Why Choose Celestyal Cruises for Your Greek Island Adventure

Penny Zibula Avatar
Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - The Town of Oia on Santorini Built Down the Side of a Cliff.

The writer was hosted

As our cruise ship, Celestyal Crystal left the port of Piraeus, which serves Greece’s magnificent capital of Athens, my husband and I watched the sunset over the Aegean. Our dream of a Greek Island cruise began to unfold before us. We were off on a once-in-a-lifetime weeklong voyage that carried us to places we had never seen and experiences we would never forget.

This ship was a mid-size vessel with a maximum capacity of approximately 1,200 passengers. We were well-treated, lavishly fed, and delightfully entertained. But far more important was the joy we derived from the priceless experiences in which we were privileged to participate onboard Celestyal Cruises.

Celestyal Cruise Ship

Currently, Celestyal’s fleet consists of two recently refurbished and updated mid-size ships, Celestyal Journey (replacing Celestyal Crystal) and Celestyal Discovery (replacing Celestyal Olympia). Crystal, the ship on which we spent seven glorious days, has sailed into the sunset, and in its place, Journey now offers more of everything for the same number of passengers.

Although Celestyal’s status as a luxury cruise line may have previously been subject to debate, these newly refurbished ships remove any ambiguity regarding luxuriousness. Celestyal Journey, the ship on which we would be sailing were we to take the same cruise as our Crystal adventure today, combines elegance with a cozy atmosphere, yet still offers plenty of space to move around. Journey has a wider selection of staterooms from which to choose, seven restaurants, eight bars, a fully equipped gym, two swimming pools, and an entire deck dedicated to health and wellbeing. It is also more family-friendly with special supervised programs and designated spaces for children.

The new ships are also more accessible for travelers in wheelchairs and who have mobility and other physical challenges. Since I’m blind and travel with a guide dog, I am keenly aware of accessibility issues.

Read More: Unforgettable Vacations for Singles and Solo Travelers

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - My Guide Dog Inspecting Her New Friend ~ A Towel Sculpture.
My Guide Dog Inspecting Her New Friend ~ A Towel Sculpture. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

Although Crystal presented some challenges in terms of an appropriate relief area for my dog and climbing on and off tenders, the staff was flexible, kind, innovative, and safety-conscious in finding ways to make everything work.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - Celestyal’s Solution for Accommodating My Guide Dog.
Celestyal’s Solution for Accommodating My Guide Dog. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

Celestyal’s Destinations

Celestyal offers 3-, 4-, 7-, and 14-night idyllic Aegean and Mediterranean cruises, as well as special sailings for Christmas and New Year. through the Aegean and Mediterranean. Destinations include stops throughout Greece, the Greek Islands, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Cyprus. Unfortunately, some Mediterranean cruises may be currently unavailable due to the Mideast conflict.

Read More: Best European Honeymoon Destinations

What’s Included

A Celestyal cruise offers quite a bit of bang for your buck. Prices are reasonable, and the base cruise fare includes port taxes, gratuities, select drinks with meals, and discounts on shore excursions. You’ll pay extra for drinks packages, specialty dining, and wifi, but again, you get good value for the extra outlay.

Another possibility is to opt for an enhanced package, which includes the unlimited premium drinks package, one hour of complimentary wifi daily, a 25-percent Specialty Dining discount, and a discount of $160 per person when pre-booking shore excursions.

Life Onboard

Celestyal Crystal was clean, comfortable, and well-staffed. Since our goal was to experience as much of Greece as we could, my husband and I didn’t spend many daylight hours onboard. But we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the ship during a couple of half-days at sea.

Staterooms

Our stateroom had a large window, which brought in ample daylight. Although the bathroom was tiny, it was designed to make the most of the small space.

The cabin had sufficient storage, an armchair with a small glass table, and what passed for a desk. There were few places to plug in our electronics, so we had to take turns. Since Journey underwent an extensive update and overhaul before joining Celestyal, these minor issues shouldn’t even exist today.

Amenities

The amenities on Crystal were basic, but for the most part, more than adequate. The spa was heavenly, and I loved my relaxing massage. The calming music almost sent me to sleep, and when I stood up, I thought I would melt into the floor. It was that good.

As for wifi, it didn’t play well with our Apple phones and computers. while at sea. Sometimes, if we were running close enough to shore, we could pick up phone service. But, to be fair, I have yet to sail on a cruise ship – through Europe, the Caribbean, or anywhere else – that didn’t have abysmal wifi.

Activities

While onboard Crystal, we found more than enough to do. During the day, There were complementary Greek language lessons, instructions in Greek dancing, arts and crafts workshops, board games, sports activities, and more. We especially enjoyed the cooking demos featuring recipes for some of the dishes we were enjoying.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - The Head Chef Demonstrating the Preparation of a Typical Greek Dish.
The Head Chef Demonstrating the Preparation of a Typical Greek Dish. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

Entertainment

Most evenings after dinner, we found ourselves at the Cirque Fantastic performance.  This troupe of colorful circus artists and acrobats kept us enthralled for an hour.

Although we had no interest in gambling, Crystal had a casino for those who enjoy Roulette, Blackjack, Poker, and slot machines. For us, cozy bars and lounges, music, and conversation with fellow passengers made for a relaxing end to a full day.

Dining

An abundance of food seems to be the standard when it comes to cruising. Of course, the food has to be at least as scrumptious as it is plentiful. On our Celestyal cruise, this was definitely the case.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - A Greek-Style Seafood Medley of Shrimp, Mussels, and Clams.
A Greek-Style Seafood Medley of Shrimp, Mussels, and Clams. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

We were delighted that an open seating policy was applied in the main dining room. during the hours it was open, we could dine at whatever time and at whichever table suited us.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - The Main Dining Room Ready for Dinner.
The Main Dining Room Ready for Dinner. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

The Buffet

The buffet, which was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, occasionally hosted themed dinners. My favorite was Seafood Night.

Every morning we began our day with breakfast at the buffet to make sure we were on time for our morning tours. The fresh-squeezed orange juice and custom-made omelets kept us going, even when we didn’t have time for lunch.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - The Breakfast Omelet Station.
The Breakfast Omelet Station. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

The Dining Room

Our evening meals in the main dining room turned out to be enchanting culinary experiences. The succulent dishes arrived at our table with a generous helping of charm and good humor from the well-trained, efficient staff.

During our cruise, we sampled a variety of familiar and new-to-us Mediterranean dishes. Long-time lovers of Greek food and Greek-owned restaurants, we found the food authentic and highly addictive. Every dish was a feast for the senses, eye-pleasingly arranged with aromas that called out, “Eat me.“ Of course, there were other options, but I can’t address them, because we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the Greek dishes.

The Greek Table Experience

Shortly before we took our cruise, Celestyal introduced The Greek Table, a specialty dining option featuring a signature Greek menu. The six-course culinary extravaganza was developed in partnership with Diane Kochilas, one of the world’s foremost experts on Greek and Mediterranean cuisine.

Celestyal offers this menu, complete with wine pairings, for a supplemental charge in the specialty restaurant. The dishes feature local and regional ingredients from Celestyal’s ports of call. They reflect the healthful Mediterranean Diet, with many vegetarian, gluten-free, and/or vegan options.

Shore Excursions

Our Celestyal cruise stopped in six ports and we opted for a fascinating shore excursion in each. The guides were knowledgeable and entertaining and gave us insights we would not have found on our own.

We sailed from Athens to Thessaloniki, where we sampled Greek wines.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - Modern Sculptures Grace the Grounds of the Ktima Gerovassiliou Winery.
Modern Sculptures Grace the Grounds of the Ktima Gerovassiliou Winery. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

Then on to Kusadasi – our one stop in Turkey which was our gateway to the ancient city of Ephesus and an eye-opening visit to a Turkish carpet manufacturer.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - The Amphitheater at Ephesus.
The Amphitheater at Ephesus. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

Docking at Heraklion on Crete, we headed for a winery, where we sipped, snacked, and delighted in a demonstration of traditional music and dance.

The following day found us on the magical island of Santorini with its whitewashed blue-roofed houses clinging to the cliffs, the village of Oia on a clifftop that offered stunning views, and one-of-a-kind photo ops everywhere.

Mykonos may be a party isle for the glitzy and glamorous, but outstanding beaches, colorful architecture along Chora’s streets, iconic windmills, and friendly locals made us feel as if we were in a dream.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - Windmills on Mykonos Overlooking the Aegean.
Windmills on Mykonos Overlooking the Aegean. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

Milos, our final stop,  had the advantage of not being able to accommodate large cruise ships. It was uncrowded and teeming with natural wonders.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - Rock Formations Along the Milos Coastline.
Rock Formations Along the Milos Coastline. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

Keep in mind that although the ships are accessible and easy to navigate, ancient archeological sites generally are not. The people who coordinate the shore excursion for your cruise are knowledgeable, experienced, and caring. They can assist you in selecting the tours that will best meet your needs and interests.

Celestyal cruise ships visit a slue of other Greek islands, including Rhodes, Corfu, and Patmos. Like the food on Crystal, all the Greek islands we visited were highly addictive, leaving us hungry for more.

Authentic Encounters

Celestyal offers Authentic Encounters, a series of immersive and hands-on small-group excursions. These experiences enable participants to delve deeper into aspects that define a destination. Food, wine, art, archaeology, culture, and active adventures are among the possibilities from which to choose.

Why Choose a Celestyal Cruise - Making Mosaics on Mykonos.
Making Mosaics on Mykonos. Photo credit: Simon Lock/MyEclecticImages

We participated in an Authentic Encounter on Mykonos, which allowed us to learn the history and skills involved in mosaic making. This ancient art form is one of the earliest still practiced today and is an integral part of Greek civilization and culture. Our Thessaloniki wine-tasting tour was also an Authentic Encounters experience.

Be sure to show your interest in booking one or more of the Authentic Encounters early, because the tours won’t run if there aren’t enough participants.

Tips To Get You Started

A cruise can be a life-altering adventure, whether you are a veteran cruiser or this will be your first time setting foot on a cruise ship. A little advanced planning can go a long way to making your cruise experience as hassle-free as possible:

  • Make sure your passport is valid
  • Research the best deals you can find on flights, transportation to your port of departure, and hotel rates
  • Use your phone to photograph your documents and credit cards, as well as your suitcase
  • Make sure at least one friend or relative has a copy of your itinerary
  • Check with your doctor and/or pharmacy to ensure you have all the necessary medications to take with you on your cruise

If you have the time to spare, consider spending a few days before embarkation or after you disembark from your cruise ship to do some sightseeing on your own. We spent five glorious days in Athens before flying home and only wished we could have stayed longer.

Read More: 2 Days in Athens: How to See the Highlights

What to pack

When it comes to packing, less is more. Lay out the outfits you plan to bring with you, then put half of them away. Of course, this formula doesn’t work for everyone, but I at least try it every time I pack for a trip.

Along with your everyday clothes and undies, do pack:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sandals and/or flip-flops
  • One “fancier” dress or outfit (even so-called formal evenings don’t have to be that formal)
  • Layers – shawl, windbreaker, cardigan – because the ships are air-conditioned
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Canvas tote for shopping
  • Enough medication to last your cruise plus a few extra days
  • Small first aid kit
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • Reusable water bottle

Don’t pack:

  • Toiletries, unless you have specific needs or preferences  (the ship provides them)
  • Hair dryer (the ship provides that, too)
  • Valuable jewelry
  • Anything fragile or breakable

Best Time to Travel

Currently, Celestyal Cruises are available between April and the end of the year, but this may change in the future. Meanwhile, it’s best to avoid summer cruising if possible. The Mediterranean region is brutally hot in the summer. The summer of 2023 was so hot, that the Greek government had to stop people climbing the Acropolis in Athens because so many visitors were fainting from the intense heat.

Spring and fall are ideal times to cruise. Kids are in school, and crowds are thinner. Travel is less expensive, and the weather is more moderate.

Why Celestyal Is An Excellent Choice For Your Next Cruise

If you’re seeking comfortable accommodations, fabulous food, unique experiences, and smaller ships, all at a reasonable price, a Celestyal cruise is definitely worth considering. If you love history, art, and architecture, and are at least something of a foodie, you’re a lot like us, and our cruise could be your cruise.

Penny Zibula is a freelance travel writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. She has always had a passion for travel, writing, and learning. Her background is in public relations and community outreach, with nine years as a local television talk show host and producer, as well as four years as a staff writer for a local newspaper. With her husband/photographer/FAA certified drone pilot, Simon Lock, and her guide dog, Splendid, Penny travels the world focused on creating content of interest to serious travelers, armchair travelers, boomer travelers, and travelers with disabilities.
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2 responses


  1. The towel Splendid is the cutest thing ever!

    1. Splendid couldn’t understand why it fell apart when she tried to play with it.

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