Cruising Greece the Celestyal Authentic Way

Written by  Douglas Cooke

EUROPE GreeceA Greek cruise is a bucket list item for many of your customers. Whether they are archeology buffs, interested in a religious pilgrimage, fans of Greek mythology, or just want to take in the beauty of the Aegean Sea and the Greek islands, a Greek cruise offers something for everyone.
Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to participate in a 5-day/4-night cruise on the Celestyal Olympia. This was my first trip to Greece; one of my personal bucket list destinations. It met all of my expectations, and then some. It was a whirlwind trip to say the least, with two days in Athens, one pre- and one post-cruise, and 5 days of cruising with multiple daily island visits. I filled my camera with pictures, and my senses with the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and experience that is Greece.

The Adventure Begins
Arriving in Athens airport was an easy process with a quick immigration line and private transfer to our hotel, The Athens Intercontinental. An early check-in provided the opportunity for a quick shower, and then it was off to the Acropolis, an easy 25-minute walk. We had time to stroll along the pedestrian walkway of the Acropolis and grab an amazing, inexpensive lunch of authentic souvlaki. Later that night we would enjoy a gourmet meal at the HYTRA, a Michelin starred, rooftop restaurant overlooking the Acropolis.
Fast forward to our final day in Athens, which we spent taking a tour of the Acropolis and visiting the Acropolis museum. The museum was an engineering marvel. The side of the building facing the Acropolis is constructed of mirrored glass and reflects the hilltop wonder. Since it is hard to stick a shovel in the ground near the Acropolis without hitting an ancient ruin, the building site for the museum was carefully excavated and the area leading up to the museum was raised above the excavation site and a glass floor put in, making a dramatic and unique entrance. Your clients should plan on spending at least a few hours here and lunch on the deck overlooking the site is not to be missed.

Six Islands in Four Days
The cruise began at Pireaus port in Athens, just a 20-minute ride from central Athens. After a few hours of cruising we arrived and docked, in Mykonos. What a great entree into the Greek islands! A stroll through the narrow streets lined with shops and restaurants brought us to the iconic windmills of Mykonos. After posing for the requisite tourist photos, we made our way back along the harborside area known as Little Venice; an area with many waterfront bars and restaurants where people gather to watch the sunset.

Ephesus, One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Sailing into Kusadasi, Turkey the next day was exciting, knowing that we would be visiting the ancient city of Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. A short bus ride brought us to the entrance of this once- mighty port city, now miles from the nearest water. Walking through the ruins was a time portal back 2,000 years, and the remarkably preserved interiors of the Terrace House villas are a must-see. For those on a religious pilgrimage, the House of the Virgin Mary is a Catholic and Muslim shrine, located on Mt. Koressos overlooking Ephesus. This is where Mary is said to have been brought by St. John to live out her days. Water that comes from a stream running under the house is rumored to have miraculous properties. Be sure your clients save time to peruse and shop the Grand Covered Bazaar back in the port area.

The Book of Revelations
Departing Kusdasi around noon, the Celestyal Olympia sails through the straits between Turkey and the Greek island of Samos (an optional port of call instead of Kusadasi) en route to Pathos. This was one of two ports that required tendering to shore. In Pathos we visited the Monastery of St. John. This fortified monastery is home to the Cave of Revelations. It was here that St. John wrote the Book of Revelations. Other shore excursion options here include a trip to the world heritage site of Hora and the Grotto of the Apocalypse, or a transfer to Agrio Livadi Beach.

The Walled City of Rhodes
Rhodes is a beautiful island dotted with beaches and resorts. Sightseeing highlights include the Acropolis of Lindos and the ancient, walled city situated 40 miles from the city of Rhodes. In the center of the village lives and breathes the Church of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) of Lindos, with frescoes from the 15th century. A steep ascent to the Acropolis of Lindos reveals the Temple of Athena, erected in 300 BC, on the location of an older monument. The ancient city-state of Lindos was the most important on the island for many centuries. It reached its heyday in the 6th century B.C.
En route back to Rhodes we stopped at a beach resort for lunch and a swim in the azure blue Aegean waters. At the old city of Rhodes you will go through D’Amboise Gate into the walled city to walk on the Street of the Knights.

The Heraklion of Crete and Mykonos Sunsets
Our final full day of the cruise started in Crete with a tour of Heraklion of Crete, Minoan Palace of Knossos and the 1st European Civilization. The ancient city of Knossos, with constant habitation from the Neolithic era until the 5th century A.D., is beyond doubt the land that “gave birth” to the first civilization of Europe, the Minoans. Walking through the apartments of the Knossos palace and observing the finds, you will feel part of this cultural heritage.
Our final port of call was perhaps the most anticipated, Mykonos. The approach from sea is stunning as you sail into what was once a volcanic cauldron. The cliffs of Mykonos rise up high above the sea and are adorned with the whitewashed houses and villages for which Mykonos is known. Time was limited here but we were able to meander through the narrow streets and enjoy some wine made in Mykonos at a cliff side cafe while watching an amazing sunset over the Aegean. A cable car ride brought us back down to port where tenders were waiting to bring us back to the ship for the final evening of the cruise.

The Celestyal Experience
Celestyal prides itself on giving guests a completely immersive experience into the food, culture and traditions of Greece. Celestyal provides an inclusive experience, so meals, beverages and tips are included in your cruise fare. An add-on is available for guest wishing to drink top-shelf drinks and wines. Additionally, items like lobster tail and steaks are available at every meal for an up-charge.
Entertainment is available during time at sea and in the evenings. Greek dance lessons are available, as are Greek cooking classes. Evening activities included live music in several lounges as well as Cirque Fantastic Shows.
Celestyal offers 3-, 4- and 7-day Aegean cruises from April - October and year round Cuba cruises. Of special note is that some of the 2018 Greek itineraries will feature an overnight stay in Santorini.
Visit www.celestyalcruises.com or 855-364-4999 for Cuba Cruises, or 877-259-9189 for Greek cruises.

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