Many people dream of visiting the Greek Islands, all dotted with whitewashed houses and clay tile roofs painted blue. The deep blue Aegean Sea surrounds the islands and its waters glisten from the bright sunshine overhead.

I have dreamed as well about seeing the beauty of Greece and the islands so I took a cruise on the Celestyal Crystal in late October. The ship departed from the busy port of Piraeus, a beautiful clean city adjacent to Athens.

A day later we were in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and one of the largest cities in the world with nearly 16 million people. Istanbul is an unique and amazing city. I felt the city’s European vibe blended with exotic touches from Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. It is a clean metropolis with beautifully landscaped parks and squares, colorful outdoor cafes, set in a sophisticated urban scene.

Other ports of call included, Canakkale, Turkey, to see the archeological site of Troy and legendary city in Greek mythology. The day was paired with Assos, and the ruins of a temple built to the goddess Athena. At the bottom of the mountain a small fishing village exists where I sat along the waterfront and was treated to an incredible lunch of sea bream, soup and salad, and a plate of Turkish spreads, olives and small bites. It was outstanding and a perfect day.

The next day, the ship stopped in Volos on the Greek mainland. That day was spent at the hanging monasteries of Meteora. It is a place of amazing wonder that is indescribable. The area is breathtakingly beautiful, peaceful and isolated, one of the highlights of my travel for its uniqueness in all the world.

Next stop, Heraklion, Crete, and the ancient Minoan civilization on display at the Palace of Knossos with frescoes more than 4000 years old. The site is often referred to as Europe’s oldest city. The next morning, we were in Santorini, so unique and one of Greece’s most iconic sites.

To sit at an open-air café perched high above the sea with views of white-washed houses hugging the mountain side and terracing down the cliff, is a scene everyone dreams of having. Then later that evening, the ship went to Mykonos. Another iconic setting after dark when all the narrow streets are lit up with lively boutiques, shops, bars, and restaurants.

The Celestyal Crystal is a relatively small ship holding about 1000 passengers. Staterooms are of adequate size, comfortable and modern. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style offering omelet and waffle stations in the morning and pasta and salad stations mid-day. Dinners featured international and Greek traditional menus. Bars and lounges served familiar cocktail selections along with international drinks. Nightly entertainment is of the traditional cruise line variety with energetic dancers and colorful costumes.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of a Celestyal Cruise is the opportunity to meet people from around the world. We sat with travelers from Germany, France, the U.K. Bulgaria, Poland, Australia and from various parts of the U.S. and Canada. There were passengers from China, Japan, and India too. And of course, Greeks.

All in all, a Celestyal Cruise represents good value for the money and an effortless way to see Greece and Turkey. I felt completely immersed in my Greece experience both onshore and at sea.

John Werner

As a 45 year veteran of the travel industry and the President of MAST Travel Network since 2002, John’s career has included 14 years as a travel agency owner. He has served in various capacities on the Board of the Midwest Chapter of ASTA including Treasurer and Vice President. John has also held several positions on the Board of Directors for MAST including Vice Chairman and Board Chairman during the years he owned Travel Group International, a MAST member during the 1990s.