See the amazing Temple of Poseidon on a short Greek cruise and stay

See the amazing Temple of Poseidon on a short Greek cruise and stay

As part of a series of ongoing investments and improvements to its brand, Celestyal Cruises will commence a first ever, year round programme of winter cruises from Greece, beginning in 2018.

These winter itineraries will take the form of a series of seven night, three continent cruises, to be operated by the Celestyal Olympia. The 38,000 ton ship, familiar to many as the former Song Of America of 1982, will sail from the port of Lavrion, just outside of Athens, Ports of call will include Antalya in Turkey, Jerusalem, Port Said for Cairo, and Rhodes. An itinerary that uniquely allows passengers to set foot in Africa, Asia and Europe on each round trip.

This route marks a welcome diversion for the company’s largest ship, which usually spends four months of the year laid up each winter in Piraeus, before resuming her spring and summer programme of three and four night mini cruises to the Greek islands and Turkey.

Celestyal also plans further enhancements at the line’s new fleet home port of Lavrion, the closest actual embarkation point for passengers flying into Athens. It is one of a number of bidders currently looking to build a new pier and, given the importance of the cruising sector to the overall Greek economy, the company is likely in prime position to achieve its aims.

In other developments, Celestyal Cristal will offer another season of seven night, winter cruises around Cuba this winter. And next spring, the line will introduce the 19,000 ton Celestyal Nefeli on a route that features a lot of Turkish highlights.

Plans are also afoot to embark passengers from both Kavala and Thessaloniki, located on the northern shores of the Aegean, in a couple of years’ time, in order to tap into the potentially very lucrative eastern European market.

Interesting times at the specialist Greek islands operator here. As ever, stay tuned for updates.


It has been increasingly bruited over several weeks that the port of Athens might be gearing up to become a year round departure port for cruises. With these stories gathering pace, I thought it might be worth a look at the possibilities.

The obvious major contender for this would be Celestyal Cruises, part of the Louis Group. Although their Cristal goes out on charter to Cuba each winter, the company’s biggest ship- the 38,000 ton Celestyal Olympia- is usually laid up in Piraeus from November through to April each year.

That makes for five totally unproductive months when the vessel is doing nothing but racking up port fees while earning no revenue. So, any opportunity to bring in money- especially in the current Greek situation- ought to be a no brainer.

On the other hand, that winter Aegean weather can be famously unsettled. Many of the Greek Islands are tender ports, and any winter storm might well mean foregoing a port of call. Also, the temperatures are going to be a good way cooler than in the high days of summer.

These have always been the main reasons why the domestic Greek cruise scene- that is, Celestyal itineraries- typically begin each March, and then end each November.

But the truth is that, even if some tender ports have to be abandoned because of bad weather, there are quite a number of ports with open berths in  winter- I’m thinking of the likes of Kusadasi and Marmaris- which are likely to be available as viable substitutes. Even in summer, the weather can sometimes oblige cruise ship captains to abandon planned port calls, hopefully arranging some nearby substitute. There is nothing new- or unusual- in this.

And the experience of cruising the Greek Islands in winter would be a more sedate, intimate experience- even on the usual Celestyal three and four night runs.  And Athens’ port of Piraeus certainly enjoys an unrivalled, prime position for sending out ships on short jaunts, or even on longer itineraries to the Holy Land and Egypt. However, the current volatility of the political situation around both would probably

make most firms think twice about that, at least for the foreseeable future.

And- for those who do not think that year round Greek Island cruising is feasible, I’d just remind you that the same was said of the Baltic, when P&O pioneered the first ever winter Baltic Capitals cruise some years ago. These have been quite successful; enough, indeed, for many rival lines to also start offering them.

Also, consider how popular cruises to the often stormy waters of Northern Lights itineraries have now become. Passengers now no longer think that cold weather and rough seas would be an impediment to such an adventure.

And it goes without saying that, even in the depths of winter, the Aegean would be a lot calmer and more benign than either of those options.

Short winter cruises in the Aegean? Hell, why not?

A potentially fascinating development, methinks. As ever, pray stay tuned.

See the amazing Temple of Poseidon on a short Greek cruise and stay

See the amazing Temple of Poseidon on a short Greek cruise and stay


If you’ve always hankered to try a cruise, but don’t want to invest a lot of time or money, then a short but sweet, three or four day run around some of the Greek Islands might be an option worth looking at. Beginning next month, three night cruises sail from Athens on a Friday, with a four night option available each Monday through to November.

These voyages are offered on Celestyal Cruises, very much the Greek specialists, on the Celestyal Olympia, a 38,000 ton veteran that many might remember as the elegant, former Song Of America. She’s a comfortable, commodious ship, capable of carrying around 1600 passengers in a wide range of inside and outside cabins. Throw in authentic, Greek accented cuisine and entertainment, and you’ve got the perfect base for a fun filled few days, whichever break you choose to take.

Comfortable and welcoming rather than glittery and plush, the Celestyal Olympia is perfect for these short, destination oriented cruises. In just a few days, you’ll get snapshots of the highlights and lifestyle in places as diverse as Mykonos, Kusadasi, Santorini, Rhodes and Patmos. In point of fact, you can see more of the world on one of these short, stylish jaunts than many people actually do in a lifetime.

If you’re so inclined, add on a few days pre or post cruise in addictive, exhilarating Athens, one of the greatest cities in the world, and the cornerstone of modern democracy. That makes for a brilliant week in total if you choose this option, and a fantastic collection of memories as well. Did I mention the suntan?

Some brief, glorious glimpses of what you might do on such a cruise? Imagine sunset Margaritas overlooking the Aegean in marvellous, highly styled Mykonos, or staring in awed amazement at the petrified remains of once magnificent Ephesus, from Kusadasi. Stroll through the cafe thronged, winding streets and alleys in the staggering medieval theme park that is Rhodes, or simply while away a languid hour or two at a waterfront taverna in Patmos, with a side order of succulent souvlaki and a glass of chilled retsina. For sure, this is not your ordinary weekend away.

Add in the very real benefit of packing and unpacking only once as a whole host of historical, hedonistic hot spots come to you one after another, and you have the stuff of dreams. Value wise, these trips are very hard to beat. Short on time but high on style, one of these short trips will raise the bar massively for your typical weekend break.

And, come June, Celestyal cruises will be adding a second ship, in the trim form of the lovely Celes

See the amazing Temple of Poseidon on a short Greek cruise and stay

See the amazing Temple of Poseidon on a short Greek cruise and stay

tyal Odyssey. This 28,000 ton ship- one part floating hotel, one part floating explorer- will also offer the same, three and four night cruises as her slighly larger sister. And, if you’re really in the market for some serious fun, it is perfectly possible to sail on both ships one after another, just by crossing the pier at the end of the first cruise.

A more fulfilling and exhilarating short break would be very difficult to find, especially with so much included in the price. for 2015, Greece is most definitely the word.


Celestyal is going to a three ship fleet as of June, 2015.

Celestyal is going to a three ship fleet as of June, 2015.

In a not altogether unsurprising move, Louis Cruises (as was) has rebranded itself as Celestyal Cruises.

The Greek niche specialist operator created Celestyal as a ‘spin off ‘product late last year. The emphasis of Celestyal was to be on Greek history, cuisine and culture, all to be experienced in authentically Greek surroundings.

To that end, the company hived off the two main stream ships to Celestyal. Former Louis Cristal- currently cruising around Cuba for Cuba Cruises– will be restyled as Celestyal Cristal. Larger fleet mate, Louis Olympia, will morph into the Celestyal Olympia when she resumes sailings from Piraeus in March.

The duo will be augmented by the recently purchased Celestyal Odyssey, currently sailing as the Semester at Sea ship, Explorer. The 24,000 ton ship, with accommodation for 834 passengers, will join the Celestyal Olympia on the popular, three and four night Greece and Turkey itineraries from June.

The rebranding makes simple sense. As things stand, retaining the Louis name would have left just one ship- the 1968 built Louis Aura- sailing under that flag. There is as yet no news on the company website regarding the 2015 deployment of this former NCL veteran, but she is usually chartered to a French company for much of the early summer, before reverting to short sailings from Cyprus for the remainder of the season.

As ever, stay tuned for future developments.