Celestyal Cruises – 4-Day Cruise Of The Greek Isles and Turkey
At the end of October (2014), I took my first real cruise; Celestyal Cruises – 4-Day Cruise Of The Greek Isles and Turkey. I say “real” as I had done a cruise to nowhere in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago, but it it left the Port of Houston and then sailed out to the Gulf and back. We did not really go anywhere. It was a full fledged cruise ship with all the bells and whistles except the stops at a Port.
This one, the Louis Olympia (now re-named) made stops from its port of origin in Piraeus, Greece. Tourists don’t normally go to Piraeus from Athens unless they are taking a cruise or want to get off the beaten path.
My cruise went like this:
- Mykonos (Monday)
- Kusadasi, Turkey (Tuesday)
- Patmos (Tuesday p.m.)
- Rhodes (Wednesday)
- Heraklion, Crete (Thursday) and
- Santorini (Thursday).
You can recreate my journey by going to this link and booking your own vacation. It’s now a 4-day version.
So of course I was excited as I’d not been to any of these places before. It myself and a few other blogger friends who were taking this trip courtesy of the Louis Cruise company based right there in Greece.
Note: The company relaunched on November 7, 2014 as Celestyal Cruises . The ship is now called Celestyal OLYMPIA.
On boarding, we had to fill out a public health questionnaire which included questions about visiting the three Ebola countries in Africa (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone). After that we cleared Immigration and went onboard.
We were greeted by our Cruise Director and as our rooms were not yet ready, we had a mini reception complete with cocktails. A great way to start the cruise I thought.
If you’ve never done a cruise, typically, you can pay for everything up front or pay as you go in essence. You can buy packages for excursions or just buy the excursions you need onboard. Sometimes they do get sold out, so you have to act quickly. Now you can also just do your own thing. i.e. once the ship docks take go explore on your own.
I had a very nice room with a porthole, well a huge window really. Each day the crew would make my towel into something else. On arrival it was an elephant I think :-). If you never want to get off the ship you are so welcome to do so. But I do recommend getting off at the ports of call :-).
Maritime law dictates that within 24 hours of arriving on the ship you have to do a safety drill, so off we went. It was fun since its not an actual emergency of course. They basically give you the instructions of what to do if something happens, where are your stations and how to fit the life vest. yes, some people don’t know how to do this.
On the ship itself, there are seven bars, so you can drink yourself into oblivion 😉 or not. There are daily programs which includes your excursions you just decide how much you want to spend.
Here’s what happened along the way:
We arrived in Mykonos at night. As the dock is not big enough, we dropped anchor in the bay and then the local boats came for us.
On this island, the wedding couples donned their outfits and headed out to get photos on the waterfront. It was so beautiful to watch.
Apparently, the thing to do on Mykonos apart from partying all night is to see the windmills so we headed there and also had dinner at a local place called Katerina’s. My friend Angie recommended it to us as she had been there before and I will recommend it to you as well. It’s quite small, the food is good and the service is also good. Go when you are in Mykonos.
Kusadasi, Turkey (Tuesday)
One of the reasons why I wanted to do this cruise was to visit this Turkish port and of course the ancient town of Ephesus. I’m always excited that I get to do many excellent adventures sometimes all in one big adventure.
To try to explain the grandeur of Ephesus is defeating. We got there quite early so there was not as many people as normal, so we had a chance to enjoy it even more. I’ll just show you some photos that should whet your appetite.
And there are cats everywhere so watch out for them.
Oh, let me know forget the Turkish ice cream. Its delicious and they make it fun when you try to buy it :-).
Patmos (Tuesday p.m.)
Not all the islands have a port you can dock, in Patmos, we had to dock in the harbor and then take launches to land. This is actually fun.
Then there are buses waiting for you to take you on your excursion or you can take a local taxi or just go walking if you prefer. You don’t have much time to explore before you lose the light unless you are there in the summer time though.
The attraction in Patmos is two-fold:
- The Cave of the Apocalypse. It is believed that John the Apostle wrote the Book of Revelations here. It’s actually very crowded and you have like two seconds to see the place then you have to leave, you can’t even stop. But if you’re religious and on an pilgrimage, that should be enough for you. No photos are allowed down inside of the cave I’m afraid, so you have to hold that in your memory.
- The Monastery of Saint John “the Theologian”. This monastery dating back to 1088 sits high atop the island and has a winding road to get up there. It looks like you can walk, but its faster by the tour buses.
Rhodes is our next stop. I really love this island; its a UNESCO World Heritage site. Watch out for the birds, they will eat and drink your stuff at the command of the shop/restaurant owners. It’s a great walking island with good food and beer.
No need for a tour on this one as you an just walk right off the ship into the town.
Oh, there are also weddings on board the ship here are a few happy couples with the Cruise Director.
Heraklion, Crete (Thursday)
I always pronounce this word incorrectly for some reason. I won’t tell you how I say it :-). Anyways, its the capital of Crete and Greece’s largest island. My fondest memory of here is all the large ferries at the port instead of why most tourist come to the island; the Minoan Palace of Knossos which is actually the first civilization in Europe.
The great thing about cruises is that you go to sleep in one island/country and wake up usually in another. This was the case with Heraklion.
We were whisked off in a tour bus to see these sights which I’ll tell you are totally worth it. It was raining, but that did not dampen our spirits at all as we tried to take shelter among the ruins at Knossos. If you are lucky, you will see the peacocks that are perched high in the trees above fly around. I was not so lucky.
We sailed from Heraklion and then headed to Santorini as we had a date with the sunset. We were running against the clock here. We all wanted to get that classic shot you see on all the post cards. Luckily one of my fellow travelers had the secret to where the photo was taken so we were in luck.
As we pulled in the Santorini area, its difficult to explain its vastness. The harbor is huge, the walls of the mountain (hills) surrounding it is really tall, its just spectacular. There is not docking facilities on this side of the island, so we had to drop anchor in open water and take the launches in to the shore. I actually love this. Steady as she goes getting off the ship.
Once we were on land, we were whisked away in a waiting shuttle bus to take us to the center of Santorini and onto the West side.
And yes, I have to go back and log the airport of course :-). You can see it in the distance as you cross the island. Santorini is a lot more than the white homes with blue tops you see in all the pictures. The food is fantastic and so are the local people. It’s a bit pricey to stay there though, so bear that in mind.
Once we departed Santorini later that night, it was time to head back to Athens :-(. The cruise was over but my experience and the hospitality of Celestyal Cruises will be with me forever and I’m ready to go back on another of their experience.