Planning a trip to Greece? Get ready for an experience of a lifetime! With over 200 beautiful Greek Islands to choose from, there can be a lot to consider. Island hopping is the best way to truly experience the unique similarities & differences between each destination. There are many forms of transportation to reach the islands, in our opinion with cruising being the most effective. Recently, we had the pleasure of being invited on a 7 day Idyllic Aegean itinerary aboard the beautiful Celestyal Crystal! Suffice it to say, we were blown away by the wonderful hospitality, fantastic culinary excellence, and Celestyal’s genuine Greek cruising experience. In this article, we’ll be highlighting our journey aboard the Celestyal Crystal, showcasing the iconic destinations we visited, exciting excursions, and the incredible vessel that brought us there. This is your captain speaking, please sit back and relax as It’s time to set sail through the Greek Islands on Celestyal Cruises!
Celestyal Cruises is an award-winning cruise line offering all-inclusive cruise vacations around the Mediterranean. There are two cruise ships in their fleet, the MS Celestyal Olympia and the Celestyal Crystal. The cruise line operates out of Athens, Greece which is where we started our journey aboard Celestyal Cruises. One of the main advantages is that being a smaller ship it can dock in small ports where most larger cruise ships cannot.
Check-in was as to be expected, currently having their guests provide a valid up-to-date vaccination card with additional COVID travel documentation prior to boarding. The entire boarding process was smooth and quick. One important tip to remember is your vaccination dates must be not expired and up to date. This means that your vaccine is valid for up to one year from your second vaccine. Otherwise, you will need a booster shot. It is now time to board the Celestyal Crystal!
The moment we stepped inside this amazing ship, the crew was waiting to greet us with a warm welcome. Our ocean view suite was located on deck 6 toward the front and we couldn’t wait to see it! We can honestly say as seasoned cruisers that this suite was one of the largest rooms we have stayed in while cruising. Our suite offered a King size bed, his & her closets, a couch, table with a set of chairs, a vanity desk, and a full size bathroom. There was also a bottle of champagne with special dessert treats that accompanied our room.
Within minutes, we had our room attendant, steward, and cabin crew knocking on our door to introduce themselves. It was time to explore what this ship had to offer before we set sail out of Athens, Greece.
The highlights we thoroughly enjoyed around the ship were the Thalassa Bar which is an outdoor area in the back of the ship featuring a jacuzzi directly in the middle surrounded by lounge tables & chairs with a view of the ocean, Eros lounge & bar with our favorite bartender JD, the Muses Lounge for entertainment, and finally the Celestyal Crystal Spa where we experienced two incredible massages. As suite passengers, we were able to choose from a few different restaurants for dining, however, we always made it a point to have dinner at the Amalthia Restaurant with our favorite waiters Kidd and Joseph who always seemed to make our experience extra special. One of our favorite highlights about the ship is savoring the authentic Mediterranean cuisine and true culinary excellence. The gastronomical experience onboard has been carefully designed to accommodate and preserve intimacy while offering delectable Greek specialties. Celestyal Cruises also offered dinner themed nights such as Greek Night which added to our experience.
On board entertainment included nightly broadway style shows with aerial acrobatics, live music, dance parties and late nights at the disco.
Almost every night we were sure to have a nightcap at the Eros lounge where JD would perform countless magic tricks interacting with us, and enhancing our cruise experience to the next level. It’s amazing to think that the Celestyal Crystal crew quickly became our family for the next 7 days cruising through the Greek Islands.
Our itinerary included the following port stops: Athens, Thessaloniki, Turkey, Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, and Milos. Here is a breakdown of each destination, and what we experienced.
Thessaloniki was our first port, and we had an excursion to visit the site of Alexander the Great where the Tomb of King Phillip II was built. We started with an hour bus ride to the site and did a complete group tour of countless historical artifacts that have been excavated over the years around this area. Next, we had lunch at one of the local Greek restaurants within walking distance from the tombs. Our final stop was a Museum about an hour further up the road with authentic historical Mosaics for viewing and a preserved area with giant columns that once belonged to King Archelaus of Macedonia at the end of the 5th Century BC and birthplace of Alexander the Great.
Kusadasi, Turkey was our second port, and one of our favorite destinations we experienced on this cruise. The excursion started with an hour bus ride to the Virgin Mary house which is located on the Bulbul Mountain. It is known that St. John brought Virgin Mary to Ephesus 4 to 6 years after the death of Jesus. In 1891, it was discovered that this is the house where Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her last days. The next stop on our excursion was the Ancient city of Ephesus! Here is where we were intrigued to walk through the ancient streets and learn the history behind this amazing city. Ephesus was the second biggest city of the Roman empire, and home to one of the seven wonders: The Temple of Artemis which lies in ruins. Ephesus is also an important site in Christianity. The Ephesus excursion is included complimentary in your cruise for the Aegean itinerary.
Rhodes was our third port, and the excursion we had planned on this island involved two special places. Rhodes was another one of our favorite destinations in the itinerary. The first stop was about a half hour tour bus ride to the Acropolis of Lindos and the Temple of Athena. These spectacular ruins date all the way back to the 4th century BC and have stunning views of the Aegean Sea. This particular part of the excursion required each guest to climb over 300 stairs to reach the Acropolis. We gladly accepted the challenge and it only took us about twenty minutes to reach the top. On the second part of the excursion, we were taken to the Citadel of the Knights medieval city for a couple of hours to explore. The palace of the Grand Master of the Knights is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Greece, and the site was previously a citadel of the knights hospitaller that functioned as a palace, headquarters, and fortress. This excursion is also complimentary with your cruise.
The fourth and fifth ports were combined into one day with the first port of call being Heraklion, Crete. The excursion we had chosen for this destination was to experience the Cretan countryside and lifestyle tour. Our group was welcomed into the home of a local winemaker at a raki distiller where we sampled the product straight from the barrels of his cellar. Traditional Cretan dancers were the highlight of this tour! After they performed a 15 – 20 minute dance they invited all their guests to join in for some authentic Greek fun! We then headed back to historic Heraklion where we had a couple hours to explore the city.
The second port of the day was one of our absolute favorite Greek islands, Santorini! This was the only destination where we decided to adventure off on our own. The Celestyal Crystal stayed docked off the coast and we had been taken by water taxi to the main island. Once we arrived in Oia by tour bus, which is one of the main towns, we decided to taxi over to Imerovigli. Santorini is the only Greek island we had visited back in 2017, and we had made some friends that actually own a hotel in this part of the island. It would be accurate to state that watching the sunset in Santorini can be seen from any part of the island, however, our personal recommendation would be to watch it from Imerovigli. This evening, we spent our sunset time slow dancing on the famous chalk white roofs, and relaxing in a jacuzzi tub while sipping on delicious cocktails at our favorite hotel, Artemis Villas. The cotton candy sunset views and genuine people you will meet on this island is no surprise why it is our favorite! Something about Celestyal Cruises that we have come to love is they let their guests spend extra time on the island making it more about the destination which allows guests to truly experience all that Greece has to offer. For example, our allotted time in Santorini before returning back to the ship was until midnight. The next port we will highlight we had until 2 am!
Welcome to our sixth port, Mykonos! This destination had been on our list of places to visit for quite some time, and we were so excited to explore the island we had regularly seen all over social media within the last couple years. Once again, we decided to adventure off on our own seeing as how the Celestyal Crystal was docked directly at the port. Our day started off with a shuttle bus ride to the main town, where we walked about 15 minutes through the local village to a popular bus route. We paid about six Euro in total for two tickets to the other side where Paradise Beach was located. The bus ride lasted for about 40 minutes, and was definitely crowded with all the tourists & locals in the area. Once we reached Paradise Beach it was only a couple minute walk to all the restaurants and bars located right on the sand. We decided to rent a couple of chairs and umbrellas right in front of Tropicana Mykonos where we ordered a Branzino fish with a couple of tropical cocktails. After a couple hours we headed to the famous 180 Mykonos bar which we had been told would have the best sunset views from the island. Although the drinks were overpriced, the sunset view definitely made up for the high priced charges. After spending a couple hours there we decided to head back to the ship for dinner and drinks with our favorite magician / bartender, JD!
We would like to take a pause to recognize the amazing staff sailing aboard the Celestyal Crystal who personally enhanced our cruise with laughter, enjoyment, and genuine hospitality. JD is the first employee who comes to mind, and is located every night at the Sports Bar near the Eros lounge. We can honestly say we have become friends with both him and his fiancé Anastasia. JD is originally from the Philippines, and Anastasia is originally from Ukraine. Their warm welcome and friendly stature truly made us feel like their cruise family. JD would perform magic tricks for everyone around the Eros lounge and sports bar including them into the performance. We honestly are thankful to have met both JD & Anastasia, and hope to sail with them again in the future.
The seventh and final port of call was Milos! Our excursion we chose for this destination was the amazing beaches tour. During our visit we went to two different beaches, Sarakiniko Beach & Paleochori Beach. Our first stop was Sarakiniko Beach which looked like a lunar landscape design and is the popular social media site for the cliffs that hang over the Aegean Sea. We spent only one hour here, however; it was only a 10 minute walk to the bridge we wanted to see. The next stop was Paleochori Beach which was located in front of a hotel / restaurant. It was here where we decided to rent an umbrella and a couple chairs to have lunch reminiscing over the last 7 days of our Celestyal Cruise. At some point we ran out to the water for a quick swim, and then headed back to the ship to set sail towards Athens.
On the last day, the amazing shore excursion team led by Sharon set up our transfers & luggage, pairing it with a final excursion to the Acropolis to see the famous Parthenon. One convenient device that Celestyal did give to us on all our shore excursions was the whisper. This small device came equipped with one headphone to be able and hear everything the tour leader is saying about the destination. We utilized the whisper at the Parthenon which is amazing to have for guests wanting to learn all the historical facts about the shore excursion they are attending. Another great highlight is Celestyal hires local tour guides from each destination which truly adds to every experience. All of our guides were extremely knowledgeable about each tour, and allowed us to enjoy the destination at our own pace.
Our personal recommendation would be to visit the Greek islands by cruise ship because it will alleviate the stress of having to plan transportation between each island. Another great feature is all your food & drinks are included and prepared in a true authentic Greek fashion. On the second to last evening, we were invited to try The Greek Table Experience. This menu is a celebration of Greece through the senses and designed by one of the world’s experts of Greek & Mediterranean cuisine, Diane Kochilas. The six course tasting menu you will experience is an amazing highlight to this already exceptional cruise aboard the Celestyal Crystal.
We hope that this article is a true representation of what you may experience aboard Celestyal Cruises, and we would like to thank the amazing Celestyal team for creating a once-in-a-lifetime Greek Island experience we will never forget. Click the link below for your Epic Greek Journey on Celestyal Cruises!
To everyone who has followed along on our adventures throughout the world we say thank you for your support in reading our article, and please feel free to visit our social media sites for more travel tips and exciting adventure stories from our travels around the world!
Have a great one, and always remember your Adventure Awaits!