Celestyal Crystal left the fleet as of September 2, 2023. Those booked on later sailings will be reaccommodated on the line's new ship, Celestyal Journey.
Celestyal Crystal is all about the destination. The ship doesn't try to woo passengers with a trendy design, Broadway entertainment or thrilling water slides. Instead, it invests all its energy into the places it visits -- spending longer time in port than most mainstream cruise lines and offering top-notch shore excursions.
With Celestyal Cruises being a Greek-based company, it's no surprise the ship primarily sails the Greek Islands. All cruises begin and end in Athens (Piraeus and Lavrion), and the majority of them include overnights in marquee islands Mykonos and Santorini (as opposed to other lines that spend only half the day); this gives passengers a chance to explore these iconic ports sans all the crowds from other cruise ships. The ship also calls in at smaller islands such as Milos and Patmos, which are largely unspoilt by mass tourism. Some itineraries also include two islands in a day and depending on the season, often include at least one stop in another country, such as Turkey (Istanbul where the ship overnights; and Kusadasi for Ephesus); or Egypt.
The cruise line's emphasis on the destination and its budget-friendly price tag make it an excellent value, even more so when you see its nearly all-inclusive. The fare includes select shore excursions, most alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, and gratuities.
But to enjoy a cruise on Celestyal Crystal you'll need to be OK with sailing on a bare-bones ship. It's small by modern standards (with a capacity for 1,200 passengers as opposed to the 4,000-plus passengers you see on mega-ships), but it has a big-ship feel. You'll find many of the standard features you would on a big ship -- including two main dining rooms, a buffet, a spa and fitness center, a pool and hot tub, and a number of bars -- but it's all scaled down.
Despite the similarities to newer ships, a cruise on Celestyal Crystal still conjures up images of an earlier age of cruising. Features like wide corridors, polished mahogany decks and distinct decor in each cabin category are a nod to the ship's colorful past, which started off as a passenger ferry in 1980 -- it was converted into a cruise ship in 1986. Since then it's been destroyed by fire, partially sunk, renamed five times and owned by five different cruise lines. But it has also had some high-profile guests, including Sweden's royal couple, who stayed onboard during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and President George H. W. Bush, who stayed onboard in November 1995.
However, its time sailing for Celestyal ends in September 2023, when it will be replaced by a much bigger ship -- Celestyal Journey -- which is almost double the size and has one of the key things Crystal is missing -- balcony cabins.
Overall, lovingly worn Celestyal Crystal might not be the prettiest or most innovative ship on the high seas, but it offers arguably the best bang for your buck when it comes to cruising in Greece.
* Two main dining rooms and the buffet
Most drinks (see below for exceptions)
Main theater shows
Most daily activities, unless noted below
Use of the gym, but not most classes
* Automatic spa tips
Shore excursions (other than the three included)
Photos and artwork
Passengers mainly hail from the U.S., Canada, and other parts of Europe, including Germany and Italy and a smattering from the UK. In the summer months, the ship sees a large number of passengers from North America -- particularly families with teenage kids and groups of young students. The average age onboard is between 40 and 65, depending on the season.