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Doha Qatar one of the stops on Celestyal's new Gulf itineraries
Doha Qatar one of the stops on Celestyal's new Gulf itineraries (Photo: Celestyal)

Greek Cruise Line Celestyal Announces Major Expansion: New Arabian Gulf Cruises and Year-round Sailings

Doha Qatar one of the stops on Celestyal's new Gulf itineraries
Doha Qatar one of the stops on Celestyal's new Gulf itineraries (Photo: Celestyal)
Jeannine Williamson

Last updated
Jan 10, 2024

Read time
5 min read

Greek-owned cruise line Celestyal has announced the biggest expansion in its history with an all-new programme of global sailings in the Arabian Gulf, starting this November. It has also revealed it will start sailing throughout the year from 2025.

The two-ship line has built a reputation on its cultural heritage and port intensive sailings focusing on Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean, including mini-cruises.

It is undergoing a €2.5m investment which includes a rebrand that has seen the line change its name from Celestyal Cruises to simply Celestyal. This follows the recent introduction of a new tour brand, Celestyal Holidays, offering land-based packages alongside cruises.

Celestyal Journey Will Homeport in Doha From November 2024

Celestyal Journey will start sailing from Doha in November 2024
Celestyal Journey will start sailing from Doha in November 2024 (Photo: Celestyal)

Starting on November 9, 2024, the 1,260-passenger Celestyal Journey, which joined the line last September, will visit four new countries and six new ports of call in the Arabian Gulf. The seven-night "Desert Days" itinerary will set sail on November 9, from Doha, Qatar, and call for the first time at Bahrain, Dubai, Khasab (Oman), Sir Bani Yas Island and Abu Dhabi. The itinerary will run through to January, 2025, and then return as a permanent feature for the winter season.

Celestyal, which previously sailed from March to December on Greece and Mediterranean, sailings will now operate year-round.

The winter programme, running November to April from Doha on Celestyal Journey, will feature the "Desert Days" itinerary and three-, four-, five- and seven-night sailings. The 1,266-passenger Celestyal Discovery, which joins the fleet this spring, will sail on the "Three Continents" itinerary from November to March 2025, visiting Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt.

Abu Dhabi will be one of the ports of call for Celestyal Journey
Abu Dhabi will be one of the ports of call for Celestyal Journey (Photo: Celestyal)

The move is a bid to attract more British passengers, who currently make up “low single digits” on sailings, according to Anna Gregori, VP, Brand & Customer Journey:

"We knew from our customers and trade partners that there was a demand for a year-round operation from Celestyal and specifically this area of the world for winter sun.

"Our core will always be the Greek islands and Mediterranean, but in order to grow as a business, we need to develop our brand on a global stage.

“Our extension to the Persian Gulf is based on a few main factors - demand, particularly from the UK (they are the second largest volume of visitors to the Persian Gulf, based on research from the local tourist boards), and the ability to offer something new to this market.”

Celestyal Will Continue to Operate its “Core” Programme in the Greek Islands

Santorini (Photo:PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock)
Santorini (Photo:PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock)

Celestyal's original 'core' programme, from April to October, will see Celestyal Journey operating three itineraries. These are the "Heavenly Adriatic", taking in Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, and Italy, with maiden calls at Kefalonia, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Bari and Katakolo; the "Summer Heavenly Adriatic", visiting the same countries with maiden calls at Venice, and the "Idyllic Aegean" voyage visiting the Greek Isles and Turkey from 2025. Celestyal Discovery will sail on three and four-night "Iconic Aegean" cruises from March to November.

Lee Haslett, Chief Commercial Officer at Celestyal said: "We come into 2024 with a completely refreshed fleet, seven new countries and 12 new global ports, on top of our much-loved Greece and Eastern Mediterranean cruise programme.

“We are finding our sea legs on a more global stage. We know we do the Greek islands and Mediterranean like no other, but we have heard from our customers that they want more destinations, bigger itineraries, and a chance to discover more with Celestyal. The Persian Gulf cruises deliver this, with a homeport in Doha, stops at marquee destinations such as Dubai, Bahrain, and Abu Dhabi, as well as more bespoke gems in Oman and the island of Sir Bani Yas. We are starting the year strong and intend to keep growing and delighting our customers across 2024."

Celestyal Confirms its Essential “Greekness” Will Stay – Despite the Changes

Celestyal crew perform onboard
Celestyal Crew (Photo: Celestyal)

For Celestyal fans who love the line for its "Greek-ness" -- including friendly local crew members, authentic cuisine and sometimes idiosyncratic entertainment -- that sets it apart from larger mainstream cruise lines, the big question is whether the expansion will change the unique Celestyal character that attracts passengers in the first place? The line says not.

Explaining the thinking behind the rebrand, Anna Gregori said: “We’re not afraid to go out as a travel brand and push ourselves as a travel brand.

“I’m new to cruise, I come from an airline and a travel background, but certainly what struck me was that barrier to entry with cruise, probably like no other for our audience.

“So a part of that feeds into that slight change.”

As a result there will be much fewer views of the ships portrayed in advertising and much less blue colouring, with more emphasis on “emotion”.

She added: “We know that we are cruise, we know that we are a heritage company and we have the confidence to do that.”

Celestyal Discovery at sea
Celestyal Discovery (Photo: Celestyal)

Celestyal Journey and Celestyal Discovery replaced the line's previous ships, Celestyal Olympia and Celestyal Crystal. Celestyal Journey was constructed in 1993 and first sailed for Holland America Line as the Ryndam and Celestyal Discovery was built in 2003 for the German cruise line Aida Cruises. Both vessels underwent extensive refurbishments after being acquired by Celestyal.

The new cruise itineraries are now on sale.

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