It was the second time in the past three years that bad weather dampened the event's inaugural parade and ceremonies.
From shipboard Wednesday, the Statue of Liberty was barely visible, and lower Manhattan's skyline was only a vague silhouette as crewmen lined the rails to salute the former site of the World Trade Center.
The fog lifted slightly as the procession passed Fleet Week headquarters at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space museum, a World War II aircraft carrier permanently moored at a Hudson River pier.
Better conditions were forecast for the next six days, during which 3,500 sailors and Marines from five countries visit the city's points of interest while their 18 ships hold open house.
Sailors and Marines on Friday will help dedicate a 240-foot (72-meter) replica of Washington, D.C.'s Vietnam Wall on Staten Island. They will march in Memorial Day parades in all five of the city's boroughs on Monday.
The fog was especially disappointing for sailors visiting New York for the first time — and for those who grew up in the city and wanted to impress their friends with a dramatic entry.
"It's a very big city and I have always wanted to come here, but today I didn't get a chance to see very much," said Chief Petty Officer Alex Koschig, 31, a German sailor aboard USS Shreveport, an amphibious transport serving as flagship for this year's event.
Koschig, who is in the second year of a three-year naval exchange program, said he planned to see the sights with his girlfriend, who is in the U.S. Navy.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Ramon Bryant, 23, said he planned to spend time with his family in Brooklyn. "I'm glad to be home," he said.
This year's lineup of ships was limited due to ongoing deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, Navy officials said. In addition to the Shreveport, U.S. entries included the USS Portland, an amphibious ship recently returned from Kuwait, three Aegis-type missile cruisers and three missile frigates.
The Portland will be decommissioned this fall.
Foreign ships included the British icebreaker HMS Endurance, the Canadian frigate HMCS Charlottetown, and two tall ships — the Mexican barque Cuauhtemoc and India's Tarangini, which is on a globe-girdling cruise.