Celestyal Cruises

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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.

Celestyal Cruise Line

What makes all Celestyal cruise 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 cruise liners also have casinos, shops for sundry items, Lido-pool decks and small wellness (spa and gym) complexes.

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 MV Glory Sea) which charter ended in October 2015. Nefeli was homeported in Turkey offering Eastern Mediterranean cruise leaving roundtrip 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 the 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 Coronavirus crisis, Celestyal Cruises 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 March 14, 2022.

Operations were planned to restart on March 6, 2021 (Celestyal Crystal), but rescheduled for May 29 (Celestyal Crystal), June 28 (Celestyal Olympia), 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 are 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 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 cost (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 Olympia (1982-built as Song of America, former names Thomson Destiny and Louis Olympia) operates year-round Mediterranean roundtrips leaving from Greece (Athens) and Turkey (Kusadasi).
  • Thomson Spirit (joined the fleet in 2017) was deployed in the Caribbean for short-break roundtrips out of Havana (3-4-day itineraries). In 2018, the liner was retired and scrapped.

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

Celestyal 2021-2022 cruise itineraries

Following the Coronavirus crisis, in early-April 2021 Celestyal Cruises 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 ThessalonikiMykonosSantorini, 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 features 3x new cruise ports and 2x new itineraries. Maiden port calls are scheduled for Ermoupoli (Syros Island, Greece), Thessaloniki (Greece) and Agios Nikolaos (Crete Greece).

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

Celestyal Crystal offers 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 operates a revised "Eclectic Aegean" itinerary (7-day) in which Heraklion is replaced with Thessaloniki and the ship stays a full day in Santorini's Port Thira. “Eclectic Aegean” is 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).

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 is 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 sails 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.

Celestyal Cruises related cruise news

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