Since we live in Athens, and our last cruises were abreoad, we though it would be a great idea to combinbe cruising from our home port (no need for flights and hotels) and our summer vacations which we traditionally have in Greece.
Emkarkation was quick taking into account the old cruise terminal of Piraeus port (about 40 minutes from baggage drop off until on board) and we were amazed that the cabins were ready and the luggage showed up 15 minutes later. So no walking around dragging carry ons.
Crystal is an aged but very well aged and maintained cruise ship. it's better to thing of it as a mega-yacht rather than a small cruise ship. The itinerary is destination oriented meaning you get 24 hrs in Mykonos 10 hours in Milos, 48 hrs in Santorini, 12 in Heraclion Crete, and half a day in Kusadasi Turkey.
The swimming pool is small, but it was not used most of the time so we actually had more personal space in the small pool rather than on the large pools in other cruise ships. So it was our ritual after coming back on board to have a quick shower and have a couple of drinks while dipping in the pool. Great!
There was also a hot tub in the aft bar at deck 5 which we used once.
All drinks are included (excluding premium spirits and wines, which are available at a nominal surcharge), and the included driks include wine by the glass (which is bottled wine of a respected Greek winery), draft greek beer (Mythos) and the most popular "middle shelf" spitits like Beefeater Gin, Stoli vodka, Cutty Sark scotch etc. The details on the brands included are availabel on Celestyal's website. Onviously they had some more generic/obscure brands available, so it is a good idea never to order a "gin & tonic" but rather a "Befeater & Tonic". This applies to any bar on land of course...
The food in the buffet was nice, nothing spectacular, but the cooking stations i.e. custom omelletes for breakfast, and various other events during the cruise like a barbeque on deck, or wok cooking were great. What really surprised us was the quality and presentation of the food offered in the MDR's. There are 2 MDR's, with no set dining times or tables. You just show up and are seated according to preferred language, or can be seated alone depending on availability. One small area for improvement is that the dishes on offer might be too internnational and could use more greek cuisine (even though we enjoyed the curry offered one night, it doesn't really match with haveing a view of Santorini out of the window). However this is a matter of preference, and being Greek I did expect the Greek cuisine offerings to go a bit further than greek galad, tzatziki and moussaka...It's like goin to italy and being offered only pizza and pasta...
Anyhow the food was great, and not one time did we leave the MDR disappointed.
The service was absolutely fantastic, from all aspects.
Entertainment was hit and miss (but this was expected since there were over 35 nationalities on board) so it was the usual variete shows with singing, dancing and some acrobatics. They were ueually about 50 minutes long, we did not attend all nights. Again however why spend your evening watching a show when you can relax with unlimited drinks on deck, enjoying the moonlight over the summer Aegean Sea?
So in summary, do not book if you expect Oasis Class onboard experience and facilities, you will be disappointed, it is not a resort at sea.
It is a small ship, with all the basic amenities and services of larger ships, but the whole point is the destination intensice itinerary with a lot of port time. So the ship is the place to eat, drink, relax and enjoy the view preparing for the next destination.
The cruise fare includes 3 shore excursions, in Santorini, Heraclion Crete and Kusadasi.
In Santorini it is the trip to Oia, the most famous village in Santorini, the one with the sunset. However it is in the morning so if you want to see the sunset, you have to take the 45 minute bus or taxi from Fira to Oia. Personally I don't hink it's worth it due to the amount of people. Better to watch from one of the villages that are closer like Imerovgli, or Fira (on top of the cliff from where the tenders drop you off, and you have to take the cable car - 6eur each way to go up/down Fira) which are less crowded. We watched both sunsets from the ship, and there were many places onboard where especially on the top decks where you were alone.
In Heraclion it is the guided visit to anciant Knossos, and the Heraclion Archaeological museum (tickets are included). then you can either get back on the bus and back on the ship around 14:00 or stay as long as you like and take a 5 min / 5 Eur taxi back to the ship from the centre of Heraclion.
In Kusadasi the excursion to ancient Ephesus is included. We opted to stay in Kusadasi and shop in the bazaar area (3 min walk from the ship), which is an experiance of it's own especially if you like haggling, and streed food. Always aim for a price 30% from the original one quoted.
Note that the duty free in Turkey at the port has great prices on liquor and tobacco!
In Mykonos and Milos we just renter a car (had arranged in advance) and went to various beaches, in Mukonos we also went out after dinner.
Driving in Milos is just fine, and the ship tenders drop you off at the new port so it's a few minutes walk until the car rental offices (local ones, but with online booking available). We drove all around the island haveing spent 45Eur on car rental and 10Eur on fuel. Again, book in advance, don't expect to get of the ship and find available cars for rent especially during July and August.
I do not reccomend driving in Mykonos, especially in July and August. Anyway most of the beaches have been unfortunately converted into high end and high cost "Beach Clubs" (focused on catering to very very wealthy people and their entourage of beautiful young ladies) so most times the beach cannot be even accessed. Not to mention the cost of (starting from 80 eur per set of sunbeds). The only free beach that is still accessible by bus is Kalafati beach. So my reccomendation for Mykonos is etiher:
1. Get the local bus or ship shore excursion to Kalafati beach
2. Get an excusrion to Delos island with very interesting ancient ruins
3. If you like partying (on the cheap), spend the morning walking in the old town of Mykonos. Buy a bottle of liquor (or more smaller ones) from a small super market, throw it in the bag or even better transfer it to half lt plastic water bottles.
Then arouns 13:00 take the bus either to Tropicala Club or Super Paradise (about 20 mins). No entrance fee, beers at 6 eur, drinks at 8 eur. Get a nice spot at the bar, get a cold drink and swim in the sea. The afternoon parties start at 16:00 and go on until midnight more or less. No chance of getting a nice spot at the bar aftyer 16:00. As the pary goes on take advantage of your secret stash of booze!!!!
Do not go out for lunch/dinner in Mykonos, and if you do ALWAYS check the menu and prices before. It is so expensive that it could ruin your holidays. If you must eat something at shore, and have not eaten enough already onboard have a (mediocre but acceptable) souvlaki at 4-5 eur. If you must eat out do it in Milos, it is much cheaper and better quality (after researching of course). Dinner is Santorini duing the sunset is a bucket list item (especially for someone that has flown all the way to Greece), but do your research and reservations in advance. It is expensive, but manageable (30-40 Eur per person compared to hundredes per person in Mykonos). We always ate at the ship...
So back to Mykonos. Get back on the ship for dinner around 21:00, go out and stroll around int he old town. No need to actually go into a bar if you don't want to, its all about walking around the old streets, see and be seen. there are a lot of small shops that have cold beers, wine etc to cater to your every need. No need to rush to get back on the ship, since the ship arrvives at Milos at 13:00 on ther next day, so no getting up early.
Obviously if you have th $$$ to spare the sky is the limit on high end clubbing in Mykonos!
There are free shuttle buses from the Mykonos new port to the old town every 30 minutes until 00:00 and then every 1hr until 06:00 am. Ship leave at 07:00.
We used the laundry service onboard, cheaper than on mainstream cruise lines.
Note to Greek cruisers that might have an Aegean Airlines Miles card: you can redeem miles towards the cruise fare!
We would definately go again, and next time probably try one of their 3-4 night cruises with the other -much larger- ship Olympia.
The specific 7 night cruise is the most cost effective and comfortable way to get a good basic taste of these islands, decide which one you like before comitting on a dedicated vacation on one of them.
Small but functional, always very clean, and comfortable bed. Typical en suite bathroom with (thankfully) no shower curtain but a glass screen, included soap, shower gel and shampoo from wall mounted dispensers. Being a guy, I did not need much else. Women should bring their own...
Only issue which should be rectified, no fridge. There was bottled mineral water brough in daily (0.5eur 500ml bottle, 1.25Eur 1.5lt bottle which is the same or less than you can get in at shore) which was kept cool due to the room's A/C but we did miss having cold drinks available in our cabin.
The A/C is good.
TV channels could do with an update/more variety, however not an issue at all, one should not spend time watching TV on a cruise, espacially in the Greek islands!
Very GoodView All 255 Oia Village Reviews
Quick but comprehensive tourView All 57 Knossos Palace Reviews
Go to the Bazaar!!!
Rented car, drove around, reccomended!
Overly touristic and expensive. Eat at the ship, walk around duringt at night at the old town,. Mykonos can be great if you don't fall for the overly expensive beach clubs at restaurants. Do your research!
Avoid the metro or buses to get to port (I live here take my word for it - unless you want to be dragging your luggage around in the hot sun). Take a taxi, cheap convenient and reliable.