Last May, 2019, my wife and her siblings took a Greek island cruise on this very ship, which included Ephesus among the included excursions. I stayed home and took care of the dog. So effusive of her praise for the cruise and the ... Read More
Last May, 2019, my wife and her siblings took a Greek island cruise on this very ship, which included Ephesus among the included excursions. I stayed home and took care of the dog. So effusive of her praise for the cruise and the included excursions, we decided to repeat the cruise this year. Celestyal offered a fantastic Black Friday cruise deal including drinks, gratuities, and three paid excursions. I thought it was the same package as last year as the excursions included Ephesus which I really wanted to see. Turns out this package included Cairo, Cyprus, Rhodes, Ashdod, and Kuchidassi (Ephesus). After a day at seas we disembarked in Alexandrea, Egypt for our excursion to the pyramids in Cairo. The twelve tour busses were accompanied by an armed escort with an armed guard on the bus. This is told not to frighten you, but to show the Egyptian government is serious about protecting tourists. We lunched at the Meridian Hotel near the pyramids (included). I will admit to being surprised at how much civilization has encroached on Giza, and even more surprised at the aggressiveness of the hawkers trying to sell their wares and services at the pyramids. The Cairo Museum was very interesting with more than you could possibly take in for a limited amount of time. There is an immense new antiquities museum to be opened soon near the pyramids. I can only imagine the undertaking this will entail in making the move of all the artifacts from the Cairo museum. Two more busses joined our convoy back to Alexandria and it was interesting to me (my wife was a bit unnerved) to see the coordination between the bus drivers and our escort. Getting back to the ship, we found out Israel had denied docking to the ship so our excursions to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv were out. Amazingly, Celestyal gave all the passengers a E100 shipboard credit for something that was really beyond their control. We spent another extra day in Alexandria and we elected to stay aboard. Those who took excursions to the Library of Alexandria or Tel El Armin reported enjoyable excursions. A side note: they aggressiveness and rudeness of the pyramid hawkers somewhat diminished the pyramid experience, but putting it into perspective, that's how they're trying to make a buck while they can. My wife sat next to a fellow whose work took him to Egypt and he told her not to judge the Egyptians by our experience at Giza. He said the Egyptians were warm, friendly people eager to show the real side of Egypt. Next stop, Cyprus. We used some of that E100 credit to purchase a tour of Tombs of the Kings and the nearby ancient Roman manors and their mosaics. It was also enjoyable and we found Cyprus to be very beautiful. I hear the island has been closed in the week since were their. Next stop, Rhodes to see the acropolis of Lindos and the medieval part of the city of Rhodes. It is a steep walk up to the acropolis and with a bum leg and hip, I got half way up and decided to give my wife the camera and see the ruins through her eyes. Back in the old part of Lindos, I found the need of a restroom. I came across this charming little tavern, the Captain's House to use the restroom (BTW the cleanest of anywhere off the ship) and enjoy a local Cypriot beer. Like many of the building in the old village, part of the walls of this tavern were of medieval vintage, adding to the beauty and charm. Back in Rhodes, we wandered the old walls and buildings from the times of the crusades, in very remarkable condition. From Rhodes, it was on to Kuchadassi for a tour of Ephesus and a hand woven rug factory and lunch. Ephesus was certainly a highlight of the excursions, very well preserved and still undergoing archeological discovery. Our tour guide, Tuba was very interesting and informative. Next, the rug making coop and lunch. This was an unexpectedly interesting tour, seeing these works of art spring to life from the silk cocoon to the beautiful soft finished product. Had I not known how my retirement accounts nosedived in the past two weeks, it would have been tempting to give into the desire for one of those beauties. Thankfully, there was no pressure to buy anything and we made our way back to the ship.
If you've gotten this far, and forgive my verbosity, let me tell you about our shipboard experience. Had never heard of this cruise line 'til last year. I'm surprised Celestyal didn't cancel the cruise. There were 347 passengers on a ship able to carry 1200. The crew outnumbered the passengers and yet, Celestyal honored their commitment. Every other cruise we've been on, the crews and food have altogether been great. This cruise, the crew added a level of warmth and friendliness like never before. I think of the cruise director, Danny; funny, fluent in many languages, and approachable. He even participated in some of the evening entertainment as a singer or actor. Our cabin stewards were sweet and sincere. Our cabin was clean, comfortable and surprisingly roomy. The service desk manager, Thiago, sunny disposition and humorous even remembered my wife from last year's cruise (honest). The wine steward, Rafael, knowing I didn't like dry wines, brought a bottle of sweet wine to our supper table after I mentioned at a wine tasting class my distaste for dry wines. The young lady who greeted us each morning at breakfast with a smile and sincere greeting. The food was very good. These all added to one of the best cruises we've ever had the pleasure to be on. Celestyal went above and beyond in caring for their passengers and their crew for that matter. We spoke to some of the crew members who told us they had nothing but good to say about their employer, some of them who had worked for other cruise lines and decided they found a home with Celestyal. I hope this coronavirus thing is just way overblown and things return to a semblance of normality. I hope this does not sink such a fine company as Celestyal (or any of the cruise lines or hospitality industry for that matter). Mr. Chris Theophilides runs a great company. Without hesitation I would recommend a cruise with this line. Read Less