More than 6.7 million passengers have traveled with Celestyal Cruises since the Greek cruise line set sail in 1986. Last summer when our group stepped on board the Olympia in Athens, Greece, we happily added to that statistic. We loved every minute of it — be it onboard, on shore or under the Mediterranean sun and stars.
In retrospect, my only wish is that I could have cloned myself. The activity choices onboard were as intriguing as those that lay ashore. The ship’s daily program, which is slipped under cabin doors, is a feast of memory-making experiences.
Onboard, guests can discover ancient Greek history and culture through Greek dancing, cooking lessons or kicking back with live shows. One performance included a bouzouki band presenting a melodic journey through Greece.
While we made time for the spa, a swim, and meeting with the ship’s captain and his officers, in the end, curiosity floated to the top. Our group signed up for as many shore excursions as possible.
On the four-day, all-inclusive cruise in the Aegean Sea with Celestyal Cruises, we visited the Greek ports of Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, Heraklion — the capital of Crete — and Kusadasi in Turkey. While each burrowed its way into my travel bank of places worth a return, it was Mykonos that won my heart.
The shuttle bus dropped us off within view of the island’s iconic 16th-century windmills. To reach the landmarks, we followed the painted flagstones on Matoyiani Street through a bougainvillea-draped warren. We peeked into shop windows and paused at Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa Church. Mostly, we people-watched.
Mykonos’ reputation as a party town preceded our visit. While its nightlife lures all ages, the natural beauty of the environment rises above the falderal. Its white-sand beaches are the antitheses of the rocky shoreline and busy harbor that line the curve of the Little Venice bay. Both glisten under a piercing blue sky.
Walking the steps to the top of the hill is well worth it, for the view of the activity along the shoreline of Little Venice is well worth the effort. The photos commemorating the experience are my favorite, especially those of visitors and guests readying for sunset.
It was an hour before the sun would set, and prime spots for watching the nightly event were being snatched up. The view of the windmills on a hillock overlooking the beach in Little Venice is enough to quiet the entire capital. When the sun finally sizzles into the sea, onlookers applaud, whistle and cheer. It’s the best show on the island and it happens every night.
We followed the water to our gathering spot to walk to Roca Cookery for dinner. En route, we didn’t see an actual pelican, but a statue of the fabled Petros made do. The busy evening kept us from visiting the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos, but we marked it for another time.
Roca Cookery is located on the waterfront in the Old Port. Our group dined at a communal table on a terrace overlooking the harbor and the low-lying sun.
The menu, like that on board the Olympia, is based on local products. The chef explained that typical Greek cuisine features simple, tasty specialties served in a distinct way, such as the restaurant’s shrimp and marinated anchovies, perfectly combined with arugula salad with soft cheese and Cretan cherry tomatoes.
For our dinner, the grilled seabream was cooked over an open fire. The entree was worth a chapter in a cookbook; ditto for Roca Cookery’s selection of Greek wine.
The fillip for our day on Mykonos was the panoramic view. Roca’s terrace is considered the best spot for the sunset on the entire island. To that, we toasted an enthusiastic “Opa!”