If you are considering a cruise with Celestyal Cruises you may be wondering what a typical day onboard is like.
I loved my Celestyal cruise – but it was very different from cruising with an American or British cruise line.
I took a 4-night “Iconic Aegean” itinerary onboard the Celestyal Olympia from Pireaus in 2019.
Who Are Celestyal Cruises?
Celestyal are a Greek Cruise line, who have three ships, Celestyal Journey, Celestyal Olympia and Celesytal Crystal.
They offer cruises around the Greek Isles, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and the Mediterranean.
They have medium-sized cruise ships that have previously sailed with other more mainstream cruise lines. This means they can visit smaller islands and ports than larger ships.
If you want to explore this part of the world, they offer a more authentic Greek experience than the mainstream cruise lines.
Celestyal Cruises routinely visit more than one Island a day, so if your time is short and you want to visit many places, Celestyal could be a cruise line for you to consider!
In this post we find out where I travelled – and how I found the whole Celestyal experience!
Day 1 – Athens and Mykonos
Boarding the Celestyal Olympia in Pireaus (the port for Athens) was really easy.
We queued up for about 5 or 10 minutes to drop off our bags and maybe 5 minutes more to actually check-in.
We were on board the ship by 9.30 am – which is incredibly early for a cruise! On most cruises, you’ll find the earliest you can embark is around midday.
To learn more about when you can embark on most cruises check out this post: How Early Can You Board a Cruise Ship?
I was continually impressed with the organization of Celestyal during the cruise!
They managed to organise cruisers who speak multiple languages with ease! A few of the bigger cruise lines could learn a lot from Celestyal!
Find out more about my embarkation by watching the video below:
My Ship – Celestyal Olympia
I love exploring a new ship for the first time. The Celestyal Olympia was originally built for Royal Caribbean and sailed as the “Song Of America.”
She was launched way back in 1982 – but you really wouldn’t know that just by being onboard. I’ve been on ships that are from the ’00s that feel much older.
The ship is a little bit higgledy-piggledy – with odd steps around and a bit of an odd layout. That said, the ship had clearly been very well taken care of – nothing was broken or looking worn.
The ship also belonged to Sun Cruises and was Thomson Destiny for Thomson. Thomson Cruises had a rebrand and are now called “Marella.”
To find out more about Marella Cruises, read this article next:
Celestyal Olympia is clearly well-loved by the crew onboard and by passengers, both past and present.
The Muster Drill
The muster drill took place on the promenade deck and was easy enough. We all had to wear our life jackets and stand in lines as you often did pre-pandemic.
It was again pretty well organized and didn’t take too long. The muster drill was done in a couple of languages with English being one of the main languages spoken.
Many cruise lines have now given up actual Musters – preferring for passengers to watch a safety briefing – either on the cabin TV or on the Cruise line App. You then have to go to your Muster Staton to make sure you could find it in case of emergency.
I was a little bit worried prior to the cruise about taking a cruise with a Greek cruise line – due to the fact I can’t speak any Greek at all.
All staff on board spoke perfect English, and announcements were usually done in English before other languages. Any concerns I had about the language barrier were completely unfounded!
Welcome Onboard Talks
Separate “Welcome Onboard” talks were held for guests of different nationalities.
We went to the English one and found it very useful. The cruise director explained what would be happening each day – and how each area of the ship worked.
We visited 7 different ports during our 4-day cruise and as a result – the crew had to be extra organised!
We decided to grab food from the buffet as we were really hungry at this point.
There was a good mix of Greek dishes, and other more standard buffet food – like burgers, salad and bread.
The buffet is open for a few hours around breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is closed completely between meal times.
The main dining room was also open for lunch. It served the same food as the buffet, but the food was served to you.
Another food option was the “Aura Grill” by the pool. This would serve things like Gyros or Omelettes. It was very popular with guests.
It wasn’t open all of the time. Its availability seemed to depend on whether or not we were cruising or docked during lunchtime.
Celestyal Cruises Include All Inclusive Drinks
We had a couple of drinks around the ship, and I actually took some time to sit down and read a book.
Celestyal are ‘All-Inclusive’ – which means that things like gratuities and drinks are included
There was a menu of included drinks and another of “Premium” drinks that you can have at an extra supplement.
There is plenty on the included list – so I didn’t feel the need to pay extra!
If you do like specific drinks or like to have a lot of variety it may be worth ordering drinks from the premium menu.
The drinks prices were pretty reasonable, and similar to that that you’d find in a pub or at a bar on land.
I was very impressed that you could order coffee, hot chocolate, and tea on the all-inclusive drinks menu.
On a lot of other cruise lines, this would cost extra.
Tendering to Mykonos
We picked up our Tender tickets for the evening’s stop in Mykonos.
Tender tickets are available on a “first-come-first-served” basis from a lounge onboard the ship.
If you are travelling as part of a group only one member needs to collect the tender ticket. Up to 6 tickets can be collected by one person.
We arrived in Mykonos at 6 pm and left after 11 pm. Excursions have priority disembarkation (as usual) and then the Tenders are filled by Tender ticket number.
I do get seasick but I am usually okay on Tenders. I think it’s the fresh air and the dramatic movements of the boat.
The tender to Mykonos only took about 5-10 minutes – so it wasn’t too much of an issue. That said – I wouldn’t want to be on the tender boat for much longer!
To learn more about what to expect when tendering check out this post:
An Evening in Mykonos
We arrived in Mykonos a little after 6 pm, just in time for the sunset.
The sunset was gorgeous and we walked around the town. I do wish that we had a little bit more time in daylight to explore – but I suppose that’s the price you pay for visiting seven ports in four days!
We got a little taste of every Island, but I’d love to return to Mykonos one day!
There were SO many cats in Mykonos. My travel insurance says I can’t stroke any stray animals, and I did manage to resist...
Main Dining Room Dinner
We headed back on board for dinner and went to the main dining room.
The food was really well cooked, there was a lot of variety on the menu and the portions were pretty big. I couldn’t fault anything with it at all.
It was the first proper meal I’d had in a few days so it went down very well!
Day 2 – Kusadasi & Patmos
Morning Tour of Kusadasi
The morning excursion departed at 7.15 am. I don’t think I’ve ever been up so early on a cruise.
We met in a lounge on board and were given our coaches for the day based on the groups that we were in.
Our group included people from America, Australia, Finland, the Philippines, and more.
We were the only guests from the UK on our particular bus. The majority of other guests seemed to have booked their cruise through a travel group with a representative onboard.
In the morning I was in Asia, in the afternoon I was in Europe! It was amazing!
A Tour of Ephesus
Ephesus is an ancient Greek city. The building behind me in the photo above is a library that is 2000 years old!
I don’t know about you, but I find it so tricky to imagine 2000 years ago. Maybe this photo will be in a museum in 2000 years time with the caption ‘English girl visits Turkey, year: 2019’
Ephesus is an ancient Greek city, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. It was built around 100 BC and they started a restoration of the site in the 1970s.
Living on the site were SO many cats. I love cats and trying to resist stroking them was a bit of a struggle!
Rug Making Tour
Next, we went to a factory/shop that was making rugs. It was very cool to see how they do the weaving, but I didn’t buy a rug for a few reasons:
- 1) I could buy a cruise for the price or a decent rug.
- 2) My cat Hudson would definitely scratch the rug.
- 3) The big rugs are probably as big as the entire ground floor of my house!
On most cruise line excursions you’ll often end up visiting somewhere similar.
It’s a great way for the cruise line to provide free entertainment, and education to the guests. The factory gets the chance to sell some rugs to the passengers.
One lady in our tour did buy a rug – and I’m sure that more than paid for the free drinks that the factory provided.
I really enjoyed the morning’s tour, and it was great that it was included in the cruise price. It would easily cost £50+ each on one of the bigger cruise lines.
Main Dining Room Lunch
We headed to the main dining room for lunch and I had Fish and Chips. Fish and Chips aren’t very Turkish – but I did have some Turkish delight for dessert!
Around the Celestyal Olympia
We were all back on board by 12.30 pm and set sail at 1 pm.
I sat by the pool in the sunshine, had a few drinks, and listened to the live band.
The waiters and waitresses were so attentive, they offered a new drink as soon as I put down the last.
A number of waiters had already remembered what I liked to drink by this point – pretty impressive for day two of the cruise!
Visiting Patmos (or not)
I decided to skip our Patmos stop and stay on board to film a ship tour.
The cruise was so busy, I knew I wouldn’t have another opportunity to film the tour.
I would say about 98% of the other guests had gone off on Tenders to Patmos. I was one of the few people on board, so it was very easy to film without having to avoid other passengers.
The ship itself is also pretty small so that makes filming far easier too! Watch my video tour below:
Greek Barbecue on Deck
There was a Greek-Style Barbecue on the top deck for dinner that evening, so we decided to head there.
There were a number of big barbecues all cooking different types of meat. As well as this there were lots of salad options and lots of bread.
The bread onboard is freshly made and you definitely can tell! It’s probably some of the best bread I’ve had on a cruise – and trust me – I’ve tried a lot of cruise ship bread!
The Cost of This Cruise
I was really impressed with the amount included in the price of the cruise.
The four-night cruise cost around £500/$630
The price included unlimited alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, gratuities, and two excursions.
Day 3 – Rhodes
We docked for a full day in Rhodes and had an included excursion in the morning.
We were docked with 3 other ships – two were Azamara and one was Silversea
I can’t imagine how busy Rhodes is in peak season, as it was very busy even in late October!
We started our day with breakfast in the main dining room. I am not really a big breakfast fan, especially not before 7 am – So I just had some bread and a muffin.
I’m pretty sure I was becoming an expert when it comes to piles of old Greek rocks! (very impressive and very old rocks it has to be said)
Our tour started at 7.30 am, and we did manage to beat the other tour buses to the Acropolis of Lindos – pictured below.
Visiting Rhodes Old Town
After our tour of Lindos, we went to the old town of Rhodes. We wandered through with our tour guide before making our own way back to the ship.
If you are visiting Rhodes make sure you bring comfortable shoes with decent grip. It’s very busy and slippery inside the walls of the old town.
Lunch & Afternoon Onboard Celestyal Olympia
We headed to the buffet for lunch and caught some sun on the top deck.
It was really nice to spend some time on the ship as it didn’t feel like we’d done much of that.
I did decide to buy a cookie from one of the bars onboard. I rarely buy the extras onboard but my bill only came to 5 euros – so clearly I didn’t go too crazy!
The cookie was great and was so worth the €1.75 I paid for it!
We had dinner at the buffet. There wasn’t a huge variety of food as the buffet is quite small – but everything that there was tasty and hot.
There are quick self-serve drinks stations in the buffet which make it really easy to get a drink.
I couldn’t believe how healthily everyone was eating on this cruise!
I had a burger while the majority of other people had a big salad with maybe some potatoes or fish. The Mediterranean diet is traditionally a very healthy one!
During the evening I decided to sample a few of the cocktails.
There were plenty on the “included list” for me to try. I never needed to open the “Premium” drinks menu at all!
That said, I don’t really know much about alcohol and I’m not particularly fussy.
We went from bar to bar listening to live music around the ship.
The party really begins around 10 pm as dinner ends – but by this time I’m usually heading to bed. I’m not used to 6 am starts!
A Bath on a Cruise Ship?!
I had a bath on this cruise ship – which I really enjoyed. I was staying in a suite, I see why people get addicted to “The Suite Life!”
For some reason, our toilet had a toilet roll on either side. I’m not too sure why!
Day 4 – Crete and Santorini
An Early Start in Crete
We didn’t have an excursion booked for Crete, but still got up reasonably early as we were docked from 7 am to 11.30 am.
We skipped breakfast and headed out to explore.
I have been to Crete before, as I had a land-based holiday there a few years ago. I had one of the worst colds I’ve ever had in my life that week, so I couldn’t enjoy the holiday as much as I would have liked.
Our resort was in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t find any medicine. I haven’t travelled without cold and flu tablets since, just in case!
It was nice to have the opportunity to revisit Crete when I was feeling better!
Bridge Tour of Celestyal Olympia
We were invited to tour the ship’s bridge – which was very interesting.
The captain said that he, and all the crew members, were very fond of the ship and cruising in this part of the world.
The sides of the bridge are actually outside – which I’d never seen before. I imagine it would be quite tricky to manoeuvre a ship when standing outside in the wind and rain.
I was assured that a lot of older cruise ships had bridges like this.
Celestyal Cruises Have an Amazing Crew
The crew on this ship were some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met on a cruise. Nothing is too much trouble for them.
It always amazes me the number of languages that the crew members speak. I’m pretty sure the Cruise Director was speaking about 8 languages!
On the ship, I heard a lot of French, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Chinese, Portuguese – and of course English being spoken. There were lots of American, Australian, and British people on board.
Main Dining Room Lunch
We headed to the main dining room for lunch and I had a Vegetable stir fry followed by some fruit.
What a healthy meal, I hope you are impressed! I was trying to detox after all the free drinks the night before…
Celestyal Cruises Kept our Passports
On this cruise, Celestyal keeps the passports of the guests for the duration of the cruise. We where given them back on the last day.
We went as soon as the desk opened for collection and had to queue for 10 minutes. I didn’t think was too bad considering that 1500 passengers needed to collect their passports! It was all very organized.
Lots of cruises will keep your passports – the same happened to us in Asia – and it has happened to me on a European river cruise too.
To learn more about why this happens, check out this post:
We visited Santorini along with 4 other cruise ships. They were Celebrity Edge, a Holland America ship, one from Silversea, and one from Crystal.
You have to Tender into Santorini, and it can take a little time
We arrived at 4.30 pm and were on the first Tender. It was all very easy.
Taking The “Steps to Fira”
We decided to walk up to the top of Fira, which is around 600 steps.
It’s a long way and really quite a tough walk so don’t underestimate it! We managed to make it to the top with a lot of breaks.
Luckily, it was cooler by the time we did the walk, as it was late afternoon. I’m not sure I’d fancy doing it in the middle of the day!
There is also a cable car that goes to the top if you don’t want to walk.
From the moment that you walk onto the path, you’ll find lots and lots of men trying to sell you a ride to the top on a Donkey.
They were quite pushy – but I’d strongly recommend you don’t take the Donkey option.
The Donkeys make the journey all day long in the boiling heat, they have no water or shade and are all tied together.
It was honestly really upsetting to see, and I spend most of the journey saying “The Poor Donkeys.”
It was fully grown – often quite large – adults riding the Donkeys up the hill in Santorini. I thought this was really cruel.
We made it to the top just in time for the sun to go down.
My legs were literally shaking from the walk. I don’t think I’m particularly unfit – but I still struggled.
The path was covered in Donkey poo and it was quite slippery – so be careful if you do go!
Sunset in Santorini
The sun did set as we reached the top which was wonderful.
Santorini is a very beautiful place, but it does get extremely busy!
Main Dining Room Dinner
As soon as we got back on board we headed to dinner.
I suspect that I still smelt of Donkey poo – but I really needed some food at this point!
It was another brilliant meal. I definitely could not fault the food on this cruise.
Celestyal Olympia – Mini Suite Cabin Tour
I stayed in a mini-suite which had a bath, which is quite unusual on a cruise ship.
I would never normally have a mini-suite, but it was wonderful to be able to soak my legs after that walk!
Are Celestyal Cruises Good?
I loved my cruise with Celestyal! We covered so much ground and saw so much in four days.
The food on board was great, as were the staff and the ship itself.
I was a little nervous before the cruise about cruising on a ship from 1982 but it clearly has been well looked after and loved.
Celestyal Olympia is in much better shape than a lot of younger ships I’ve cruised on.
Celestyal Cruises offer great value for money when you consider everything that is included in the cruise fare. They include gratuities, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, meals, and a couple of excursions too!
I would definitely recommend a Celestyal cruise to anybody who wants to explore a lot of Greece in a short period of time.
The cruise may not be suitable for those who aren’t good at early mornings, or those who wouldn’t like the limited time in ports.
Having said that, the destinations are well worth waking up early for!
Before You Go!
I stayed in another Mini suite on P&O’s Iona recently. It didn’t have a bath, but It was one of the most controversial cabins at sea! Find out where here:
Another controversial cabin I have recently tried was the “Infinite Veranda” onboard Celebrity Edge. Unlike most balcony cabins, it has no private outside space! Find out more here:
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