My first cruise ship experience also happened to be my first time visiting the Greek islands of Patmos, Crete and Santorini on a quick 2-days/2-nights Greek islands tour with Celestyal Cruises. My short nautical adventure began in the port of Kusadasi, Turkey, after 10 blissful days exploring the amazing peninsula of Anatolia (more about that soon!)
While not the biggest or most modern ship out there, I felt that my experience on the Celestyal Olympia was as good as it could be. Every single crew member I interacted with was extremely professional, attentive and helpful, starting with the boarding process, which I was expecting to be sort of a drag and was actually extremely organized and efficient. My group of almost 30 travelers boarded easily and without delays.
My basic ocean-view cabin was a much welcomed surprise. I was originally booked for an interior stateroom, and while the round boat window wasn't huge, it was a very nice upgrade (thank you, Celestyal Cruises!) that made the limited space much more tolerable. I would definitely recommend it to anyone still wondering if an ocean view is worth the extra expense!
Once settled in, I joined the rest of the “newbies” on the ship for an on-boarding meeting where we heard everything we needed to know about ship safety and procedures in case of emergency. We also received instructions on where and when we needed to meet up for the three different island visits scheduled as part of our two-day cruise package, with Patmos being our first programmed stop later that afternoon.
A deck-by-deck exploration of my temporary floating home helped familiarize me with the different restaurants, bars and coffee shops available on the ship, as well as the gym and spa, a mini library, the children’s play area, and the main pool esplanade on the top deck where I met with my group for a casual buffet-style lunch.
As the ship’s horn announced our imminent port departure, I hurried my food down so I could venture out again to soak up the sun and sea breeze while we made our way across the Aegean Sea. With Turkey fading away behind the ship and the first Greek islands appearing on the front, I basked in the moment, letting the wind turn my hair into a bird’s nest and my heart be filled with the pure enjoyment of setting sail on that warm, beautiful day.
I soon found out that other than to sleep and to shower, there really is no need to spend time inside the cabins. There were plenty of places to sit and relax while enjoying a drink or cup of coffee, read or get some work done, if needed. To me, the best thing to do during the day was to enjoy being outside, surrounded by sunshine and water.
While I didn't take advantage of the gym facilities or the pool (mostly because our time onboard was limited), I did book myself for an hour-long back massage session on my second day at sea in between visits to Crete and Santorini. It was so lovely and relaxing I wished I could have done it again.
The only thing I would have changed about my Greek cruise experience had nothing to do with the ship or the services offered onboard (everything was great!), but with the way the island excursions were organized. In all fairness, there's only so much you can expect when trying to tour three islands in two days, but still, I wished I had more time to explore each place leisurely and at my own pace, without the constraints of being part of a cruise. I guess I'll just have to find a chance to go back to the Greek islands!
Please follow the links below to read about my visit to each of the three islands included in our itinerary.