Last Updated on 3rd June 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
Dream about Greece and you can expect to imagine crystal clear waters, quaint hilltop villages, and oodles of locally sea-inspired food. Well, my recent trip cruising the Aegean with Celestyal Cruises was all this and more in the form of a totally unbelievable and beautiful week-long experience. Here’s a complete review of 7 days at sea with Celestyal.
- The Celestyal Cruise Experience: A Review
- Facilities on board Celestyal Cruises
- The Cabin onboard Celestyal Cruises
- Food on board Celesytal Cruises
- The Week-Long Itinerary Cruising the Aegean
- How to get to Celestyal Cruises, Greece
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The Celestyal Cruise Experience: A Review
Having never ventured out to sea on a cruise before, I was more than a little curious as to what the experience of cruising the Aegean would be like. After all, having received the invitation just days before, I was excited, nervous, and had spent several days debating as to what to pack for Greece (my wardrobe is curated for wet weather situations!).
We hardly ever get the kind of sunny skies and crystal clear wasters which Greece is so synonymous with here in the UK! And so, I packed my things, purchased a large and floppy sunhat and headed towards London where I embarked on a flight to Athens from Heathrow. Here’s a first timer’s review as to what it’s like to spend a week living at sea:
Facilities on board Celestyal Cruises
While the ship was much smaller than other cruise companies, which meant that there were fewer facilities on board than you might expect if your cruise on a regular basis, this also meant that we could dock in smaller and less touristic islands that other boats couldn’t reach. The ratio of crew to passengers was exceptional, meaning that staff constantly remembered my name throughout the week and customer service was totally on point.
There were two buffet restaurants on board, as well as one smart-casual restaurant, and one formal restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of food at sea and was impressed by the variety of dishes offered. The cruise is all-inclusive when it comes to room and board, meaning that should you opt to remain on board, you’ll be fully catered for when it comes to cuisine and a comfortable cabin.
Located not far from the buffet restaurants, the pool was quite small (the ship itself was also quite small) and was home to a poolside bar which offered alcoholic and soft drinks day and night. Situated on the roof, this was a great place to chill and work during the sea days (though as we visited so many destination, sea afternoons were few and far between!)
Offered on board throughout the duration of the cruise, the spa had a plethora of facilities from teeth whitening services to more basic massages. I enjoyed a half hour back and shoulder massage and came out feeling fresh and a lot less tense- spending all day most days behind a computer with severe scoliosis will do that to you!
Throughout the ship, there were several bars on offer, including a terrace outdoor bar on deck 5 where you could sip on your cocktail while admiring the waves roll past. For the duration of the cruise, we enjoyed the unlimited drinks passage. If you enjoy drinking cocktails, wine, and local beer, then the packages are the way to go as the cost of drinks on their own can soon add up!
I absolutely fell in love with the Sports Bar located steps away from the formal dining restaurant. The laid out vibe there, as well as the board games on offer made for the perfect atmosphere to sit down and actually get some work done (as well as the desk heigh tables and plug outlets)!
Disco dance Floor: Each night, after a Karaoke (and, of course, everyone secretly loves a little bit of karaoke), the ship held a disco which carried on into the early hours of the morning.
The Cabin onboard Celestyal Cruises
Of course, when you’re literally staying on board a floating hotel, your bedroom, or ‘cabin’ as it is known as sea, is the most important part of the cruise. When I stepped into my sea-facing cabin, I was surprised by how large my room was (although it’s worth noting that I was on my own and typically these rooms are to be used by up to four people).
While the room was a little dated in decor, my window was large and allowed me beautiful sea views onto the glittering Aegean on a daily basis (sunrise and sunset were my favourite times on board). There was a turndown service each night and throughout the day, staff would come in and clean my room.
Food on board Celesytal Cruises
Second, only to the room, the food on board ship is one of the most important aspects of a cruise ship. The food was delicious and dietary requirements were well catered to. As a vegetarian, there were always vegan and veggie options on offer, while a dairy-free woman in our group was always shown a special menu which catered specifically to her needs.
There are several dining styles on offer; formal, smart casual, and buffet style. Each breakfast and lunch where we were on the cruise we would dine at the Leda and Aura buffet. Once there, there was a range of hot and cold Greek-inspired range of plates on offer which we could enjoy inside or by the pool. The more formal dining situations comprised of ordering from an a la carte menu.
The Week-Long Itinerary Cruising the Aegean
With five destinations in just 7 days (not including the arrival and departure port of Piraeus in Athens), it’s fair to say that the itinerary was pretty packed! The Celestyal Cruise itinerary meant that you could explore a different island each day, or alternatively partake in many of the activities on board the ship. There were plenty of offerings from origami classes to Greek language lessons etc. to keep those who opted to stay on the cruise during the day entertained.
Well-known as the ‘party island’ of Greece, and more specifically, the Aegean Sea, our cruise was unique in that it stopped overnight in Mykonos to allow all guests and cruise on board to experience some Greek nightlife. Elsewhere on the island, the Mykonos windmills are rich in medieval history, while Little Venice of Mykonos town is the ideal place to experience the sunset.
While larger cruise ships don’t have the option of docking on the island, our 1200 passenger ship meant that we had the opportunity to discover the stunning island of Milos. Home to oodles of history and most famous as being the place where the Venus de Milo was discovered, this stunning Greek destination is worth a trip on any visit to Greek.
Eternal Santorini and more specifically the blue-domed churches of Oia and the volcanic black sand beaches of the island are some of the most iconic attractions that Greece has to offer. Day one of our two days in Santorini was all about seeing the black sand beach of Perissa and experiencing a little Santorini nightlife.
If you’re even on the island the Red Bicycle restaurant is pretty pricey but also pretty delicious. Our second day on the volcanic island involved a trip to a second beach, an exploration of the hilltop town of Fira, and a visit to the Venetsanos winery, a cave-based wine producer which overlooks the Aegean Sea.
Home to the world-famous Palace of Knossos this cultural highlight is a must-see on any trip island hopping in Greece. We docked at the ancient port city of Heraklion early in the morning and soon made our way to the Minotaur mythical world heritage site. The rest of the day was spent experiencing the various facilities on board Celestyal Cruises (shout-out to the sports bar!)
Our final destination on the week-long cruise with Celestyal was Samos. This highly underrated destination is home to lush green forests and crystal clear waters, making for a heady combination for getting off the beaten tourist path- all with a twist of history thrown in.
How to get to Celestyal Cruises, Greece
Aegean Airlines flies to Athens multiple times a week from London. I’ve never flown with them before but was pleasantly surprised by the level to detail in customer service once aboard the plane. Complimentary meals and drinks are provided (the white wine I ordered was a local Greek one while my Vegetarian dish was Greek inspired cuisine). Services ran on time and I thoroughly enjoyed my three and a half hour journey each way.
You will surely not be disappointed should you opt to visit Greece, though there are a number of things to consider while planning your trip, such as the best time of the year to visit and other travel considerations. Check out our guide to the best of Greece tips for more information and inspiration!
Enjoyed reading about a week cruising the Aegean with Celestyal Cruises? Pin it now, read it again later:
I went cruising in the Aegean with Celestyal Cruises and Discover Greece. However, all opinions, photos, and words are my own!
Thursday 28th of July 2022
We just returned from the Celestyal cruise July 16 - 23rd around the Greek Islands. First I like to say the staff was incredible. Wonderful customer service. Too much upselling but I guess that is all cruises. The embarkation and debarkation were smooth. Nikos the 2 captains were wonderful. For the price we paid ( Junior Suite ) absolutely not worth the money. Ship really needs a face lift. The pool was too small for the amount of passengers. Restaurants closed way too early. 9pm and 9:30 pm for the buffet, which they closed down on the spot at 9:30pm, by 9:31 pm they were clearing everything and closing some lights off which was not pleasent as you are trying to finish your food. We could not make reservations, only reservations you could make were at the restaurant that they charged and yes, that was the one with amazing food. I think the breakfast was nice. The food overall was average. Loved the disco and alexandro. I think this cruise with it's restaurant hours and rush of hours on Islands is more targeted for older people, who like to eat early and sleep early. The shows every night were very nice. Again, for the price I don't feel I got my money worth, so I would not recommend. Thank goodness for the Greek Islands.
Monday 28th of June 2021
Hi Sophie, I've loved your post since I'm planning to take this cruise next year. I was wondering if you had to book all the excursions with the cruise or if it was permitted to go on your own. I've read that they must be booked together with the cruise. Would you help me with that. Thank you!
Tuesday 5th of November 2019
This was our experience on Celestyal Cruise Line, ship “Crystal” (10/22 thru 10/28/2019)
Intro: Embarkation was an exercise in chaos, frustration and exhaustion. Long, long lines, very bureaucratic and much standing around waiting…and waiting…and etc... Not nearly enough cruise staff to take care of +1000 people Same for “life preserver safety class”. Standing and waiting, waiting, waiting, etc…
We booked an outside cabin with what we expected to be an “unobstructed view” window. We got a tiny, TINY room (Cabin #5212) with beds pushed up against the window wall and a walkway outside the window where people strolled back and forth, looking into the cabin at will. Beyond the walkway was the ocean, but the only time you could pull the drapes back (unless you were the exhibitionist type) to enjoy it was at midnight. In effect, it was an inside cabin with a higher price.
We spent ~$800 to upgrade to a Jr. Suite. Very nice with an outside deck, but the sting of the original booking situation remains. We fell it is only fair to rate the original booking rather than the upgraded one. Only exception: Flushing toilet (I won’t go into detail) Shower would go super hot on you with no warning
Otherwise: Pros – Wonderful, helpful, patient, kind housekeeping staff (Kafik & Yuleidis). Great waiters, hair stylist, entertainers, etc. All service personnel worked very hard, were always helpful, pleasant and polite, and did a great job. We thank them and greatly appreciate them.
1 Con: Last morning before debarkation, needed tipping change for a 50 euro bill, but purser very rigidly refused. This is the desk where you change money so they had to have had bills and coins. Just not willing to share? Very disappointing attitude.
Ports/Tours: Pros – Fantastic ports…Istanbul was unbelievably gorgeous, Troy was an amazing adventure, Volos was beautiful and other-worldly. Crete, Santorini and Mykonos far exceeded expectations. Itinerary could not have been better. Big, big kudos!!! . Tour guides were all excellent and informative.
1 Con: Crowds, crowds, crowds…not the cruise line’s fault, of course, but still VERY frustrating. The lines were long…more standing around and waiting, waiting, waiting. That’s time away from real sightseeing. Perhaps go earlier in the am? Crete tour took off at ~noon and way too hot and crowded by that time.
Misc: Pros: We didn’t attend classes or spend much time on the ship so we can’t rate that area. I had my hair washed and blown dry very well and very inexpensively in the Beauty Salon. We did attend two evening shows and they were both as good as cruise entertainment goes.
Cons: “All Inclusive”: This is a definite misnomer. You were constantly asked to pay extra for what should have been part of the price, i.e. an ice cream cone by the pool (really!), a list of exotic drinks which was shoved in your face continually in the bar and food was only available at certain times. If you wanted coffee at, say, 6:30am, before the breakfast buffet opened, you had to pay for room service. That’s absolutely ridiculous when rising early for touring. No sit-down breakfast either…only buffet. The lunch and dinner buffets were slowly set up and quickly closed down. The dining rooms at night were over-crowded and there was often a wait if you didn’t arrive at opening.
FOOD Sad story: We booked the “Special Dining Room” for a “special gourmet dining experience” (4 people). It cost 38 euros for the booking. Then we ordered 2 Surf & Turfs for ~60 euros and 2 Lobster Thermidors for ~the same + 2 bottles of Pouilly Fuisse wine. Surf (lobster) was totally tasteless. I have never had that experien ce with lobster before…mind blowing. Turf was “beef tornedos” that were ordered med. rare and yet came with not a hint of pink on or in them. They were grey, dry and didn’t even look like meat at all. The potatoes were beautifully sculpted…and tasted like gelatin. The wine was wonderful!.
The regular dining room food was just plain mediocre to bad. The buffet food was often cold and looked like it had been sitting for some time at opening. You had to pay for fresh orange juice (in Greece yet, folks!)
The food on this cruise was a HUGE disappointment. We did not expect unmitigated gourmet, but we did expect “tasty” and well prepared with maybe a little gourmet thrown in once in awhile.
Omelets in the morning were good, but only 2 stations (guys working hard) going for 1000 people created another long line and waiting, waiting, etc…
Only had one lunch…stir fry. Was pretty good, but not hot enough. Again, only 2 stations (again working hard) meant more lines and more waiting and waiting.
We simply cannot, in good conscience, recommend a cruise where the food is this bad. That’s about the bottom line for us and coupled with the rest of the frustrations, we would probably not book on Celestyal again.
This is my 4th cruise. My 1st was a 4-day Greek Island cruise on a small Greek cruise ship (1981). Cabin was an insider (we were very young and poor), but larger than the Crystal’s window cabin we originally booked. Food was good and plenty of it. Young, fun crowd and it was a blast. I remember it fondly and wish that line was still running. For a small cruise, it was very well organized and everything moved along well.
My 2nd and 3rd were 14 day’er on a Caribbean cruise (Norwegian) and 7 day’er on a Mexican Riviera cruise. On both cruises, the food was excellent , particularly (of course) Norwegian. There was always food available somewhere and no standing in lines or waiting.
That’s our story and much as we hate to say it, we do not recommend Celestyal cruises based on our current experience.
Tuesday 25th of June 2019
Lovely! Could you comment on Celestyal's formal attire? How formal is formal? Have limited luggage and hoping not having to bring sports coat and other formal wear.
Tuesday 25th of June 2019
I only travelled hand luggage only (due to travel plans prior to the cruise) and it was definitely not nearly as formal as other cruises (or so I'm told)! I wore a floor length gown but I think a nice cocktail dress would be sufficient. A few people were in nice summer dresses and this was also okay! :)
Tuesday 19th of March 2019
Thank you! I've been trying to find reviews of Celestyal and came across your post. This has helped cement my decision for 2020!