With a new flagship fleet thanks to Carnival Corporation’s acquisition of the former Costa Neoromantica, Celestyal Cruises, the specialist in cruises to the Greek islands and the eastern Mediterranean, made a fresh start on the 29th. May with an announced sailing from Athens for three to seven days.

Parthenon in Athens, Greece

The season was scheduled to begin in late April, more than a year after Celestyal shut down its operations along with the rest of the global cruise industry. The new date is part of the roadmap recently announced by the Greek Ministry of Tourism, which plans to open Greece to tourism and cruises as early as the 2021 season.

But it won’t be the Celestial Experience – the former Costa NeoRomance is the main return to the line. Instead, Celestyal will resume operations with the smallest of the three ships in its fleet, the 40-year-old Celestyal Crystal with 1,400 passengers.

There is no doubt that Celestyal is the Celestyal experience, launched in 1993 as Costa Romantica and reinvented in 2012 as Costa NeoRomantica after a massive $110 million renovation, but Crystal says it is currently the right size and many countries still discourage international travel.

READ MORE: 19 Carnival ships sold during cruise industry shutdown

CEO Chris Theophilides believes things are moving in the right direction and that Heavenly Experience and Heavenly Olympia, launched by Royal Caribbean in 1982 as Song of America, will soon join Heavenly Crystal.

Celestial Crystal (Photo courtesy of Celestial Cruises)

We are very encouraged by the growth of global distribution and the effectiveness of the vaccine, as well as the positive feedback we are receiving from our partners and guests around the world, said Theophilus.

Heavenly Crystal will use its two Athens departure ports, Piraeus and Lavrio, to offer shorter three- and four-day itineraries, as well as a seven-day Idyllic Aegean itinerary that will call at Kusadasi, Rhodes, Santorini, Lavrio (in front of the Temple of Poseidon), Mykonos, Milos and Crete.

Greek Islands Cruise to many North American Islands

North Americans make up a significant portion of Sky’s clientele, many of whom consider a cruise to the splendor of the Greek islands to be a trip not to be missed. Most departures on this line take place in spring and autumn.

Due to the relatively short distance from one port to another, Celestyal cruises are more focused than the ships. Heavenly Olympia and Heavenly Crystal are both older ships, with smaller and lesser equipment respectively than the newly built ships.

They are nevertheless comfortable and welcoming, and Greek culture is celebrated everywhere in the decor, cuisine and entertainment.

The Celestyal Experience is the next step for the cruise line. This is nothing new – the 53,000-ton gross tonnage ship was launched in 1993, but at the time was considered one of the most modern designs from the Fincantieri shipyard.

Greek culture celebrates heavenly vessels

Nineteen years later, Costa felt that the ship’s good structural condition warranted a full refit, with the addition of two half-decks, balcony cabins and suites. The transformation was so dramatic that Costa decided to rename the ship Costa NeoRomantica.

Celestyal Cruises has already leased these 132 balconies and 166 suites for mid-2019 due to the high demand for premium suites on the line’s itineraries. So when Carnival Corporation started selling off old ships because the industry was shutting down for longer and longer, Celestial grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Heavenly experience

Aside from cosmetic changes, including a new logo and color scheme that will adorn the entire Heavenly fleet, the Experience will be largely unchanged from her time at Costa.

Guests booked on Celestyal flights cancelled between late April and May may receive a refundable Future Cruise Credit (FCC) equal to 100% of the amount paid, plus an additional non-refundable FCC bonus equal to 20% of the actual cruise price.

As an additional element of flexibility and in recognition of the ongoing impact of the pandemic, Celestyal has announced that it will allow guests who currently have CFCs, as well as guests who plan to obtain CFCs – due to the new renewal date – to apply the CFC to Celestyal’s 2023 routes, in addition to the 2021 and 2022 routes, which will be announced shortly.

READ MORE: 10 fun things to see and do in Santorini, Greece

frequently asked questions

Will cruises return in 2020?

Eight cruise ships will return to sea in August, and the majority of the fleet will sail until September 2020. Update 2: After CLIA’s voluntary suspension, Carnival followed suit a few days later and extended its suspension of cruises in the U.S. More information can be found here.

Can May be a good month for a cruise?

Spring: March, April, May and June Spring is almost a guarantee of good cheer after the rigors of winter, and what better way to celebrate your good fortune than a visit to the beach? And there’s even better news: Early spring and April are usually a dry time in the Caribbean, and there may even be some good deals on cruises to be had.

What is the best cruise in May?

The 12 best cruises…

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