priests departed downstairs for social hour (with one telling me that I could take pictures,) another service started. Having been asked if I was Orthodox (no), the head priest’s wife basically told me to leave without pictures, directing me to take pictures in a Catholic church. After 90 minutes on my feet, I left feeling despondent.
With four pictures for my journey (I did sneak one during the service,) I caught the train back to my starting point, determining that the crosstown bus not running so I walked back to the pier. Heading up to the Lido deck for the buffet, I had a small portion of baked shells and an Asian salad, finding that the serving staff were cold, unfriendly and brusk. Unusual.
The day was getting cooler, so I grabbed my “puffer coat” and changed the camera battery to head up to the top deck, waiting an hour in the Crows Nest until the ship slipped away from the pier.
Up another level, I got skyline shots of both Manhattan and New Jersey, Lady Liberty (much better than my foggy telephoto shots from the day before), Ellis Island and the Verrazano Narrows bridge, for a total of about 375 pictures that afternoon. The captain managed to get permission and turned the boat around a full 360-degrees in front of the Statue.
I headed downstairs aft directly to the main dining room, where, albeit a bit late, we were full at 7. I opted to try the upcharge lobster tails, which weren’t that special. Elliot Finkel, a pianist, was the featured entertainer that night, backed by a 4-piece Broadway band, playing an eclectic repertoire, albeit the band was a tad too loud. Hank, Rowena, Judy and I sat together, while Tyler was seated down front in the first row (his regular seat, we determined.)
Note: if there is interest, I can post a separate blog with more inside photos taken in the cathedrals which were open. Please advise! Similarly, there are many more pictures from leaving the harbor, including a 55-second video passing under the bridge. I can upload them too.
You can purchase your own copy
(or have me send it as a gift) of
Cathedrals to the Glory of God
by clicking this link: