Over the past several summers, I have made it a goal to get to Greece for a sailing vacation.
I had a couple of fun trips on catamaran voyages that bopped around the islands for days of swimming, hiking, eating and dancing. These trips were super casual and with just a few people onboard aside from the skipper and first mate.
When travel shut down in 2020, I was especially upset to have to miss our annual visit to Greece and its gorgeous islands. But this summer brought me back to Greece -- and I sure did get my fill.
I took three cruises on three distinctly different cruise lines and had a thrilling time throughout.
Who can complain about spending the bulk of their summer circling the Greek Islands, with repeat stops in Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Patmos and other small and uniquely brilliant spots?
I also added a new country, Cyprus, and was fortunate to get there twice!
We started with a cruise on a bold new ship and finished with a couple of sailings on smaller ships, one a shiny new ultra-luxury vessel that offered an upscale experience the likes of which I have never had before. But I could get quite used to it!
Let's have a look at my three Greek cruises, noting the highlights and comparing how they differed.
Celebrity's newest ship is an innovative and thoroughly inviting vessel, with a wonderful emphasis on the outdoors areas. This makes Apex a great fit for cruising in the Greek isles in the summertime because you really want to be outside enjoying the fresh air, sunshine and gorgeous views.
Celebrity Apex is sister ship to Celebrity Edge, and these ships introduced the great spaces Eden, Rooftop Garden and The Retreat (for suite passengers), as well as the revolutionary Magic Carpet.
We sailed on Celebrity Apex from Athens (Piraeus) on a roundtrip weeklong voyage (this was the case for all three of our cruises, actually), and we visited Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini and Cyprus.
Apex carries up to 2,900 passengers, but we had only 600 or so fellow cruisers on our trip, as the cruise industry slowly began its restart in the Mediterranean and around the world. So, while we were sailing on a large ship, the atmosphere was relaxed. Passengers enjoyed plenty of space onboard and never had to endure lines.
Apex offers a range of comforts and especially thrives with its culinary and entertainment programs. But when you're not eating, dancing or taking in a show or other activity, it's an ideal ship for relaxation.
Our favorite spots were the Resort Deck, The Retreat, Eden and the Rooftop Garden.
The Resort Deck is the two-level pool area and jogging track. The pool is the centerpiece, of course, with plenty of loungers located around the deck (and some even in the shallow wading areas at the edge of the 25-yard lap pool). You also have access to the pool bar and can reserve the private cabanas for a special day of chilling out. The Resort Deck also is filled with attractive art sculptures; you can't miss the Heart Hands at the head of the pool. Plus, a large LED installation offers a bank of lights that change color and provide the proper mood and setting for deck parties at night.
The Retreat area is an enclave for passengers staying in suites, and we stayed in a Celebrity Suite stateroom. This space offers a bar and restaurant area where you can order lunches, as well as a small pool and hot tubs surrounded by comfy seats and loungers and cabanas.
Both Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex are known for the creative space called Eden, a huge lounge space
The Rooftop Garden is a terraced oasis at the top of the ship. This is an amazing place to escape for some privacy during the day, with cabanas and seating nooks arranged around a stage with big screen. At night, you can find live music and movies out here.
The Rooftop Garden Grill is also located here, and we had a spectacular meal under the stars choosing from a broad menu of barbecue favorites. Plus, the Sunset Bar has a spectacular view over the ship's wake, and we found it to be an underutilized space on Deck 16 beyond the Rooftop Garden.
Speaking of food: Being a large ship, Celebrity Apex features more than a dozen places to eat, with specialty restaurants (added fee) and complimentary options. This is where Apex stands out.
We ate dinner a Fine Cut steakhouse, and for two special lunches during our cruise, we stopped by Raw on 5 for sushi and Japanese specialties and Le Grand Bistro, a French restaurant with amazing fresh-baked breads, sandwiches and Mediterranean cuisine. At night, Le Grand Bistro offers the creative Le Petite Chef dining experience. This is an animated show that accompanies your meal, with the fun storyline playing out on your tabletop and plate.
Eden Restaurant has contemporary cuisine and an open kitchen where you watch chefs prepare your courses. You also can grab a light breakfast or lunch at Eden Cafe.
This is just a sampling of all the dining options you have on Celebrity Apex. Apex also offers four main dining rooms and the Oceanview Cafe buffet restaurant.
Cruising on this brand-new activities-packed vessel put the ship itself almost on par with Greece as an attraction. Of course, we had an amazing time exploring Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini and Cyprus, indulging in culture, history and the amazing Greek cuisine that is our favorite style of food.
Celebrity Apex delivers an exceptional cruise experience, ideal for couples, friends and family who want to have plenty of options for activities, entertainment and dining both onboard and ashore.
Celestyal Cruises is a two-ship cruise line with a deep Greek heritage that specializes in voyages around the Greek Islands and the surrounding region in the Mediterranean. The line features Celestyal Olympia and Celestyal Crystal, which is the ship I sailed.
Now, the experience on this vessel was quite different from the two others I sailed in Greece this summer. Celestyal Crystal is a 1,200-passenger ship that is a refurbished former ferry. We had about 500-plus passengers onboard during my sailing, so it rarely felt crowded.
The thing about Celestyal is that the cruise line knows exactly what it is. The ship is simple and comfortable, well known for good service and food. It's a wonderful place to stay (if not at all flashy and modern) while enjoying a port-intensive voyage in the islands. There are no sea days.
Cruisers pick this line for an affordable and immersive experience hopping between Greek Islands by a company that knows all the ins and outs of the culture, history and heritage of Greece.
I thoroughly enjoyed my sailing on Celestyal Crystal, settling into a nice rhythm onboard, meeting new friends in the ship's popular Sports Bar while watching Euro Cup soccer matches and getting off the ship on tours in Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Milos and Patmos.
Celestyal likes to say it brings you "behind the curtain" in the destinations in Greece, and this was delivered on tours that I joined that included folk music, family-style restaurant meals and secluded special beaches and swimming spots.
Fares include a "Classic" drinks package, as well as gratuities and port fees. Plus, you can expect to have at least two shore excursions included -- as well as your entertainment, meals and accommodations, of course.
Celestyal Crystal has two main restaurants -- Amalthia and Olympus -- and two small buffets. You also get a nice international mix of passengers, and the group ranged from young solo travelers to couples to older cruisers sailing with families. There were about 200 Americans and 100 cruisers from Spain, with Greece, France, Germany and Australia also represented.
So, it offers quite a different feel than cruising on a ship full of North Americans. I found it refreshing.
This one was the ultimate cruise to spoil me forever. Once you cruise with Silversea, you will have a whole new perspective about what you really want from a luxury travel experience.
We sailed on Silversea Cruises' new Silver Moon, a 596-passenger ultra-luxury ship that fairly gleamed as it brought us to all our favorite Greek islands over the course of a brilliant week.
Gourmet cuisine, excellent service and all-inclusive pricing made this trip an especially memorable one. The cruise line's new S.A.L.T. program (Sea and Land Taste) is fully realized on Silver Moon. This culinary journey weaves together the onboard dining experience with opportunities to learn about the history and stories of the food and traditions in the destinations where you travel on your ship. And exploring this in Greece with its amazing food and beverage traditions on an elegant ship with fantastic chefs makes for a marvelous trip for your taste buds.
The program includes shore excursions that explore how food is made and the role certain dishes play in culture and traditions. In Greece, we visited an organic farm in Paros and enjoyed lunch at a seaside taverna on the beach, while seeing cooking demonstrations for fresh oven-baked breads and expertly handcrafted spanakopita; on Cyprus, we traveled to Omodos Village in the heart of the wine-producing region before heading for an incredibly sumptuous multi-course family-style dinner at a village restaurant.
On the ship, the S.A.L.T. program features enrichment talks in the main theater and cooking lessons in the designated S.A.L.T. Lab. These activities are led by chefs. Cruisers also can eat at the S.A.L.T. Kitchen restaurant that offers a menu of culinary gems that highlight the ports you visit. The S.A.L.T. Bar sits next to the restaurant and is a wonderful spot to enjoy craft cocktails before or after your regionally inspired meals.
The Silversea experience is all about comfort and service, making our cruise on Silver Moon an unusual treat. It's not often that I get to sail in a super-spacious balcony suite with butler service. Our butler pampered us in ways we never expected, doing laundry, keeping the room tidy and adding personal touches each day, plus providing lovely set-ups for in-room dining a few times during our voyage.
In fact, the crew and meals throughout the ship were spot on. Bartenders and wait staff are friendly and engaging. With a small passenger count, cruisers can expect this experience from Silversea sailings. Favorite drinks are remembered in the first day, and staff and cruisers have fun and lively conversations, with the crew making every effort to make these trips special.
All three cruises began in Athens, and I always love to spend time in this always vibrant world capital. It's culturally rich, full of history and a great place to dive right into the Greek experience with all the amazing food and sights to enjoy.
Cruise Video Catalog
Celebrity Apex Dining
Celebrity Apex The Retreat
Celebrity Apex Fitness Center and Spa
Celebrity Apex Pool Decks and Jogging Track
Celebrity Apex Tour of Our Celebrity Suite
Celestyal Cruises Ship Tour of Celestyal Crystal and Visiting Patmos
Celestyal Cruises on Rhodes, Santorini and Mykonos
Celestyal Cruises on Milos and Crete
Silversea Silver Moon
Silver Moon Full Ship Tour
Silver Moon Tour of Our Suite
Thanks for reading.