9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We just returned from a week on the Athena leaving from Athens to 6 of the Greek islands and Ephesus Turkey. Before leaving I read the Cruise Critic review of the Athena, fairly positive, and the reviews of two who had sailed on the ... Read More
We just returned from a week on the Athena leaving from Athens to 6 of the Greek islands and Ephesus Turkey. Before leaving I read the Cruise Critic review of the Athena, fairly positive, and the reviews of two who had sailed on the Athena, quite negative. So having done many Crystal Cruises it was with mixed emotions and low expectations that we ventured forth. The embarkation process was set the tone for the whole cruise. We were greeted warmly by the staff who efficiently handled our paper work and guided us and our luggage to our room. Subsequent disembarking/re-embarking was similarly handled - smooth and efficient. After the week we, and our 18 travel companions, are hard pressed to find fault with the Athena and find those reviews are not the least bit representative of what we experienced. Our travel companions were all American with an average age of late 50s or early 60s; all of them were seasoned travelers and most had traveled with GCT many times - one had 26 trips with GCT/OAT. One guest fell and broke her nose and arm, but she got immediate and good medical attention and was able to complete the cruise with her arm in a sling. On one of the small islands another guest needed an emergency prescription, but the pharmacy was closed - until the tour director got involved and arranged for the prescription to be filled. First, this is a small boat and the entertainment, medical facilities, exercise facilities and amenities are not going to compare to a large cruise ship. This is like a small private yacht where you spend little time in your room - most of it is spent in the common areas visiting with other guests. The overall condition of the boat was very good to excellent - there was no evidence of significant damage or wear. Our room was modest in size with a small veranda. It was quiet, well organized with plenty of storage space and had a very nice bathroom/shower for a small boat. The lounge area had a very nice ambiance and the availability of free house wines, beer and many non-alcoholic drinks was a nice feature. The house wines were very drinkable and there was really no reason to pay for the more upscale ones. We had great weather and were also able to enjoy being outdoors on the upper deck. The onboard ambiance was very nice and very casual - shorts and golf shirts were perfectly acceptable dinner dress. The Captain and Hotel Manager and their staffs were Croatian, Ukrainian or Indian and were first rate. They were friendly, engaging, very competent doing their jobs and blended in as if they were one of the passengers - they quickly learned our names and personal preferences. While weather conditions can create schedule variances for cruises, all of our schedules were communicated in advance and met. Our tour director, Maria Charalampidou, was excellent and ensured we got comfortably early starts to avoid crowds - however, when 3 or more big cruise ships arrive in Santorini at the same time there crowd avoidance is brief and there is little they can do as the crowds become oppressive. The food was very good - great quality, nicely presented and reasonable portion sizes for most people; special requests, such as my salmon omelettes, were cheerfully received and honored. All in all it was a great tour of the islands and Ephesus on a very nice boat with an excellent crew - I would sail on the Athena again with this crew without reservation. Read Less
31 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
The cruise itself was pleasant and easy. We went from Athens through Greece to Albania, Montenegro and Croatia. It was a small ship and the other passengers were quite congenial. The group was broken into two groups of 25 that generally ... Read More
The cruise itself was pleasant and easy. We went from Athens through Greece to Albania, Montenegro and Croatia. It was a small ship and the other passengers were quite congenial. The group was broken into two groups of 25 that generally went on shore excursions together the small group leader was fantastic and would not only speak about the history of the sites and countries we visited but also about the current economic and political situations in the countries as well In general with the exception of one local guide, the local guides were also great I felt that we got a good sense of the various sites and cities we saw The rooms were adequate. It was a small ship and I think they were standard for that. I think the ship was built for generally calmer water than some we encountered so there were some rocky moments Many of the passengers had travelled with this company before and were quite happy with them. They were generally older thanme (I'm 60) but this was a trip with my parents who are83 and 91. The food improved half way through the trip when the chef was replaced. It was generally fair to good but we did enjoy eating at restaurants along the way when that was possible My review of this trip was very much colored by the way that they handled my father’s medical emergency. One morning my father woke up quite ill. Because the ship was small there was no medical staff on board. The paramedics were called but the captain would not let them on the ship immediately as there was some issue about their not being able to leave Croatian territory. The captain spent precious time making phone calls. Then the captain refused to allow myself and my husband to use the oxygen on board for my father (although we are both physicians). My father was rushed to the hospital where he remained for 9 days. Grand Circle cruise line was absent for the first 8 days of an experience where my 91 year old father shared a room with four other men who smoked in the bathroom, where coffee was served in pans, and where no one other than his cardiologist spoke English. Grand Circle referred us to their insurance company , On Call. On call also did not show up but rather had a different 22 year old representative call and talk to my parents every day to check in. My father was cleared to leave five days after admission. On Call, the insurance company, who was supposed to escort him back, did not even start to initiate a plan to return him until the day he was cleared for release. He had to remain in the hospital for four more days waiting for a nurse to arrive from the US. Then he had to wait two more days before he was escorted home. He spent an additional 5 days in Croatia just waiting to go home. Meanwhile, the hospital was appalled at the lack of communication from both the cruise line and the insurance company. This experience cost myself and my siblings thousands of dollars in expenses and lost income. It turns out that Grand Circle contracts out their insurance to On Call but On Call contracts out the underwriting to something called Trip Mate. Basically everyone kept passing the buck and saying that it was the other organization that should have done something. Fortunately my father returned home safe and well. However, both Trip Mate and Grand Circle refused to reimburse most of our expenses. My 91 year old father is now trying to see what his health insurance will reimburse for the hospital bill and then we will see if that portion of cost will be reimbursed by Tripmate. What we did get finally was an apology letter from Grand Circle for our miserable experience… and a final denial to compensate us in any way. We did get some reimbursement from Tripmate but it was a fraction of our expenses and lost income (and we did not ask them to reimburse our lost income, just our expenses). If you have any potential medical issues I would strongly suggest NOT going on this ship as the captain, the company, the medical insurance company and underwriter were not responsible, professional, caring or respectful. Read Less
Athena Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 2.0 0.0
Public Rooms 3.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 1.0 0.0
Family 1.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 5.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 5.0 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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