Celestyal Cruises Highlights
- Short, reasonably priced, port-intensive itineraries
- Sails the Greek Isles, Cyprus, the Mediterranean and the Dalmatian coast
- Operates one ship for round-Cuba itineraries
- Cruises attract a wide, multilingual spectrum of passengers
- Celestyal Cruises News: Celestyal Cruises to Sail Cuba Year-Round
Celestyal Cruises Fleet (3)
The Celestyal Cruises fleet currently consists of just three ships.
The flagship is the 1982-built 1,664-passenger Celestyal Olympia, which was previously under charter (until 2012) as Thomson Destiny (originally Royal Caribbean's Song of America). A large refurbishment took place in 2014, with upgrades to cabins and public areas.
The 1,200-passenger Celestyal Crystal entered service in July 2007. This 1,096-passenger ship was built in 1992 and is probably best known to Americans as Norwegian Cruise Line's former Leeward. The second-largest ship in the fleet, Celestyal Crystal has a far wider range of public rooms and cabins than most of the fleet.
The line added a third Celestyal ship in late 2014, Celestyal Nefeli. Formerly known as Olympia Explorer, it carries 836 passengers and will dock in smaller Eastern Mediterranean ports.
Despite the varying sizes, ages and level of amenities, all the ships in the fleet are clean and well maintained. And, while most lack the latest features (such as balconies and alternative restaurants), all the basics are there. Celestyal Cruises' focus is on the destinations, and the ship is more like a floating hotel, rather than the focal point of the cruise experience.
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About Celestyal Cruises
Celestyal Cruises is a subsidy of the huge Cyprus-based travel and tourism group Louis plc, founded in 1935. It was born out of the former Louis Cruise Lines, which operated since 1986, which no longer exists.
In 2014, the line rebranded the ships under the Celestyal banner. The move was designed to evoke a "divine, Greek experience" (Celestyal means heavenly in Greek) and put make a clean break from the past. Celestyal also renamed the ships' restaurants, bars and theaters after Greek mythology, implemented Greek touches like language and dancing lessons, and overhauled the menu to focus on Greek food and wine.
In late 2013, Celestyal Crystal was chartered to a new Canada-based line, Cuba Cruise, and operated round-Cuba sailings for four months before returning to the Mediterranean. During those sailings, the ship was rebranded with Cuban-inspired decor. The relationship with Cuba Cruise ended in 2015, and the ship operated under the Celestyal brand, homeporting in Cuba year-round from November 2016.
Celestyal has big expansion plans, and will take delivery of two ships currently on charter to Thomson Cruises -- Thomson Majesty and Thomson Spirit -- in November 2017. This will boost the fleet to five and allow it to base one ship in the Gulf, operating three- or four-day itineraries out of Dubai; and possibly a second ship in Cuba.
Celestyal's mainly short, port-intensive itineraries don't leave much time for onboard activities, but they stick as closely as possible to the traditional cruise format. Dinner is held in two seatings, while breakfast and lunch are open-seating, either in the dining room or the buffet.
Production shows are geared toward an international audience, and there's plenty of live music in the bars and lounges. In the case of the Cuba Cruise sailings on Celestyal Crystal, performers and musicians hail from Cuba. The ships also have pool decks, small spa/gym complexes, casinos and shops for sundry items.
There's no doubt that the ships are getting on in age -- in some cases more than 30 years old -- and although they are regularly refurbished (which, in the case of Crystal, includes adding balconies), they're showing signs of wear. When the company rebranded two of its ships as Celestyal in 2014-2015, the vessels received extensive renovations in the public areas and cabins.
There's a fun, friendly vibe onboard -- the small size of the ships and long service of crew leads to a friendly, personalised service, wherever you are in the world.
The passengers on each ship vary widely from cruise to cruise. Greek Isles cruises mainly attract package tourists from all over the world (typically Europe and North America); the nationalities will depend on which tour groups are booked on each particular cruise.
The Cuba Cruise sailings on Celestyal Crystal attract a completely different crowd: mainly Canadians, Scandinavians and other Europeans with the odd Brit, as well as American educational groups. Passengers tend to be ages 55 to 65 years old.
When it sails in the Med, Celestyal Cruises attracts a wide age range of travellers, from people in their 20s to those in their mid-70s. As a rule, shorter three- and four-night Greek Islands itineraries tend to attract a younger crowd. Children are welcome onboard but tend to be more in evidence on Mediterranean itineraries during the summer season.