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.
We were mid ship by the staircase, which I was concerned about. Sometimes on larger crafts two or three couples will walk up, carry on an animated conversation and then go their separate ways. This was never a problem since there are so few passengers and they were all seasoned travelers. The room was quiet, nicely appointed and while it was small by bedroom standards there was ample closet and drawer space and suitcases fit nicely under the beds; the beds were quite comfortable. The veranda was small but nice to be able to stand outside the room and watch the world go by - two chairs and a small table allowed on to enjoy a glass of wine while cruising. TV provided English speaking channels some with content relevant to the cruise. WIFI was available and that is the only complaint about the Athena on this particular cruise - it is quite slow, but adequate for email and some texting; VIBER and SKYPE calls were unsuccessful.