The first point to note, and this will become relevant as this review progresses, is Celestyal’s core market seems to be organised tour groups.
Beginning with embarkation. This was our 11th cruise and was by far the worse embarkation process I have ever encountered.
Check-in took us two hours, which we thought was bad but fellow passengers we spoke to endured a two and a half and in one case a three hour embarkation debacle.
This is the first cruise we have been on where luggage labels for your checked baggage are not provided in advance. This means a long queue to drop off your bags, in our case over half an hour and we arrived half an hour before the official arrival time. Passengers behind us had to wait up to an hour to drop their bags off.
Annoyingly, passengers travelling in organised tours had been issued with baggage labels and were able to drop their bags off as soon as they arrived and effectively jump the queue.
Once the bags are dropped off you have to then join a queue to pick up your cruise card, this took 45 minutes and was not the end of the process as having gained your cruise card to actually check in – other cruise lines do the card issuing and check-in at the same time, why can’t Celestyal.
The final delay, and I accept this is not Celestyal’s fault, was passing through immigration control, which was probably the biggest contributor to the delay. With near on 1,000 passengers there were just two immigration officers and with most passengers being American it was a slow process.
I said there were two immigration officers, at one point, despite there being massive queues, one of them disappeared for 20 minutes, leaving the other guy on his own.
Once past immigration Celestyal staff then take your passport off you and you don’t see it again until the last night of the cruise – something I don’t particularly like myself.
By the end of check-in my mood was, shall I say, somewhat tense.
On board we went straight to our cabin, described as a Junior Balcony Suite which was, in reality, just like any standard balcony cabin on other cruise lines At least, with the delay our bags were outside our room when we reached our cabin.
Time to explore the ship and, frankly it didn’t take long, I’ve been on larger cross-channel ferries, indeed this ship began life as a car ferry.
For us the size wasn’t an issue, small is good and this ship makes a pleasant change from the impersonal mega ships.
We did have concerns the ship may have been too small for the number of passengers but those fears were unfounded.
The safety briefing was a farce. First of all you had to arrive at your muster station wearing our lifejacket. The briefing, well what it was, was conducted in several languages – however passengers not speaking the language currently being broadcast carried on speaking when their language wasn’t being used, so you couldn’t hear the announcement. We were then given a demonstration of how to put on a lifejacket – excuse me, we were all wearing our jackets already because we had been told to.
The ship has most of the facilities you expect on a cruise but on a smaller scale.
The swimming pool is small but then again this was a destination cruise with stops every day so it wasn’t the type of cruise for lounging by the pool.
The “theatre” is more of a lounge with a stage but it was adequate for the numbers.
Danny the cruise manager was very good, a great sense of humour without going over the top. There was the usual issue with a broad cross section of nationalities on board that the announcements being made in multiple languages but it gave you the chance to swot up on your basic French and Spanish.
There are two main restaurants and two buffets. The main dining rooms operate on an open dining system, for us it worked well as we like to eat early. Those wanting to dine later did sometimes have to wait for a table to become free.
The restaurants / buffets only open for breakfast / lunch / dinner so midnight buffet on board, which is no bad thing – it takes the temptation away.
Breakfast is buffet style whether in the restaurant or buffet – the advantage of using the restaurant for breakfast is you have a table before you get your food.
The breakfast buffet was the same every day but with a large selection you could still vary what you had.
Dinner in the restaurants was three courses, which was enough. You could order specials like steaks or lobster at an extra charge, and the charge was reasonable – I ad a decent fillet steak one evening and it was only €13.50 extra.
There is a small speciality dining room with about six tables which charged around €37.50 for a meal but I don’t think it was worth the money as the menu was basically the same as the extra menu in the main restaurant, which would have worked out cheaper.
There are a few tables for two in the main restaurant, which are like gold dust – we managed to get one twice Otherwise it’s shared tables of eight. You are supposed to be put on a table with people speaking the same language – good in theory but not in practice. One night we were on a table with Chinese speakers another with German speakers.
There is an all inclusive drinks package on board. OK there is a limited wine choice but unless you’re a wine snob the choice is adequate. The all inclusive drinks menu is quite extensive, running to 12 pages.
There is a premium drinks menu as well and unlike other cruise lines the cost of the premium drinks and cocktails is very reasonable. For example €3.50 to upgrade to a premium gin, or €4.50 for a premium cocktail.
The cruise includes three excursions in the price of the cruise. A generous offer in theory but an unmitigated disaster in practice, I’ll cover that in the excursions section of this review.
Paid for excursions are grossly overpriced.
The crew were friendly, although the only time the Captain was seen or heard was at the Captains Cocktail Party and he looked as though he really didn’t want to be there
Ships photographers are impossible to escape, either onboard or ashore. Their photo prices, whilst still expensive, are cheaper than most other cruise lines.
Disembarkation was slow but that actually suited us as we wanted to get off as late as possible, for those with earlier flights it was an issue. Cabins had to be vacated by 08:00 but the first passengers were not allowed off until 10:15.
This was a good cruise but not perfect. Their interpretation of time is, shall we say, fluid.
The included excursions were a good idea but badly executed …. we were in Istanbul two days, so why send everyone on the included cruise as soon as we arrived, why not split it.
A final word of warning and this is nothing to do with Celestyal, but if disembarking at Pireaus be careful if taking a taxi into Athens. Our driver claimed his meter wasn’t working and tried to charge us double what the fare should have been. It was only when I took his photo and threatened to call the police that he charged the correct fare.
Described as a Junior Suite I would describe the cabin as being like a standard balcony cabin on other cruise ships.
A comfortable bed, good seating area and small desk.
The balcony was small but perfectly adequate for two.
The cabin was clean, came with batc robes and we had two amazing cabin stewards
This was one of the included excursions and was a shambles.
There were 850 passengers on this trip, all passengers called to assemble at the same time.
Passengers part of tour groups were sent off first and it was a good 45 minutes before we set off.
The cruise was interesting with a good commentary.
The spice market was a complete farce. All the Bosporus cruises ended within a quarter of an hour of each other which meant all the passengers on the ship were attempting to enter the spice market at the same time.
We didn't both in the end and looked at some of the outside stalls.
We returned under our own steam the following day and the market was very quiet.
After the cruise we had the problem of all the passengers returning to the ship around 20:00, all wanting dinner - it was chaosView All 32 Bosphorus Cruise Reviews
A lovely port with the port a 15 minute walk from the town centre.
To stop you getting lost there is a bright yellow line to follow - a great idea
There was an included excursion at this port but we decided not to go after our experience in Istanbul and not being interested in the tour
The town of Hereklion is a short walking distance from the port and, again, a yellow line to guide you.
There's a pretty harbour and a good touristy shopping street, where the prices are very reasonable.
Only a very short stop here, arriving 19:00 and departing 02:00
A free shuttle bus was provided but you wonder if the cruise line wanted you to go ashore as they announced he shuttle service would be every half hour, which is a tad offputting.
In reality there was a continuous shuttle service.
Most of the shops were open, even though it was a Sunday evening.
The windmills are one of teh main attractions, however, at night they are not worth visiting