I was recently invited onboard Celestyal Olympia for a 4 night Iconic Aegean itinerary from Pireaus. We visited 7 ports in 4 days and I learnt a LOT during the cruise. If you are considering a cruise with Celestyal Cruises you may be wondering how the cruise experience works day to day, this post provides a daily cruise diary with lots of photos and advice.
Day 1, Athens and Mykonos
Boarding the Celestyal Olympia in Pireaus (the port for Athens) was really easy. We queued up for about 5/10 minutes to drop off our bags and maybe 5 minutes more to check in. We were onboard the ship by 9.30am which is incredibly early for a cruise. On most cruises you’ll embark, at the earliest, around midday.
To learn more about when you can embark most cruises check out this post: How Early Can You Board a Cruise Ship?
I was continually impressed with the organisation 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.
The Ship: Celestyal Olympia
I LOVE exploring a new ship for the first time. The Celestyal Olympia was originally built for Royal Caribbean and you definitely can tell. She was launched in 1982 but you really wouldn’t know that just by being onboard. I’ve been on ships that are from the 00’s 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, everything has clearly been very well taken care of, nothing is broken or looking worn.
The ship also belonged to Sun Cruises and was Thomson Destiny for Thomson (now Marella). She is well loved by the crew onboard and by past passengers.
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 do.
It was again pretty well organised and didn’t take too long. The muster drill was done in a couple of languages with English being one of main languages. I was a little bit worried prior to the cruise about taking a cruise with a Greek cruise line due to me not being able to speak any Greek at all. This worry was completely unfounded. All staff onboard spoke perfect English and announcements were usually done in English before other languages.
Welcome Onboard Talks
Separate ‘welcome onboard’ talks were held for guests of different nationalities. We went to the English one (no surprises there…) 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 ports during the 4 day cruise and as a result the cruise had to be extra organised. All of the crew seem lovely and helpful.
We decided to grab food from the buffet today as we were really hungry by this point. There was a good mix of Greek dishes and other dishes which I like. I had one of those weird buffet combinations that you usually end up with on a cruise… a burger and a salad. The buffet is open for a few hours for breakfast, a few for lunch and a few for dinner. It is closed completely between the designated meal times.
The main dining room is also open for lunch. It serves the same food as the buffet and is style for lunch. Only dinner is waiter service (I’d be happy if everything was self service to be honest).
There is also a third option which was open quite often. It was a grill called the Aura grill by the pool. This would serve things like Gyros or Omelettes and was very popular with guests. It wasn’t open all of the time and its availability seemed to depend on wether or not we were cruising during lunch time or were docked.
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. Wow!
Celestyal are ‘all inclusive’ which means that things like gratuities and drinks are included. There is a menu of included drinks and another of ‘premium’ drinks that have a 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 are 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 a number of coffees, hot chocolate and tea on the inclusive menu. On a lot of other cruise lines this would be considered premium drinks.
We picked up our tender tickets for the evenings stop in Mykonos. Tender tickets are available on a first come first serve 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 can be collected by one person.
We arrived in Mykonos at 6pm and left after 11pm. Excursions have priority disembarkation (as normal) 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 for much longer.
To learn more about what to expect when tendering check out this post: Cruise Ship Tendering Tips 2019
We arrived in Mykonos a little after 6pm, 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 seven ports in four days. You get a little taste of everything. I’d love to return to Mykonos one day.
There are SO many cats in Mykonos. My travel insurance says I can’t stroke any stray animals so I managed to resist.
Main Dining Room Dinner
We headed back onboard 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 can’t fault anything with it at all.
It was the first proper meal I’ve had in a few days so went down very well. Our waiters were lovely.
To watch the embarkation day video make sure you check out the below and subscribe here: Emma Cruises.
Day 2, Celestyal Cruises – Kusadasi & Patmos
In the morning I was in Asia, in the afternoon in Europe!
The mornings excursion departed at 7.15am. I don’t think I’ve ever been up so early on a cruise. We met in a lounge onboard and were given our coaches for the day based on the groups that we were in, I was in the ‘English speaking individual guests’ group.
(‘Individual guests’ just makes me think of the film Life of Brian, *together* YES. WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS. )
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 guests here seem to have booked their cruise through a group with a representative onboard.
A Tour of Ephesus
Ephesus is an ancient Greek city and the building behind me in the photo above is a library which is 2000 years old. 2000!
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 100BC and they started the restoration in the 1970s. It was incredible to see if a little tricky to comprehend something over 2000 years old.
Living on the site are SO many cats. I love cats and trying to resist stroking them was a bit of a struggle.
(You do have to pay to go to the toilet in a lot of Greece including here, so if you are visiting make sure you bring coins. This is the same in a lot of Europe).
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 probably end up visiting somewhere similar. It’s a great way for the cruise line to provide free entertainment and education to the guests while the factory gets the chance to sell some rugs. One lady in our tour did buy a rug and I’m sure that more than paid for the free drinks that the factory gave us.
I really enjoyed this mornings 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 a very yummy fish and chips. I know fish and chips isn’t very Turkish…. but I did have some Turkish delight (I still don’t like it but I do keep trying).
Around the ship
We were all back onboard by 12.30pm and set sail at 1pm. I sat by the pool in the sunshine, had a few drinks and listened to the live band. The waiters and waitresses are so attentive, they offer a new drink as soon as I put down the last. A number of waiters already remembered my order by this point, pretty impressive for day two of the cruise.
I decided to skip our Patmos stop and stay onboard to film my ship tour. This cruise was so busy I knew I wouldn’t have another opportunity like this to film the tour. It’ll be coming soon on my YouTube channel so click here to subscribe so you don’t miss it: Emma Cruises.
It was by far the easier ship tour to film EVER.
I would say about 98% of the other guests had gone on tenders to Patmos. I was one of the few people onboard. Being able to film a ship tour with only a few people in the video is AMAZING!! The ship is also pretty small so that helps… (12 decks).
There was a greek style barbecue happening on the top deck for dinner so we decided to head there. As soon as we got close to the top deck I could smell the barbecue smell. There were a number of big barbecues all barbecuing different types of meat. As well as this there were lots of salad options and loads 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.
Value For Money
I am really impressed with the amount included in the price of the cruise. Its a 4 night cruise and you can get it for about £500 if you’re smart about it. That price includes unlimited alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, gratuities and two excursions. Pretty decent!
Day 3, Celestyal Cruises – 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 from Azamara and one from Silversea). I can’t imagine how busy everything is in peak season because 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 at pre 7am… So I just had some bread and a muffin.
I’m pretty sure I’m an expert when it comes to piles of old Greek rocks now… (very impressive and very old rocks).
Our tour today started at 7.30am so we did manage to beat the other tours to the Acropolis of Lindos, pictured below.
Old Town Rhodes
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.
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 doesn’t feel like we’ve done much of that. I even had a little nap which was amazing!
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 again had dinner in the buffet. There isn’t a huge variety of food as the buffet is quite small but everything that there is is 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 healthy the other guests were eating. 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 from the included drinks list. There are plenty on the included lists for me to not even need to open the premium drinks list. That said, I don’t really know much about alcohol and I’m not very fussy.
We went from bar to bar listening to live music around the ship. The party really begins around 10pm as dinner ends but by this time I’m usually heading to bed, I’m not used to the 6am starts! I don’t even get up that early to go to my day job.
Other things to note:
I had a bath on a cruise ship which is the best thing EVER. I see why people get addicted to the suite life.
For some reason our toilet had a toilet roll either side. I’m not too sure why!
Day 4, Celestyal Cruises – Crete and Santorini
We didn’t have an excursion booked for Crete but still had to get up reasonably early as we were docked 7am – 11.30am. We skipped breakfast and headed out to explore.
I have been to Crete before, about 4 years ago Jono and I visited for a week. It was one of our first holidays together and I had one of the worst colds I’ve ever had in my life. 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!
We were invited to tour the bridge with a little group which was really interesting. The captain explained how he, and all the crew members are very fond of the ship and cruising in this part of the world.
It sounds as though new cruise ships are only built to last a little while where as these ships built in the 80s were built to last forever.
The sides of the bridge are actually outside which I’ve never seen before. I imagine it would be quite tricky to manoeuvre a ship when stood outside if it was rainy. I’m assured that a lot of cruise ships have bridges like this.
The crew on this ship are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met on a cruise. Nothing is too much trouble for them. What amazes me is the number of languages that the crew members seem to speak. I’m pretty sure the cruise director has been speaking about 8 languages.
On the ship I’ve heard a lot of French, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Chinese, Portuguese and of course English. There are lots of American, Australian and British people onboard.
Main Dining Room Lunch
We headed to the main dining room for lunch and I had a yummy vegetable stir fry followed by some fruit. What a healthy meal, I hope you are impressed. I was trying to detox after the free drinks the night before…
Jono has earned himself the nickname ‘Jim Bean man’ and the waiter brings him a Jim Bean whenever he sees Jono. The waiters on here are so attentive, you definitely won’t struggle to get a drink, it’s more tricky to get them to stop bringing you drink. A nice problem to have!
On this cruise Celestyal keep the passports of the guests for the duration of the cruise and give them back on the last day. Sadly the last day is today so we had to collect our passports. We went as soon as the desk opened for collection and had to queue for 10 minutes which I didn’t think was too bad considering that 1500ish passengers need to collect their passports. It was all very organised.
Lots of cruises will keep your passports, the same happened to us in Asia and it happens in a lot of Europe too. I’m honestly not too sure why but I assume its for customs of the countries you are visiting.
We visited Santorini along with 4 other cruise ships (Celebrity Edge, a Holland America ship, one from Silversea and one from Crystal). You have to tender into Santorini and it takes a little while.
We arrived at 4.30pm and were on the first tender. It was all very easy.
Steps to Fira
We decided to walk up to the top of Fira which is around 600 steps on a path. 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 later in the day, I’m not sure I’d fancy doing it when it was any hotter.
There is also a cable car to the top which lots of people seem to get.
From the moment that you walk onto the path you’ll find lots and lots of men trying to get you to ride a Donkey to the top. 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 ‘poor donkeys’.
It was fully grown (often quite big) adults riding the Donkeys. It is 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 still struggled. The path was covered in Donkey poo and it was quite slippery so be careful.
The sun did set as we reached the top which was beautiful. Santorini is a very beautiful, but very busy, place.
Main Dining Room Dinner
As soon as we got back onboard we headed to dinner. I suspect that I still smelt of Donkey poo but I really needed some food by this point! It was another brilliant meal. I definitely cannot fault anything with the food.
I filmed my cabin tour today and can’t wait to show you it. I am staying in a mini suite (thanks Celestyal) and I have a bath! I would never normally pay for a mini suite but it was AMAZING to be able to soak my legs after the walk.
Disembarkation morning was another early start as we had to be out of the cabin by 7am!
Celestyal have an even tighter turn around day than usual due to the crazy busy itineraries that they have in place.
I loved my cruise with Celestyal. We covered so much ground and saw so much in four days. The food onboard 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 are also great value for money considering everything that they include. 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 having limited time in ports but that said, the destinations are well worth waking up early for.
Where To Next?
If you’re considering your first cruise, or would just like to learn a little more about cruising, this post is a brilliant place to start: 67 Cruise Tips From 67 Cruisers.
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