Celestyal Crystal: The Idyllic Aegean 7-night Itinerary in Review
After two and a half years of planning during the pandemic, on September 17, 2022 our group of 83 sailors embarked on the classic Celestyal cruise ship, Crystal, in Piraeus just outside of Athens. This Greek cruise line was chosen for its port-intensive itinerary. The smaller ship can dock and anchor in more intimate destinations, which was huge in the decision to book my group with them. At just around 1,000 passengers if full, this is a relatively small ocean-going vessel. While some vibrations were felt as she would start her engines, our voyage was relatively smooth sailing throughout. I only heard one of my guests complain of vibrations/noises.
During our long and drawn-out planning time, we were moved from the Crystal to a new (to the company) ship called the Experience. Alas, this ship was then sold and we were moved back, resulting in many of my people losing their balcony status. The cruise line compensated us by offering more on-board credits so, in general, I believe all were taken care of and ultimately pleased.
What a whirlwind cruise it was! Initially we were not to visit the port of Thessaloniki on the Greece mainland north. Our first day choice of excursion here was a full Alexander the Great experience, and it certainly didn’t disappoint us. We saw museum pieces that were excavated from the tombs of Alexander’s father and son, and we were led underground to see the actual tombs, which were excavated from above, so the walls and sealed doors were intact! The intricate jewelry, coins and armor pieces were exquisite and priceless. The incredible artistry was truly breathtaking, and it fascinated us all. Additionally, we saw the lovely landscapes near this port, the second largest city in Greece.
Each port of call on this cruise was unique. Greece is a diverse land, and its thousands of islands have tempted and intrigued man for centuries. Our weather was perfect, and the water delicious, if a bit cool. I honestly cannot imagine visiting in the middle of summertime. September is the perfect time to enjoy this and the other 3, 4, and 7-night cruise itineraries with Celestyal.
Dining was solid, and the crew serving my group truly seemed to enjoy their jobs. To enjoy bar service, it is expected that you be seated and served, not congregate around the actual bar. I liked this, although some seemed a little annoyed if not served immediately. In addition, we had to give the server our card each time we ordered, whether it was included or at an additional cost for upgraded alcohol. There are options for upgrading your included beverage package, though we saw no need to do so.
Another thing we noticed was there were times when food was simply not available, unless we ordered “bar bites” at a reasonable cost. We were so busy and satisfied with the food we ordered during meals, there was never a time when we needed to take advantage of this, however. And, of course, at any meal you could order whatever you wanted, and multiple of them if you wished! We certainly were never hungry during the week. An upcharge is available for “surf and turf” or better cuts of beef.
There were two included shore excursions: Ephesus on Day 3 and The Acropolis of Rhodes on Day 4. Both were led by excellent tour guides. Dan and I, along with quite a few of our cruise mates, added the House of Mary to the Ephesus tour. We were taken up to the top of the nearby forested hill to see where (reputedly) Mary, mother of Jesus, lived out her last days, protected by John and his followers from the Christian persecution of the day. It was a beautiful site.
Our weather the entire week was absolutely perfect, if a bit warm in Athens. The Rhodes tour was reasonably good. Lots of hiking was required both down to the site and then back up to the top of the hill to the ruins. We were able to skip the lines to get tickets, of course. Allow plenty of time to get back up afterwards to the area where the buses must wait, too. Oh, and there is a ton of shopping at the bottom after the tour, so allow time if you need to shop. Some decided to taxi back up!
Reviewing the cabin space, I would say that the updates that were made during COVID must have been primarily painting and carpet replacements. The furnishings in our balcony cabin 7227 needed to be updated. The bedding was comfortable enough, although be aware, Europeans love their duvets. You will not have a top-sheet on your bed. I requested one from my cabin steward. (To be clear, ask for an extra BOTTOM sheet). I thought the shower gel and shampoo in the showers were pretty nice. I like to use the ship’s toiletries, as they tend to be ocean friendly. All-in-all, I give cabins a “good” rating. I could have used a couple of more drawers in the desk, and I don’t care for hangers that hang facing you instead of sideways. It was rather tough to get things in and out. There were plenty of hangers, though! Additionally, it would have been nice to make the beds a bit higher off ground in order to get large suitcases hidden underneath during our voyage.
My companion and I only attended two shows during the week, and the entertainment crew was quite talented and athletic. The first evening was a circus-style performance, and it did not disappoint. I always appreciate fine athletes in action. Muses Lounge is comfortable for viewing, with sections of couches, chairs and tables. While there are a few columns to avoid, in general there is not a bad seat in the house. Bar tenders serve drinks as you wait for the shows to begin. This is also the lounge where you gather in the morning if you have an excursion with the cruise line. Muses is also used at times throughout the cruise for various events.
Since my group was a large one, we were offered a private cocktail party on the first evening in Horizons Bar on deck ten. It was lovely, with several servers, fabulous canapes, and even pretty cocktails for my guests. I think my people were quite impressed! Adrian, the flirty Maitre ‘d on our cruise, did his best to welcome us and impress.
The shop has some nice things for sale. In order to use up our on-board credits, I bought a lovely pair of earrings and necklace on the last evening!
My spa experience was lovely! One of my clients offered Dan and I each a massage, and mine was one of the best I have ever had, truly!
I never tried the “Cocktail of the Day”. No one ever told me about one! These were priced nicely at $4.75 E. Alas, I tend to be the red wine girl.
The musicians during our cruise were all quite good. Again, there were very few times that we simply sat and enjoyed a listen. One night early in the cruise we enjoyed the El Greco band at the pool bar, Helios. We even did a little dancing, which was great fun.
An area on board we visited just once was the sports bar (for a private party for suite guests). Eros Lounge is on deck 8 and tucked away. It was the only one with actual bar stools that I saw. It may have been a good spot to grab a cocktail when the other bars were quite busy, to be honest.
There were very few kids on our cruise in September, but there is a kids club for those of you who would want and need that.
Regarding booking shore excursions in advance of your cruise. Please be aware that if your travel advisor books these for you (instead of you calling for yourself), and they are cancelled or you change your mind on the ship and switch to another (must be outside 24 hours in advance), they make a big deal of giving you a refund voucher that you must give to your travel advisor. Then the advisor must send this voucher to the cruise shore excursion desk when the cruise is over to request a refund. This is the only cruise line I have ever sold that has a policy where the guest does not have control of their bookings on the ship. It seems crazy to me, but they say this is because they offer a small commission to me as an agent. So, advisors and consumers, please be aware of this when you book. There were four excursions cancelled even before we left. And many during our cruise were also cancelled, apparently due to low interest. This became a little bit messy, and I do wish we could rectify it somehow. I have complied post cruise, and only hope all my guests have sent to me the vouchers they supposedly were given during our cruise.
Would I book Celestyal Cruise Line again for my client? Absolutely! Having cruised with them myself, I am better equipped to advise my guests and create reasonable expectations. In addition, having access to the Celestyal travel advisor Facebook group helped me greatly. There are many more reasons to love this cruise experience than to be negative, I assure you. Whether you are a consumer or a travel advisor, feel secure that Celestyal will deliver an authentic experience you will never forget in Greece and Turkey.
I hope my honest review of Celestyal Crystal has been useful. Thanks for reading along, and may your Greece experiences be as joyful as my own. Scroll down for a few more of my favorite memories from this cruise.
Bobbie, Your Active Travel Pro