When people think of cruising they may imagine something that is for married folks, people with children, or those looking to go to a beach destination and disconnect from society with little to know work in planning the trip. However, I felt it was extremely convenient and easy way to see the Greek Islands as well as connect with the history/culture of the land in a tight time constraint. Celestyal Cruises is a Greek owned company offering cruises to three continents, and many different Greek Islands.
However, I was pleasantly surprised when I sailed on the 7 night idyllic Aegean Sea cruise through Greece, and Turkey where I was able to experience culture, amazing food, and also even get up to some adventure travel on the side with my mom.
*This trip was hosted by Celestyal Cruises for the Idyllic Aegean 7 night cruise. All views are my honest opinion. If you find affiliate links in this article they help me with a small commission however they don’t add extra cost to you. This helps me continue bringing you quality content to help plan your next adventure.
Is cruising for me?
There are many ways to experience a destination, with family, solo, slow travel, or weekend trips, but when it comes to cruising I always thought it got a bad rep in terms of just sending those on excursions that didn’t truly share the meaning, culture, or significance of a destination.
I was pleasantly surprised when I cruises with Celestyal Cruises on the Crystal Ship that I would be in for a treat. Not only was everything included from the plethora of all you can eat drinks, to two excursions which were included in the price of the cabin that we booked.
There were also more authentic experiences that cost a bit more, but were worth the price and the personal touch of the tour or excursions guide in a smaller group setting. From home cooking classes in Mykonos, to seeing the third largest ancient Roman library in the world at Ephesus complimented with some off roading with buggies sailing with Celestyal meant being able to customize your itinerary to a variety of needs depending on the group you are traveling with or if you are solo.
Pros and Cons Of Cruising the Greek Islands
The pros is you don’t have to deal with sold out ferries to get to and from the popular island destinations. Cruising with Celestyal allowed me to get a taste of new destinations as well as the iconic islands like Santorini and Mykonos. Now I know I already will be coming back after enjoying every moment of Milos, Crete, and Rhodes.
The cons were not being able to have the full experience of nightlife in Mykonos and Santorini, but if you are on a family cruise or romantic holiday it is great to be able to be able to enjoy dinner, sunset, and have a drink or two at a bar before heading back.
But after a full day of exploring you are probably going to head back to the boat sooner than you think.
Another perk of cruising the Greek islands is that you almost have a skip the line for everything since the cruise excursions have already purchased tickets for sights and attractions in Crete, Rhodes, etc.
That means your time really squeezes everything out of a destination with the cruise.
I also loved never having to worry about food or what I would eat with the all you can eat option. During the day many excursions included lunch or free time to experience the food of the destination we were at. However, if you did not want an excursion of running around everywhere you could simply take a beach excursion which left at each port of call.
This made traveling the islands with ease, since I never had to take a taxi at any port of call due to the amazing excursions. By taking the excursions I did not have to worry about getting back to the boat on time, since they took care of all of the planning.
Idyllic Aegean Itinerary- Celestyal Cruises
My mom always wanted to visit the Greek Islands and as she is getting older I thought the best way to see as much as possible was with the Idyllic Aegean 7 night cruise. The itinerary is truly amazing with stops on mainland Greece, the Cycladic Islands, and even Turkey!
Day 0/1 Athens
Prior to beginning our journey we stayed at the Polis Grand Hotel set up by Celestyal Cruise. They had a transfer to and from the airport as well as hotel set up for those wanting to explore the embarkation port city of Athens. I had an amazing time exploring the Acropolis with a tour by Athens Walking Tours. Both my mom and I had gone to the acropolis years ago, but without a guide. It was amazing to learn more about the Acropolis from a local to understand what we were actually looking at. Also, they had skip the line tickets ready for us so we were off exploring in a jiff.
While things are always changing, we did have to get a rapid test for $10 usd the day before the trip and you can literally head to any pharmacy for this.
On the day of Embarkation everything ran smoothly, we checked in, showed our documents, and received our keys to the room. It is possible to never see cash on this cruise since you can connect your credit card to your room key, and also have access to all you can eat/drink options for your cabin.
Day 2 Thessaloniki
Foodies beware this place is known for amazing cafes, food, and will leave your stomachs happy. However, I love that this mini Athens seemed more friendly, and had much more to offer than I could have imagine (which is why I am going back). Thessaloniki is the home of Attaturk and not far from one of the most important archeological sites for fans of Alexander the Great.
Greece’s second largest city offers guests stunning Paleo Christian and Byzantine monuments, as well as monuments to the famed “Alexander the Great” and has a UNESCO World Heritage site designation.
At this stop we were able to get a comprehensive tour of the city and even got to enjoy some of the best views of Thessaloniki at Heptapyrgion of Thessalonica fortress.
Day 3 Kusadasi
As soon as I realized I was heading to Turkey I was extremely happy, I had never been to Turkey and this was going to give me a taste of what it would be like. While I was only there for the day it was more than enough to do a lot of cool activities. The first stop was Ephesus with an excursion that is included with the cruise. Here you can see where Cleopatra visited, where the Virgin Mary lived for a little while, and offers a unique blend of history, religious history, and cultural history of the region. Our guide was extremely knowledgable and gave a great overview of the country and what each region is known for.
Also, when I got back to town I wandered the bazaar, as well as got a doner. I rationed in my head that eating food, going to the beach, and checking out the town as well as excursions
Day 4 Rhodes
When you think of medieval cities, Greece never really came to mind. However, when I visited Rhodes on a day trip excursion I learned so much about Rhodes Town a living and breathing city set in the walls of a medieval city. Rhodes is also home to the second most visited archeological site in Greece Lindos and was part of the reason I decided to take a tour.
The entire town itself is great to explore if you decide you don’t want to take a tour and it is actually a UNESCO World heritage site. The tour made it easy to get to and from the ship as well as left free time for us to explore Rhodes Town.
Lindos is amazing if you are looking for a quintessential windy town with white buildings in the Greek islands, but for me what caught my fancy was the hike up to the acropolis and the temple of Athena. From there I was able to have a great view of St Paul’s Bay. I can already tell that I want to visit Rhodes to spend more time exploring the beautiful nature and history of the island, but for now I will take what I can get with this taste of Rhodes.
Day 5 Crete/Santorini
One thing you will have to get used to on a Celestyal Cruise is waking up early if you want to stuff as much as I did on my week cruise. I decided to not only do 1 excursion this day, but two. We woke up early in order to visit Crete and our port of call was Heraklion.
Knossos has a very long history of human habitation beginning with the founding of the first Neolithic settlement (c. 7000 BCE). is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete.From here we learned about Knossos, which is supposedly the oldest city in Europe. Here we toured the archeological site of the Palace of Knossos which was excavated by Arthur Evans. However, many archeologists and even Unesco don’t like the amount of restoration that was done here and that is why it is not a UNESCO world heritage site.
Finally after we learned a little bit of Greek Mythology, the Minoans and the legend of the minotaur and the labyrinth it was time to head back into town for a quick bite to eat and visit the Cathedral of St Midas in Heraklion before boarding our ship to head to Santorini in time for sunset.
We took a tour to the famous town of Oia on Santorini, learning all about the super volcano along the way. The tour was perfect since we did not have to worry about getting to the sunset in Oia, since it brought us there with ample time to find a good spot to watch it.
Top tip head to the Castle of Oia for the best vantage point of the domes, Oia, and sunset. The ambiance here was amazing with a saxophonist performing top hits while the rays of light slowly faded away as we danced.
Day 6 Mykonos
By far one of my favorite Greek islands. I have been to Mykonos twice and both times I fell in love with this place. I only had enough time to experience the main town, shop, have coffee, explore Little Venice, and enjoy the beautiful views while getting lost through Mykonos’ winding streets.
Wandering Mykonos town’s pedestrian only streets are in and of itself worth your time to visit this beautiful streets lined with whitewashed buildings. Celestyal Cruises also offers authentic experiences, which are more intimate and allows you to connect on a deeper level places such as Mykonos.
One of my favorite days with Celestyal Cruises was a visit Mykonian Spiti to learn how to cook Greek dishes from a local at their home.
Day 7 Milos
When I was on this ship my body naturally swayed awake when it needed to. I woke up the morning we were approaching Milos in time for the sunrising over the island of Milos. I decided to walk outside to watch it and I was not disappointed. Milos – panacea korfiatissa – is actually Panagia Korfiatissa (FYI Panagia is Holy Mary in Greek). In my opinion this is one of the most unique islands and most beautiful for swimming.
This was the last day and one of my most anticipated. Milos is one of the islands that has been gaining popularity over recent years and cave jumping and a day beach hopping was long awaited.
We took an all day tour that took us around the island and included a boat tour to visit some coves, and see the white cliffs as well as beaches that were only able to be reached by boat.
Then we headed to the famous church of panacea korfiatissa for sunset
Sarakiniko beach was our last stop of the day before heading back to the ship. I always wanted to go cliff jumping and finally got to make that happen at this famous Greek beach. Another bucket list island checked off thanks to Celestyal.
Day 8 Disembark in Athens Greece and say Good Bye To Celestyal Cruises
If someone had to ask me my least favorite thing about Celestyal Cruises it would be hard to say anything, but if I had to pick it would have to be having to disembark early because I never wanted to leave.
We had to be off the ship by 9 am, but it was easy since we had a pick up previously organized thanks to Celestyal.
The Ship Crystal Ship
How large is the ship?
Celestyal Crystal is 162m long and 25,6m wide. It has 9 decks and can accommodate up to 1200 cruisers.
Only balcony suites have doors that open from the inside, but the window in my cabin was huge and offered a lot of natural light. I recommend getting a cabin on a higher floor for the best views.
An average of 8 languages are spoken on-board and it made it very interesting since there were people from all over Europe and the world on the ship.
What is there to do onboard?
One amenity I definitely made use of was the Spa on board it was great after doing so many activities to relax and have a massage. There are many activities they have to do on board for guests of all ages, and Celestyal creates a daily program so you know what is going on for the day on and off board. This includes language classes, dance classes, and other events on the ship.
While there is a pool, I felt after a full day exploring and visiting beaches on the islands I was pooped by the time I got to the ship. I did no spend much time in the pool and it is quite small so while it is there is you want it, I loved maximizing my time visiting our different ports of calls.
Celestyal Cruises All Inclusive- What does it mean?
The All inclusive package included in your original price includes certain drinks and does not have a ton of variety for cocktails. However, I don’t drink so this would not be a problem. However, I did in fact get the premium drink package because I love a variety when it comes to my nonalcoholic beverages and this allowed me to get milkshakes, all sorts of coffee/tea, and also mocktails.
We also were able to eat at a variety of restaurants on the ship. There was Amalthea Restaurant offering international cuisine, Aura for casual dining, Helios Bar great for chilling at the end of a busy day, Olympus another great selection for international cuisine, and Thalassa Bar located by the pool.
Two of the restaurants were buffet style, while there was one smart casual dining a la carte dining experience included. However, one night we decided to try the Greek Dining experience that had a menu designed by a Greek celebrity chef. This was a fantastic tasting menu and offered a more intimate dining experience. Diane Kochilas, one of the world’s foremost experts on Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. She is the host, creator and co-producer of My Greek Table, the highly acclaimed cooking and travel show that airs nationally on Public Television and just launched Season Four. Kochilas is also the author of more than 18 cookbooks on Greek-Mediterranean Cuisine, consulting chef and cooking school owner. I even got her cook book after this amazing experience!
Would you try Celestyal Cruises 7 day Idyllic Aegean Cruise?
If you are looking for more places to visit in Europe this fall check out my article on my visit to Helsinki Finland.