IMHO the Celestyal Cruise Lines get a bad rap by travel agents. I was told that the the experience was not "upscale" and discouraged to consider. I'm sure glad we booked a 7-day cruise in an outside cabin. I understand the reservations of some TA's and some reviewers. The ship does not have all the bell and whistles of the newer mega liners.
If you're expecting this type of cruise experience then the Celestyal Crystal isn't for you.
Missing are the atriums, chandeliers, rock climbing walls, boardwalks and bright neon colors. But also missing are the long lines and the intimidation of learning a larger ship.
What you do get on the Crystal is a smaller ship (900 or so passengers - depending on the fill of the cabins), a ship that has been lovingly maintained - no warn carpets or furniture,
polished brass and wood and no rust! Something that I can't say for the other cruise lines we've been on. Think retro boutique hotel versus a large convention or resort hotel.
Our cabin on Deck 5 with an outside large window was of adequate size for two people. The bedding was comfortable, bathroom had a glass shower door, and we had two drawers that were not used. Our roll aboard luggage easily fit under the bed. Steward service was twice a day with the customary animal shaped towels left at evening turndown.
Despite having gratuities included, the staff was wonderful and accommodating. Service was top-notch. Breakfasts were buffet except for an omelette/waffle/pancake station.
Lunch was a la carte, buffet or daily specials on deck; crepes, fajitas, wok etc. Overall the food was above average and sometimes bordered on the outstanding! All nicely presented, with varying menus each day. Dinner was accompanied by attentive wine stewards who continually refilled wine glasses. One memorable meal in the dining room was a North Atlantic Salmon that was flaky, firm, yet moist and served with asparagus over a bed of risotto noir, black colored with octopus ink. Vegetarian, gluten free and Greek selections were also available.
Service in the bars was outstanding. The drinks were weak, the wine was not! Greek red, white or rose was served in the bars and dining room. The wine was not stellar, but palatable. Premium wines were available for purchase. Weaker drinks allowed us to indulge in one or two cocktails before dinner, ample wine with dinner and enjoy an after dinner cocktail or two during and after the shows without being hungover the next morning! There was some creative work arounds needed to satisfy arbitrary serving rules with the included drinks. For example I could not order a Rusty Nail cocktail but could order Drambuie and Scotch separately. An Americano Negroni became Gin and Campari. After the first few times the servers knew exactly what we wanted and the arbitrary rules seemed to vanish!
The Entertainment consisted of a fresh production every evening. Sometimes accompanied by live music and other times canned. The theatre is set up like a night club rather than theater style adding to the ambiance. The cast was young, enthusiastic, athletic and talented. Shows ranged from singing and dancing to more cirque style acrobatics. The theater had the latest LED stage lights and sound systems. A special treat was a visit by a local troupe of dancers while in Crete with native musicians and traditionally costumed dancers. RCCL take note - no Vegas retread magicians, comedians or piano players!
The included excursions were excellent, well organized with minimal lines. In the ports getting on or off the boat was either by tenders or on the dock. Santorini was a hasslewith 4 mega cruise ships plus the two Celestyal Ships. All the passengers in the narrow alleys made for a mass of humanity and long lines of over an hour waiting for the tramwayin the sun.
Excursions would be a challenge for those who are mobility impaired. Most of the passenger demographics were aged 50+ with many early yet still mobile retirees. Wear comfortable shoes and be careful on the stone paths! Passengers were delightfully diverse and mostly from Europe, Australia and North America. There was a minimum of motorized wheel chairs and a refreshing lack of demanding and often obnoxious elite-status passengers, often found on the larger cruise lines.
Embarkation was a breeze at 20 minutes. Passengers vacated cabins at 8:30 AM at the end of the cruise but left the ship at 10 AM. Food and drink service was available in the restaurants and bars. Taxis to an from the port were readily available.
All in all the Celestyal Crystal met or exceeded our expectations and matched if not exceeded the level of service we've received from the major cruise lines. It was a wonderfully relaxing and efficient way to see the Greek Islands without having to pack and unpack and deal with the cattle herding of passengers onto the Greek ferries. We slept while being transported to the various islands. Can't get much better than that!