Celestyal Cruises

History, Review, Itineraries, Ships, Deck Plans, News

Celestyal Cruises cruise line logo

Celestyal Cruises fleet

Review of Celestyal Cruises

Celestyal Cruises (celestyal.com/en-cy) is a Louis PLC-owned subsidiary company and member of Louis Group - a leading tourism/passenger shipping company that operates mainly in the Eastern Mediterranean. "Celestyal" (meaning "heavenly", "divine" and "of the stars") was intended to match the customers' experience when they sail with the company. The new brand features an authentic Greek "Kalimera" experience, named after the word that is used for the traditional Greek welcome. Celestyal's current CEO is Chris Theophilides.

Celestyal Cruises logo

On November 29, 2021, was announced that Searchlight Capital Partners (2010-founded, USA-based private equity firm) has taken a majority stake in Celestyal Cruises. Searchlight Capital's investment was actually in a new holding company (Celestyal Holdings) but the exact percentage of shares (Searchlight/Louis Group as shareholders) was not disclosed. Celestyal's global management team was kept and continued to lead the business.

The company's current top executives are Chris Theophilides (CEO) and Lee Haslett (CCO/Chief Commercial Officer).

Company changes 2022

In March 2022, Celestyal appointed David Noyes as Non-Executive Chairman. Noyes was last employed by Carnival UK (as CEO and Executive VP) managing Carnival Corporation's subsidiaries P&O Cruises and Cunard Line.

In September 2022 was announced the appointment of Inter-Connect GmbH (Munich-based company) as Celestyal's General Sales Agent in the DACH region (Germany-Austria-Switzerland).

In late-September 2022, Celestyal grew its Canada-USA sales team by appointing Jon Grutzner (as VP Business Development for North America/Madison Wisconsin office) and Michelle Suker (as Business Development Manager for Southeastern USA/Florida office).

Company changes 2023

In February was acquired Celestyal Journey (1994-built as MS Ryndam).

In April, Celestyal employed Morgan Hatfield (North America Marketing Director), Richard Sandoval (West Coast USA Business Development Manager) and Stephanie McDonald (Canada Business Development Manager).

In May, Celestyal employed Tobias Klitsch (as VP of Global Market Development/previously employed by PA Consulting, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways) and Beth Hulett (as Global Market Development Manager/previously employed by Virgin Voyages as Sales Manager).

In May, Celestyal appointed Janet Parton as VP of Business Development (UK, Europe and Australia). She was previously employed by Globus Family of Brands (subsidiary of Group Voyagers Inc) as Sales and Marketing Director (Cosmos Travel and Avalon Waterways).

In October, Celestyal appointed Brandon Townsley as VP and Managing Director for North America. Since 2001, he worked for the cruise companies Royal Caribbean (revenue management analyst), NCL-Norwegian (Director of Sales), MSC (Director Strategic & Online Accounts), Crystal and AOV-Atlas Ocean Voyages (VP Sales & Trade Partnerships), Virgin Voyages (Director Business Development & Strategy).

In November was acquired Celestyal Discovery (2003-built as AIDAaura).

In December was sold Celestyal Olympia (1982-built/41-year-old, now Bella Fortuna).

Celestyal Cruise Line

What makes all Celestyal ship vacations so uniquely distinctive as a sea travel experience?

Celestyal-Louis boats are modest, renovated/older vessels that offer standard staterooms, revamped menus, unique enrichment programs and itineraries, with themes focusing on Greek food, wines, music, history/archaeology, music.

Celestyal is the industry's only brand to homeport in Greece the whole year round, and also a preeminent travel brand for cruises to Turkey and the Greek Islands. Celestyal ships sail from the two major ports serving Athens City (Lavrion and Piraeus) to the islands of Crete, Chios, Ios, Milos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Kos, Patmos, Samos, Symi, Syros, Santorini, as well as to the Turkish ports Istanbul, Kusadasi, Cesme.

"Kali Orexi" is Celestyal's program that is deep into Greek cuisine and is famed for both its simplicity and health benefits. It features fresh local ingredients and, of course, olives and golden Cretan olive oil. The menus include just-baked bread, fresh Greek yogurt, real Greek coffee, Santorini and Peloponnesian wines, as well as dry aromatic Ouzo.

Celestyal production shows are not as pretentious as on larger ships, but there is plenty of live music in the line's bars and lounges, musicians and performers hail from Greece. Celestyal Cruises presents the magic of taverna nights and guests can learn "sirtaki" from "Zorba the Greek". Members of Lyceum Club of Greek Women perform Greek folk dances on select sailings.

The Celestyal boats also have casinos, shops (mainly for travel essentials/necessities and souvenirs), Lido decks (with swimming pools) and small wellness complexes (spa, gym, beauty parlor).

New ships

In September 2015, Celestyal Cruises announced its fleet expansion by adding the completely refurbished vessel Celestyal Nefeli (formerly Superstar Gemini / now MV Gemini). The new ship was delivered in February 2016. The 1992-built Celestyal Nefeli accommodates 1074 passengers in 400 cabins (123 inside, 277 outside), including 31 junior suites and 12 Executive Suites (most are with private balconies). Nefeli replaced Celestyal Odyssey (now Blue Dream Star) which charter ended in October 2015. Nefeli was homeported in Turkey offering Eastern Mediterranean roundtrips from Istanbul, Kusadasi and Izmir.

Both vessels were relatively small (GT tonnage ~60,000 tons, max passenger capacity 1800) and specially designed for short-break cruises (3- or 4-day roundtrip itineraries).

In November 2017, the Celestyal fleet was expanded with two Louis Group-owned and previously chartered to Thomson Cruises UK ships - Thomson Spirit and Thomson Majesty (Celestyal Majesty). In 2018, Celestyal Majesty was sold to Mano Maritime (Israel-based shipping company, subsidiary of Mano Holdings Group) and also owner of container ships. Majesty now operates as Crown Iris. Thomson Spirit was scrapped in 2018.

In September 2016, the company announced its plans to place a shipbuilding order for two newbuilds with scheduled delivery by the year 2021.

Celestyal Cruises new ships

The above-shown cruise ship designs are by Knud E Hansen AS (Naval architects, designers, a marine engineering company based in Odense Denmark) for mid-size cruise vessels powered by either LNG (liquefied natural gas)) or HFO (heavy fuel oil).

The Danish company's designs (LNG vs HFO) differ as scrubbers and catalytic reduction are needed for the HFO version in order to reduce SOx and NOx emissions. The clean version is LNG, which operating expenses are lower (including fuel consumption). The LNG ship design prompted the ship design company to explore innovative solutions when designing the engine room's layout and funnel locations. The above illustrations show the design differences and could be based on actual prototypes for Celesytal's newbuilds.

In July 2020, Carnival Corporation (via its subsidiary Costa Cruises) sold to Louis Group Costa neoRomantica (1993-built/27-years-old at the time). The boat joined Celestyal's fleet in August under the name "Celestyal Experience". All scheduled for 2021-2022 Celestyal itineraries remained unchanged. In September 2021, Louis Group sold Celestyal Experience. In September 2021, the boat was sold (never carrying passengers for Celestyal) and left the fleet.

(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2022

Due to the COVID pandemic, Celestyal suspended its fleet's passenger shipping operations (all vessels) by canceling all voyages for two years - all pre-scheduled departures for the period March 14, 2020, through April 18, 2022. The company restarted with Celestyal Crystal (Apr 18) followed by Celestyal Olympia (Apr 29).

Operations were planned to restart on March 6, 2021 (Celestyal Crystal), but rescheduled for May 29 (Celestyal Crystal), June 28 (Celestyal Olympia), and September 3 (Celestyal Experience). Eventually, these plans were canceled and Celestyal Experience was sold and left the fleet.

All affected bookings received full refunds (100% cash), including on prepurchased through Celestyal packages and services. With rebooking is offered 120% refund in FCC (future cruise credit) transferred to the new booking. The FCC is redeemable until December 31, 2021. For rebooking were open all Celestyal Cruises itineraries scheduled through December 31, 2023. The FCC voucher is sent directly to the customer or the travel agency. If the FCC is not redeemed, upon the voucher's expiration date (December 31, 2021) the customer automatically receives a 100% cash refund.

The company also extended its cancellation policy to allow any Celestyal cruise booking made between March 9 and June 30, 2020 (all 2020-2021 itineraries) to be canceled up to 7 days prior to departure without penalty fees. As a promo offer, all bookings made between October 19 and November 30 (2020) received complimentary travel insurance (Allianz Global Assistance). The insurance included coverage of all medical expenses (also Coronavirus-associated), transportation costs (to the nearest hospital), travel costs (to the next call port), return to home travel expenses, reimbursement for any unused portion of the voyage. Cancellation coverage is optional (at extra cost).

Itinerary of Celestyal Cruises

Celestyal Cruises is a new travel brand (2014-launched) of the Cyprus-based Louis Cruises. In 2015, two Louis liners started regularly scheduled voyages leaving from homeports Lavrion and Piraeus-Athens under the new "Celestyal" name.

Celestyal Cruises (fka Louis Cruises) owns and operates the following ships:

  • Celestyal Crystal (1980-built as Viking Saga, fka Louis Crystal) - offers year-round on roundtrip Cuba cruises from Havana (Cuba) and Montego Bay (Jamaica).
  • Celestyal Journey (1994-built as MS Ryndam) joined the fleet in 2023. The ship was previously operated under the names Aegean Goddess (SeaJets Greece), and Pacific Aria (P&O Australia).
  • Celestyal Discovery (2003-built as AIDAaura) joined the fleet in November 2023 and is currently planned to start revenue operations in March 2024, replacing/taking over the schedule of Celestyal Olympia.

The company's all-inclusive cruise deals include onboard meals and entertainment, drink packages, selected shore excursions, port fees, service charges, and gratuities.

In January 2024 was sold Celestyal Olympia (1982-built as Song of America, fka Thomson Destiny and Louis Olympia, now Bella Fortuna).

2024-2025 cruise itineraries

Following the COVID crisis, in early-April 2021 Celestyal scheduled the Olympia ship to restart voyages in the Eastern Mediterranean with the new itinerary "Legendary Archipelago" in the period June 28 - August 30 (2021). The 7-night roundtrip from Lavrion-Athens visits Thessaloniki, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete (Agios Nikolaos), Rhodes, Cyprus (Limassol). All-inclusive prices started from USD 1020 (EUR 860) per person with double occupancy. Following this Aegean mini-season, after August 30th the boat's itinerary program continued with the prescheduled 3-4-night (Lavrion roundtrip) itineraries "Iconic Aegean" and "Iconic Discovery".

The company's 2021-2022 program featured 3x new cruise ports and 2x new itineraries. Maiden port calls were scheduled for Ermoupoli (Syros Island, Greece), Thessaloniki (Greece) and Agios Nikolaos (Crete Greece).

In winter 2021-2022, Celestyal Olympia operated two new "Iconic Discovery" itineraries (3-4-night in length) priced from USD 610 pp. Both itineraries visited Syros Island, Thira (Santorini Island, full-day stay) and Kusadasi Turkey.

Celestyal Crystal offered the "Idyllic Aegean" itinerary (7-day) priced from USD 1250 pp. The revised voyage visits Crete Island's port Agios Nikolaos instead of Heraklion. The ship also operated a revised "Eclectic Aegean" itinerary (7-day) in which Heraklion was replaced with Thessaloniki and the ship stayed a full day in Santorini's Port Thira. "Eclectic Aegean" was also priced from USD 1250 pp and operated in 2021 (October 23 through November 6) and in 2022 (April 9 through 23, October 29 through November 12).

The "Idyllic Aegean" is also offered as a roundtrip from either Thessaloniki or Heraklion/Crete as alternative homeports.

Celestyal Crystal's Egypt-visiting itinerary "Three Continents" was also altered and now doesn't visit Alexandria. The 7-day cruise Greece-Egypt (Piraeus to Port Said) instead includes a full-day Cairo City excursion (also inclusive of a Giza Pyramids tour) and is same-priced (USD 1250 pp). "Three Continents" is operated in 2021 (March 6 through 27, November 20 through December 25) and in 2022 (March 5 through April 2, November 19 through December 31.

The 7-day "Steps of Saint Paul" Mediterranean itinerary was priced from USD 1500 pp and operated in 2021 (departs October 16 and November 13) and 2022 (Oct 15 and Oct 22). The Christian-themed cruise (roundtrip from Piraeus) visits Greece (Thessaloniki, Kavala), Turkey (Istanbul, Dikili, Kusadasi) and Greece (Patmos Island).

In September 2020, Celestyal Cruises announced Celestyal Experience ship's itinerary program which was planned to start in 2021 (March 6) with a 7-day Maiden Voyage ("Three Continents" itinerary / Holy Land) visiting Greece (Piraeus-Athens), Turkey (Kusadasi-Ephesus), Israel (Ashdod-Jerusalem), Egypt (Port Said-Cairo), Cyprus (Limassol) and Rhodes Island.

Celestyal Experience had to introduce the brand's revised 7-day "Idyllic Aegean" itinerary from Lavrion to Piraeus-Athens, Rhodes Island, Agios Nikolaos (Crete), Thira (Santorini Island), Adamas (Milos Island), Mykonos Island, Kusadasi-Ephesus. In late-summer 2021, the ship was scheduled to operate the 7-day "Eclectic Aegean" itinerary (17x shore excursions, call ports Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Volos Island, Santorini, Piraeus-Athens).

During its inaugural season (2021) Celestyal Experience also sailed the "Versatile Aegean " itinerary (7-day) in which is added Thessaloniki (new homeport for Celestyal Cruises), Istanbul (overnight), Canakkale (Troy, Turkey) and Volos Greece (port to Meteora's monasteries).

Celestyal Experience was scheduled to undertake the itinerary program of Celestyal Crystal ("Three Continents" in spring and winter, and "Idyllic Aegean" in summer and autumn). Early-booking prices started from USD 700 per person (double-occupancy cabin rates).

For April 24, 2021, was scheduled the company's first departure from Lavrion (ship Celestyal Experience), with which also was officially inaugurated Celestyal's new cruise terminal "Lavrion Port & Marina". The new homeport is located just 26 km (16 mi) from Athens Airport, making it convenient for international cruise tourists.

However, in September 2021, the boat was sold and left the fleet.

(NEW) Middle East itineraries 2024-2025 (Discovery and Journey ships)

In January 2024 was announced the new 7-night/8-day "Desert Days" itinerary (scheduled for Celestyal Discovery), while for Celestyal Journey was scheduled the 7-night "Persian Odyssey" voyage (Jan 11-18).

Celestyal Journey's "Persian Odyssey" voyage (roundtrip from Doha Qatar) visits Mina Salman/Manama Bahrain, Dubai UAE (overnight), Khasab Oman, Sir Bani Yas Island UAE, and Abu Dhabi UAE.

Celestyal Discovery's "Desert Days" voyage is a roundtrip from Doha visiting Abu Dhabi (overnight), Manama, Dubai, Khasab, Khasab, and Sir Bani Yas.

Running in winter 2024-2025 (November 9th through January 18th), the week-long "Desert Days" can be also booked in smaller itinerary segments (3-4-5-night/4-5-6-day short breaks). Prices for the 7-night voyage started from EUR 1290 pp with double occupancy.

In June 2024, for the Celestyal Discovery ship (acquired from AIDA in 2023-Q3) was announced an Arabian Gulf program scheduled for winter 2025-2026 (December-March) and based on homeporting in Abu Dhabi. The 3-4-night roundtrips visit Doha Qatar, UAE's Sir Bani Yas Island and Fujairah, and Oman's Muscat, and Khasab.

AIDAaura itineraries

The "Heavenly Adriatic," "Summer Heavenly Adriatic," and "Idyllic Aegean" itineraries run from April to October 2024 (Celestyal Journey ship).

(NEW) Adriatic itinerary 2024-2025-2026 (Celestyal Journey ship)

In late November 2023, Celestyal announced a destination expansion by including 3 new countries in Southern Europe/Adriatic Sea (Croatia, Montenegro, Italy).

The new 7-night "Heavenly Adriatic" itinerary introduces 6 new for Celestyal ports - three in Greece (Kefalonia, Kerkyra/Corfu Island, Katakolon/Olympia) as well as Croatia's Dubrovnik/or Split, Montenegro's Kotor, and Italy's Bari/or Marghera/Venice.

The itinerary was incorporated into the 2024-2025 schedule of Celestyal Journey ship, starting on March 2nd (2024). The Adriatic schedule (March, April, and October 2025) lists destinations in Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, and Italy. Besides the 6 maiden ports, the July-August 2025 schedule additionally includes a maiden call to Venice.

Celestyal Cruises related cruise news