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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
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