I recently (finally) visited the tram and absolutely loved it. While you may find yourself riding over with other tourists, many people will also actually live on Roosevelt Island, so it's a nice mix of locals and out of towners using the service.
As many people have mentioned, you can get in using your Metro card (as a tourist, please please just buy the week long Metro card for $30 - it's entirely worth it) and you don't have to worry about transfers.
Roosevelt Island wasn't extremely thrilling (we took the little bus around) but if you must satisfy your curiosity, for 25cents you can hop on the bus and do the loop and see for yourself. (I may have missed some of it too)
On the way back, assuming there aren't a bunch of people that need to sit down, scoot your way to the front of the car facing Manhattan and if you're inclined to take photos, brace yourself with one hand and snap away with the other. It's a bit scary being suspended over everything at times, which is part of why I loved it. The tram does wobble a bit, so unless you have incredible balance you will want to hold on to something.
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