Cruise virgin Alice Langley discovers the joys of island hopping on a short Celestyal voyage
Sitting on the top deck talking to Dani, our charming barman, as the dancing lights of Mykonos slipped into the night sky, it was hard to believe that our Greek islands adventure had started just 12 hours before.
I’d taken part in my first ever lifeboat drill, booked in my onboard treatments with the spa team, had a delicious three-course lunch in the Aegean restaurant, visited my first Greek island and was now back on board for an evening of socialising and stargazing before returning to my stateroom ready to wake up in Turkey the next morning.
Mykonos had been an outstanding first port of call – bursts of hot pink bougainvillea spilling over multicolored balconies set against a backdrop of perfectly whitewashed stone along narrow weaving streets, and iconic 16th century brown wooden windmills proudly standing guard over the old fisherman’s cottages down below. A picture-perfect postcard of a Greek island.
Back on board Celestyal Olympia the vibe was authentic. From daily Greek lessons to the restaurant menus and the evening shows to the wine served onboard, everything about this cruise has its roots deeply in Greece.
My pre-cruise worries that travelling by ship might be too generic, that I wouldn’t feel like I was visiting the part of the world I was in, were completely unfounded. This ship was like a floating Greek island.
I awoke on day three of our cruise slightly jaded from the previous evening’s celebrations. It turns out that drinking until 1am ahead of a 7am start for breakfast and an early morning tour of Knossos while docked in Heraklion isn’t the best idea; but the amount of fun I had dancing the night away at the onboard disco made up for any headache I may had been suffering from the next morning.
The food on board was exquisite, so therefore impossible to turn down when offered. But I was becoming increasingly concerned that I may not fit into my dress that evening if I ate another starter, main course and dessert.
Alongside the main Aegean restaurant there was also a poolside buffet, both offering the same wonderful range of classic dishes such as Greek salad, chicken souvlaki and a wide range of fresh fish options, with the only difference lying in the formality of your surroundings.
Leaving our air-conditioned transfer bus, the late afternoon heat in the picturesque hills elevated over the Santorini Cauldron was enough to momentarily take my breath away.
Spinning 360 degrees to take in the panoramic views over both sides of the Santorini coast felt almost overwhelming. As our jolly tour guide appeared, beckoning us over towards the steps of the Venetsanos Winery for our afternoon of wine tasting, I was instantly struck by how happy everyone was here.
As the sun started to set, I reflected on the past few days and all we had covered. Our time on this Greek island cruise may have been short, but we had managed to pack in a full itinerary to our three days on board. Seven ports, two continents and many cocktails later I’d finally ticked island hopping in Greece off my bucket list.
It had been a fast-paced holiday, although if you chose to skip an excursion or two, you could slow it down – yet what a shame that would be. We’d experienced everything from authentic local food in Mykonos to history at Ephesus, iconic religious sites in Patmos to wine in Santorini and still had time to relax, sunbathe and take in the views as we sailed.
For those, like me, who were wondering if a cruise is the holiday for them, this was the perfect way to find out.
GETTING THERE Celestyal Cruises offers a three-day Iconic Aegean cruise from £238pp, on a full board basis (+30 210 4583400; celestyalcruises.com).
Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise with our Cruise Finder.[Cruise-Shorthand view=”only_filter” destination_name = “Mediterranean”]