Heavenly Greek Islands Cruise with Celestyal - My Family Travels

Greece is one of the world’s best multigenerational destinations, and a Greek islands cruise is one of the best ways to appreciate it. Activities at each port of call range from beaches to shopping, historic sites and museums that entertain mixed ages and interests. Let Celestyal Cruises do the planning, book expert tour guides, get you there — and back on board — and it’s one of the easiest and richest vacations ever.

sunset on the deck of the Celestyal Crystal
A favorite place to be at sunset while sailing the Aegean: on the deck of the Celestyal Crystal with a glass of Assyrtiko.

This year, as the robust rollout of vaccinations lifts the hopes and spirits of US travelers, Greece has opened her arms to visitors. Celestyal Cruises’ two ships will begin their Greek Islands cruises in late May, from Piraeus, the port of Athens. All passengers will need to show proof of completed vaccinations, a COVID-19 immunity, or a negative COVID-19 PCR test (at home testing available at 30% off is valid for ages 2+) taken within 72 hours of embarkation.

If you do a Greek Islands cruise with a Greece-based cruise company like Celestyal Cruises, you get more perks: never having to pack and unpack, no rushing for ferries, stunning scenery enroute, onboard activities with a Greek cultural flair, bountiful fresh food, learning opportunities and kindness at every turn…

What more would a multigenerational family vacation require?

Kindness of Strangers and Crew

In full disclosure, we are not frequent cruisers and care more about where we dock than the ship we’re on. An eight-day sailing over Greek Easter, on a medium size Greek ship with ample facilities but no fancy casinos or art auctions, sounded ideal.

It turned out that the easy sailing, relaxed pace and warm vibes onboard a Celestyal cruise are infectious. Each day we met more fellow passengers who were repeat customers. We were also surprised by how many passengers and crew remembered each other from past voyages. 

At the farewell cocktail party, the remarkable Animation Director and emcee Danny said our Greek Islands cruise comprised 650 passengers from 32 countries. The crew, he added, represented 30 countries as well. Danny, who is from Romania and speaks eight languages, had finished every announcement that week with the phrase “Life is beautiful.” And on a Celestyal cruise, it is. 

Learn from Fellow Passengers on a Greek Islands Cruise

Two Celestyal ships, the Crystal and the Olympia, moor at the port of Piraeus.
Two Celestyal ships, the Crystal and the Olympia, moor at the port of Piraeus and prepare for the next cruise.

Celestyal life at sea is breezily educational. We sampled different olive oils with Teresa during a Greek cooking demonstration and practiced Yiasou during a Basic Greek language seminar. Chefs on the buffet line explained local ingredients and how spinach pies were baked. Fellow passengers shared archeological factoids and bits of mythology on shore excursions.

Seeing the Best of Greece from a Greek Islands Cruise

The Celestyal “Idyllic Aegean” itinerary showed off some of the best scenery in Greece if you like hills brushed with wildflowers and whitewashed homes accented by turquoise shutters and hanging geraniums. With a full day on Mykonos and two days on Santorini there were plenty of beautiful sunsets in addition to beaches, historic sites and chic boutiques.

Three shore excursions come with a Celestyal cruise package – a big savings. The complimentary half-day excursions on our cruise included the Minoan Palace of Knossos on Crete, the magnificent remains of Ephesus near the post of Kusadasi in Turkey and a walk through the village of Oia on Santorini.

Wonderful Days at Sea and on Land

Hiking the volcano on Nea Kameni island was a fun shore excursion for everyone
Hiking the volcano on Nea Kameni island was a fun shore excursion for everyone; note the Celestyal Crystal ship anchored in the background.

We booked other shore excursions so that each day had a structure: breakfast, shore excursion, lunch on shore, afternoon yoga with Waka on the ship, dinner, then another fun musical show. With two days on Santorini, we had time to see the excellent new Museum of Prehistoric Thera as well as take a boat excursion to hike the geopark on Nea Kameni, a smoldering volcano on an island in the caldera.

On Mykonos we visited the fascinating archeological site of Delos, once the center of the ancient world. Milos’ excursion included a hike in the woods where the Venus de Milo, now starring at the Louvre, was found in the dirt, bought by Napoleon’s troops and shipped to France.

Most shore excursions departed early to avoid the crowds on the very busy Greek Islands. Throughout, excellent guides kept everyone inspired with stories from history and mythology; some days with headsets, some days not.

Sleeping Quarters on a Greek Islands Cruise

There's a small playroom with kids crafts and activities on sailing days.
There’s a small playroom with kids crafts and activities on sailing days.

Celestyal Crystal’s 724 cabins are compact yet comfortable, with good firm beds but only nine have balconies. Suites have two beds and a small sofa and seating area. Families will appreciate that some inside cabins have two upper bunks plus a sofabed and sleep five.

We found the small bathrooms had strong showers with plentiful hot water and herbal Greek toiletries, linens were refreshed twice daily and cabin stewards were expert towel sculptors.

Evening Entertainment on Land and Sea

A few nights we had dinner ashore but always returned for the evening shows put on by Cirque Fantastic. This troupe of Cuban musicians, singers and dancers are accomplished gymnasts, ballerinas and break dancers.

They did two shows nightly, switching languages and styles from a Cuban repertoire a la Buene Vista Social Club to a “Mamma Mia” Night to an international cabaret. The shows are perfect for kids, too, with humor, imaginative sets, fun costumes and lots of talent.

Additionally, there are several small outdoor and indoor bars around the ship, a piano lounge, live music each afternoon by the pool and many other comfortable venues for a glass of Greek wine or one of the mixologist cocktails available for a premium.

Celestyal Dining Options: Greek Cuisine and More

Greek mezedes from codfish croquettes to sundried tomatoes, pesto and caviar dips.
Variety of Greek mezedes from codfish croquettes to sundried tomatoes, pesto and caviar dips served at the Fish Taverna, the premium restaurant.

“We are not fancy people and it’s not fancy food,” declared Diane from Mobile, Alabama as we dined with her and three couples. The gregarious group was delighted to be taking a Greek islands cruise after their first cruise together to Cuba. They weren’t worried about their meals.

Neither were we.  Some people we met complained about the lack of variety in the entrees presented. Others thought it was wonderful. For our family, having Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, breads and pastries each morning, plus Greek specialties and salad makings at dinner was more than enough.

The exception to the “fancy” comment was the two nights we splurged on the excellent premium restaurant called Fish Taverna. Think Instagrammable appetizers, an amuse bouche, freshly caught fish delicately prepared; with staff, attentive service and a romantic ambiance that are all first rate. To us, it was well worth the 36.95 euros upcharge for a “night on the town” and better than any meal we ate on land.

Casual Greek Islands Cruise Style will Please All Ages

Having breakfast on the deck of the Celestyal Crystal off the coast of Mykonos.
Having breakfast on the deck of the Celestyal Crystal off the coast of Mykonos.

The Leda Buffet on Deck 9 does serve several hot entrees, from eggs to pancakes, sirloin to grilled fish plus a variety of vegetables. Greek wines were served free of charge with every meal on this very Greek Islands cruise. There were always kid-friendly options as well as a variety of entrees to please the many nationalities on board.

Special dining events, such as the fun American Barbecue night when chefs manned a series of grills around the pool to grill chicken, steak, sausages and corn added to the variety of tastes.

Another plus for multigenerational families: Celestyal ships do not have formal dinner seatings. However, getting a table at the a la carte Amalthia restaurant, where most guests ate dinner each night, took some planning. While the restaurant’s sit-down table service was excellent, we found the multi-course meal a little too, well, “fancy.” Most nights, we got our own meal from the buffet and went outside.

By day, strolling Greek ports or hiking the countryside. By night, dining on deck as the sun set over the Aegean.

A Celestyal Greek islands cruise delivered on our idea of an idyllic vacation.

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