Celestyal Cruises recently announced it was adding a third ship to its fleet, offering more passengers the opportunity to enjoy a really authentic experience on a line that has the Greek love of life running through its DNA. Jeannine Williamson spoke to Chief Commercial Officer, Leslie Peden, to find out more about the line and what guests can expect when cruises resume in the same year as Greece 2021, a nationwide celebration of the country’s 200th anniversary of independence.
Celestyal is a name that some British holidaymakers might not have heard about, compared with some of the larger lines, so what is the history of the line?
Celestyal Cruises is the award-winning, number one choice for travellers to the Greek Islands and the Eastern Mediterranean. Established in 2015, we truly are the experts when it comes to the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean destinations thanks to our vast knowledge and experience. The foundation of the company’s philosophy is built on a unique Greek spirit which combines outstanding hospitality with genuine cultural destination immersion and provides authentic, lifetime experiences both on board and onshore. The readers of Cruise Critic, the world’s largest cruise review site and online cruise community, have expressed their appreciation for our cruises having honoured us consistently in their annual awards for our service, shore excursions, value for money and entertainment.
Tell us about your ships?
We currently operate two mid-size ships – Celestyal Crystal and Celestyal Olympia – which accommodate up to 1,500 guests and are intimate enough to provide a genuine and highly personalised service. In addition, we recently announced that we have added a third mid-sized ship to our fleet, the Celestyal Experience, which was built in 1993 and extensively refurbished in 2012. This 1,800-guest ship has 789 cabins, 166 of which feature balconies, as well as a variety of specialty dining and entertainment venues, bars and lounges, two pools, a gym and an industry leading panoramic spa experience. The arrival of the Celestyal Experience, as suggested by her name, is perfectly positioned to bring new and modern experiences to our guests. With the ship being in pristine condition, it will revolutionise Celestyal’s position in the market.
What makes Celestyal different from other lines and what can passengers expect on a cruise?
While the majority of cruise operators are building larger mega-ships that can accommodate up to 5,000 passengers, our three mid-size vessels accommodate a maximum of 1,800 guests which gives us an important competitive advantage as it allows us to visit smaller ports and build on our authentic destination-centric philosophy.
Our vessels are also an extension of the destinations we visit. Guests can expect to find the Greek love of life expressed through various aspects of their experience on and off the ship such as the warm welcoming hospitality, our locally sourced food and wine selection, authentic entertainment programme, inspiring and enriching shore excursions; all the makings of a unique journey to be experienced.
What are your most popular cruises?
Our seven-night Idyllic Aegean itinerary, which features overnights in holiday hotspots Mykonos and Santorini as well as calls in Crete, Milos and Kusadasi, continues to be popular along with our four-night Iconic Aegean summer itinerary which calls in Mykonos, Kusadasi, Patmos, Rhodes, Crete and Santorini. In addition, our spring, autumn and winter award-winning Three Continents and Eclectic Aegean cruises, offering enriching experiences in destinations like Israel, Egypt and Turkey, are proving popular with guests looking for unique off-season itineraries that are packed full of fascinating historical, religious and cultural experiences.
At Celestyal, we are always looking at ways to introduce new authentic destinations to entice both our loyal guest back and introduce new guests to the brand. For 2021 we have reimagined some itineraries to ensure even more time in destination with full days and overnight stays in popular destinations, as well as introducing new ports of call such as the island of Syros, Agios Nikolaos in Crete and Greece’s ‘hippest city’, Thessaloniki.
What’s so special about Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean?
Greece offers a variety of destinations ranging from well-known islands such as Mykonos and Santorini to hidden gems such as Syros and Milos. Each island offers its own unique experience and something for every type of traveller, whether you crave beautiful beaches, food and wine, culture, history, architecture, shopping, partying or romance. With its rich culture, heritage and many traditions, Greece offers numerous opportunities for visitors to discover the unique spirit of the country, whether its attending traditional festivals, visiting a local farm or vineyard, taking lessons in Greek language or cookery or dancing to the rhythm of Greek music. In 2021, Greece will also celebrate its 200th year of independence with various events across the country to enjoy.
As a cruise region, the Eastern Mediterranean encompasses a broad range of destinations including the Adriatic coast of Italy and Croatia, the islands of Greece, Turkey’s Istanbul, Kusadasi (for Ephesus) and Canakkale (to visit Troy), as well as Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. This hugely popular region offers the opportunity to explore a captivating feast of ancient antiquities, cultures and histories along with plenty of areas to relax and unwind with beautiful beaches and charming villages.
What is the line doing to prepare for the new cruising season?
To prepare for the 2021 cruise season and to ensure the safety of our guests, crew and local communities in the destinations we visit, Celestyal is currently consulting with CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) and the EU and Greek health authorities on industry-wide protocols to enhance the already high industry standards. We will be implementing these enhanced health protocols, as required, both on and off our ships whilst adhering to the most recent advice of health experts when we resume sailings on March 6th, 2021.
Finally, are there any plans for the future you can tell us about?
At Celestyal we are always focused on our future and two of our main strategic priorities are the rejuvenation and year-round operation of our fleet. With the continued investment as demonstrated by the addition of the Celestyal Experience and a steady increase in itinerary options for guests, we are confident that we are well on our way to achieving this goal within the next couple of years. Look out for a fresh new look and brand story in the near future also.
For more information on Celestyal Cruises please visit their website: https://celestyal.com
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of Celestyal Cruises