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Hellenic Heaven on the Celestyal Olympia – Our Full Celestyal Cruises Review

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Celestyal Cruises is a small, homegrown Greek cruise line. They celebrate all things Greek through their food, onboard activities, shows and cruise itineraries. I had never heard of Celestyal before last year but was so intrigued by their impossible sounding Iconic Aegean cruises. Four nights and seven posts? This must be a truly unique offering. Read on for our full Celestyal Cruises review.

This post may contain sponsored content or affiliate links that help support the blog. All opinions are our own.

Arriving in Athens

Athens

It is possible to book a cruise package with Celestyal that includes transfers and a 4*+ hotel. This was such a nice way to start the trip. We arrived at the airport to find a driver waiting to whisk us into Athens. Our package included just one night before our sailing but you can choose more. I was expecting a small hotel somewhere near the port but we were actually in a nice spot right in the heart of Athens. We had a lovely afternoon and evening exploring near the hotel.

Check out all our travels in Greece

We weren’t worried about getting to the port in the morning as once again, someone was there bang on time to get us there. Our Celestyal Cruise was operating out of Lavrio which isn’t the easiest to reach by public transport so this was a very chilled way to get there in comparison.

Checking in

Lavrio Port

Check-in was so easy. We dropped our two small bags off outside the port building and then waited no more than five minutes to check in at the desk. This probably took us three minutes, obviously the people in front of us were a bit slow, and then we went to security. The security line was a bit mixed up with two lines merging into one, but I think as this was a smaller sailing with only 500 people due to be on board, they had changed things to try to streamline them, and just not got their queue control perfected.

We were shown to a bus which we hopped on, soon realising that the ship was a hilariously short distance away and lots of people were walking. We boarded quickly, with no fuss, just scanning our cruise cards and hopped in the lift up to deck number 7 to find our cabin.

Welcome Aboard Celestyal Olympia

The Celestyal Olympia was built in1982 in Finland but she looks rather good for her age we must say! The gorgeous teak deck that surrounds deck 7 is a particularly lovely vintage feature (Is it vintage…maybe for a cruise ship?) She was originally owned by Royal Caribbean, named Song of America before passing through a couple more hands and ending up with Celestyal Cruises. She is 179m long, 29m wide and can hold around 1500 passengers. For our sailing, we found out that there were only 500 or so of us and so we never queued for a drink, struggled to find a seat or book any of the excursions we preferenced. Honestly, I think that, even at capacity, it wouldn’t feel too crowded at all.

A Look Around Our Cabin

The Space

Our cabin was a junior suite, and we had so much room! It was 23 square metres (more than half the size of our flat in London). We were not in each other’s way at any point.

The storage was copious. I can almost imagine filling it on a two week cruise, maybe not with the way we pack, but it was chemically empty for our four night Iconic Aegean.

There were two large wardrobes, one for full length garments, and one with two shallow rails. Next to these was a cupboard with slightly awkward triangular shelves and a half size, one with the same kind of shelves on the other side of the TV.

The junior suite has a large seating area. The three seater sofa can be converted into an extra bed if you are using the cabin for three people. Then there are two chairs and a coffee table by the window. Being such a busy itinerary we didn’t use this at all but it would be nice on a longer sailing or for a quiet night. Mind you, the TV is opposite the bed so if you want a movie night the sofa is not an option. My only disappointment with the room was the view. Our room was on deck seven, tucked behind a lifeboat so the view was partially obscured.

Opposite the sofa was a large desk/vanity, backed by two large mirrors which was fab. There were more shelves and this is where you find the electric safe. Under the desk, the hairdryer was stashed. It wasn’t very strong. Luckily, there were some plugs here, so I was able to use my own. There is also a minibar. It’s worth noting that even with the full premium plus drinks package (more on that later), this is NOT included. The prices aren’t bad. You can get a half bottle of bubbly for around £12, but unless you want to incur extra costs, it’s best to forget that this store exists. The water bottles in the room are also chargeable so don’t forget to grab one from the bar before you head to bed.

The Bathroom

The bathroom was really quite big with plenty of room between the toilet, sink and bath. Yes, you read that correctly, we had an actual bath! Of course, it wasn’t quite full length, but still big enough for me to relax in. Actually, I fully intended to have a bath (I wanted to see if the water would slash with the waves) but never felt like I had time because there was so much to do. Luckily, the shower was good with decent pressure.

There was a large counter and a shallow three door cabinet on the wall. We had plenty of room for all our bathroom bits. The only weird thing was the cabinet doors, which were all hung in the opposite manner to that which common sense would indicate

The bathroom products provided were all olive oil-based with a herby, unisex fragrance. We got shampoo but no conditioner, soap and body milk. These were all available to buy in the shop if you fall in love with them.

The Bed

Our bed was large and the mattress was quite firm, which I love. The pillows in contrast were far too soft for my taste. I am aware that my predilection for bouncy pillows isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Every evening we returned to our room to see a nice turn down service with a little snack (sesame crackers or nougat) which was a nice goodnight nibble. We were also treated to some adorable towel art. (Yes, I know this is passé but it delights me every time).

We each had a reading light, but there were no plugs by the bed, probably the worst thing about this old cruise ship. We all have so much to charge these days. This is especially true when you are disembarking every day as you can’t leave things charging in your room during the day.

Dining on The Olympia

During our trip, all meals were served in the main Aegean restaurant. There are no set dining times, just opening times and seating is at shared tables on a first come, first served basis. Well, that is almost true. We were lucky enough to be able to use the Galileo Room. This is a quieter dining room tucked in the corner of the main room and is open to those with suites/staterooms. All the food is the same here but the service isn’t spread as thinly and we had a private table that was ours for the whole trip.

If the weather was warmer, and the ship busier, there would have also been the Leda self-serve buffet (more about that in a bit) and the Aura Grill. This is open on days that the ship is at sea during lunch and serves international fare like burgers and fries. Finally, there is usually a poolside grill in summer once a cruise, where great quantities of meat are prepared poolside.

Aegean Restaurant   
Breakfast

Breakfast was a big buffet. You could pick from a selection of six spreads, copious, fruits, thick, Moorish, Greek yoghurt, and even salad. In the hot area, there were sausages, eggs, bacon, hash browns (yum) and plenty of other naughty breakfast delights. There was a section with crispy croissants (good, but not great) and thick American pancakes. Oh and don’t forget the cake selection. Breakfast desert? Why not?

Finally, there was an omelette station with two chefs, whipping up, fresh, French-style omelettes. I wanted to try one but ate so much at dinner every day that I just wasn’t hungry by the next morning.

Lunch

At lunch, you could choose from the buffet or go à la cart. The buffet was brilliant. The food was fresh and there were loads of healthy options. not that we preferred these. The feta was the creamiest I’d ever had, and I took every opportunity to add it to my plate.

As well as a substantial European buffet, there was an Asian section 2. This had mainly Chinese dishes. I saw noodles on our first day, but had already filled my plate to overflowing. Then, they never reappeared over the next three lunches and boy, was I craving noodles. Note to self (and you) if you see something delicious, grab it, because the buffet changes every day.

Dinner

Dinner was always à la la carte, really good food, cooked beautifully and with some interesting combinations. On the whole. I was particularly impressed with the cooking of the meat I tried. I had beef one evening and I asked for it, “Medium rare, more rare than medium” and it was exactly what I got. That is so hard to achieve in a dining room full of people all ordering at the same time. I did have moussaka on one occasion and it was very dry and very bland, so it wasn’t hit after hit, but the majority of food was excellent.

The desserts were the weakest of the courses. I very much enjoyed my ice cream with blue Curaçao. However, the Panna cotta had too much gelatin, so it was a bit solid and the chocolate Heart was clearly made with quite a cheap chocolate. We did enjoy trying the different Greek pastries, it was a lovely way to try something new.

Leda Buffet

The other option for breakfast was the continental breakfast up in the Leda restaurant. This is a restaurant that looks out over the back of the ship and in summer it has all its windows open and has a buffet lunch too. On our quiet, winter sailing it was only open for pastries and boy, were the staff confused that we actually came up. Couldn’t miss that sunrise though!

Drinks

There were six bars, each with their own vibe, but with mostly the same menu. Our favourite bar was quite hard to find. Tucked through a door on deck seven, the lift whisked guests up to the bar that ran around the funnel called the Horizons Bar. This had lovely views out across the water and the pool deck. It was always quiet so it was easy to get a drink and really relaxing.

In general, most of the drinks are excellent. Particularly noticeable were the Miami Vice (a blend of frozen piña colada and strawberry daiquiri), the Hugo, and something Mr Fluskey loved; the Mudslide. He had one on the last night. Too late in the crusie to find your favourite!

The Celestyal Cruises Drinks Packages

Celestyal’s menu was surprisingly extensive. Included with every cruise are soft drinks, selected drinks with meals, and some hot drinks. Of course, anyone can purchase drinks at any time and with wine at something something and most cocktails between £7 and £10. This isn’t a terrible way to go if you don’t drink a lot or you plan to be in port most of the time. There were a couple of soft drink packages that allowed the extra special milkshakes and coffees, but for the price, it’s probably best to do pay-as-you-go. The coffee in the bars was good but quite small, so I began to order two at once. Maybe the drinks package is worth it?

However, if you enjoy a few bevvies with breakfast, libations at lunch, and drinks at dinner, then the packages are pretty good value. There is a premium package that allows cocktails up to £7. The premium plus package gets you cocktails up to £10, which is most of them. There is a list of drinks that are £30 also but if you really want one, you can pay the extra. We didn’t try any of these, but they better be blooming good!

Drinks at Dinner

Selected drinks with dinner are included with everyone’s cruise. This presumably meant sodas, wine and beer. We had a wine waiter who very much enjoyed helping us to taste different wines. We brought different options and taught us how to taste them which was fun. (mind you, I am not sure i needed to compare the Barefoot White Zinfandel to know it is really rather sweet. He looked slightly bemused when we ordered cocktails at dinner. I don’t think many people are as uncouth as us.

Entertainment

The Activities

Considering how much time we were in port, I was impressed at the variety and availability of activities on board. I imagine these would be vital when the ship was busier and there were less free spots to just laze about. We saw exercise classes like Zumba, Greek language lessons, bingo, quizzes and sporting tournaments. We did pop to the back of deck eight to play mini golf but nobody else had turned up. I mean, it was windy and a bit rainy so I guess we were the weird ones.

Throughout the day, there was quite a bit of live music, which we loved. The Argo Bar in particular often had someone tinkling on the piano or singing to backing tracks. There was a super violinist on our cruise who could be found performing on most evenings, which was a real treat. Plus, there was karaoke in the Selene Bar on most nights….which wasn’t so much.

Finally, Casino Royale next to the Argo Bar allowed people to try and win back the cost of their cruise. We didn’t venture in as casinos aren’t really our scene but people looked to be having fun.

Wellness
Sana Wellness Spa

The Sena Spa offers all kinds of treatments, from hair to nails, to facials, to massage. We decided that with such a busy week, a 30 minute head, neck and back massage would be just the ticket. I ticked medium and Mr Fluskey chose soft but they both seemed quite intense. I was a sore lady the next day but he was OK so even though they were both stronger than we expected, they obviously listened to the request which was lovely to know. The treatment rooms were quite bare and I must admit, I wasn’t a fan of the lime green towels. (I know this is super nit-picky but it just seemed to clash with the relaxing vibe I was after). For the best experience, go for a manicure as the treatment room looks out over the sea, a beautiful spot for some pampering.

The Gym

Now we all know that I didn’t use the gym. Actually, that being said, if we had been on a cruise with sea days, we probably would have. This can be a little tricky to find as it has to be entered from the outside deck on level 8. Inside, the gym is quite small with four running machines, some ellipticals and a handful of bikes. There are some weight machines and a set of free weights too. When we popped in, there were three people in here but I guess with so much walking in port, most people don’t feel the need. There are also saunas here, separated by gender.

The Pool and Sundeck

On deck nine you will find two pools. We thought they were identical but apparently, one is adults only (the one to the aft of the ship). They are a reasonable size for an exercise swim and have some railings to hang on to if you are just having a float about. We spent an afternoon here whilst in port at Rhodes as the sun was warm enough and the wind dropped. The water is not heated and was just about warm enough for quick few lengths. Bear in mind that they will be much colder at the beginning of the season (MArch/April). Then we steamed dry in the winter sun on a couple of sunbeds. There is loads of seating around the pool so finding a spot shouldn’t be too tricky.

There are also loads of sunbeds up on deck 10, the walkway that runs around the pools, one deck above. As the sun began to set, we decamped up here and as other people appeared, the staff began to bring more and more beds for people to relax upon. I am sure that in warmer months, they would stay out but nobody was expecting it to actually be warm enough to sun(set)bathe.

The Shows

We watched the show in the Muses Lounge every night, no matter how tired we were. The set up is more of a cocktail lounge than a proscenium style theatre. There is a bar to the back of the room but staff don’t take orders during the performance. So make sure you grab something before you settle in for the show. The shows have to cater for an international audience, so there wasn’t a lot of speech, focusing more on singing, dancing and acrobatics. Each offering is performed by Canadian troupe Cirque Fantastique, The cast was quite small but they are very talented. We enjoyed the musical theatre show with some favourite songs and really allowed the dancers to show off their skills.

Excursions

At every port, there are several excursions on offer. One of the lovely things about Celestyal is that all cruises include excursion credit. We enjoyed a mixture of organised excursions and independent travel during our port visits.

The excursions we took with Celestyal were:

  • Rhodes, Acropolis of Lindos and the Citadel of the Knights Although it was possible to reach Lindos by ourselves, we decided it would be quicker and easier to join a tour. Usually we arrive before tour groups, but as the tour groups disembark first, this wasn’t going to happen. We really loved the views from the hill top temple at Lindos and following our guide through Rhodes Old Town gave us a nice overview. We dashed back through the streets to take photos afterwards with nobody else there. (That is probably not possible in high season).
  • Santorini, Spectacular Oia Village Perched on the Caldera Rim This was our second visit to Santorini. We spent three days here in 2021 and so knew how to get around but decided to join the tour as it included both the cable car and bus transfer. We wanted to spend a bit longer in Oia than the group was allocated. We asked our guide to hang onto the cable car tickets and caught the bus back to Thira before grabbing a sunset cocktail by ourselves.
  • Kusadasi, Ancient Ephesus and the Terrace HousesAgain, this was our second visit to Ephesus. On our first visit, we had been by ourselves, armed only with a guidebook. It was great to revisit with someone who was really passionate about it and explore new areas of the site.

Information and Top Tips for Celestyal Cruises

If you are considering a cruise with Celestyal, here a few things you might like to know:

  • For all the nest deals, you should definitely check the Celestyal Cruises website.
  • Our phones picked up Turkish phone service when we sailed between Ephesus and Rhodes as it dropped off the wifi. A top tip is to leave your phone on airplane mode as you sail close to the border.
  • Many of the cruises start from Greece but a few board from Turkey so you have pre and post-cruise options.
  • There will be a gala night on every cruise so don’t forget to pack one fancier outfit so you can join in the fun. You may also have a Greek night on longer cruises where guests are encouraged to wear white and blue (the colours of the Greek flag). We didn’t have one but I did bring a white and blue dress just in case!
  • The Celestyal itineraries are very port intensive so make sure you have comfortable walking shoes and a bag you don’t mind carrying a lot for excursions.
  • Dinging times are flexible so you can arrive during the opening hours of the dining rooms rather than at a set seating. The Gala Night is an exception, with two seatings for dinner.
  • Gratuities are included on Celestyal Cruises so you do not need to offer any extra. If you do decide to tip specific crew then bring euros that you have picked up ahead of time. Finding free ATMs in many of the destinations isn’t that easy. (This is especially true in winter when many ATMS are emptied and closed).
  • Celestyal is very family friendly, with a kid’s club and small kid’s area available. To be honest, you will be on land so much of the time that this isn’t as vital as those cruises with sea days but it is nice to know that it’s there.

Final Thoughts for Our Celestyal Cruises Review

We had a blast on our Iconic Aegean cruise. There is no doubt that it is an intense itinerary but it isn’t so crazy that you can’t enjoy it. We disembarked at every stop but still had plenty of time to explore the ship, relax and even spend some time at the pool. Now, it is worth noting that the Celestyal Olympia is meant to be retired any minute now. You may not find exactly what we experienced, but the itinerary and vibes should be the same so get booking!

Rosie xx


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5 thoughts on “Hellenic Heaven on the Celestyal Olympia – Our Full Celestyal Cruises Review

  1. I am taking the Celestyal 7 day Aegean cruise. Were you happy with her excusions you took and were they worth the money? The excursion to Oia Santorini is early in the day? We are in port until 12 midnight that night from early morning. Is that why you hung out in Oia longer than the tour alloted and you asked for your cable car tickets to use later when you got back on your own to Fira? Thanks for a response.

    1. Hey Carolyn,

      Nice to hear from you and how super that you are booked for the 7 days!

      I would say that the Ephesus was definitely worth it. I really enjoyed having the guide and the smaller group,

      If you are arriving at the southern port in Santorini then visiting Oia is a pain in the whatsit. You would need to get a bus to Fira, and then another to Oia. That is why it would be worth it but the tour itself was a bit lacklustre. We mostly did it so the queue for the cable car would be less.

      The tour in Rhodes was definitely worth it as it is hard to get to the temple from the port with any certainty of timing.

      I hope that helps and definitely let me know if you have any more questions xx

  2. We’re excited to be taking a Celestyal cruise soon, so it was great to read your review and know what to expect — though it looks like the poor Olympia is now retired in favor of the ex-AIDAaura. But I did have a quick question about the beer and wine available to everyone (non-drinks package) at lunch and dinner.

    It was my impression that there was one beer selection, one white, one rose, and one red on offer. Is that correct or is there a larger selection for free? Also, are you permitted to get a second glass or is it one glass per meal? Thanks!

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