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
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.
Dining facilities: 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.
Pool: 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!)
Spa: 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!
Bars: 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), 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.
Mykonos: 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.
Milos: 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.
Santorini: 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.
Crete: 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!)
Samos: 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). Services ran on time and I thoroughly enjoyed my three and a half hour journey each way.