In September 2021, we traveled to Athens, Greece to embark on a 7-night cruise onboard the new Celebrity Apex. This was our first cruise since October 2019 – almost 2 years! And, just as important as enjoying cruising again, we wanted to better understand the new Covid protocols. All of those details are here: Greece & Celebrity Apex, Covid Protocols.
With nearly any international cruise, we recommend flying in at least 1 day before the sailing. This helps prevent those inevitable flight delays or connection problems from spoiling your vacation. It also helps adjust to the local time zone so that you can fully appreciate your first day onboard rather than spending time sleeping. In this case, we opted to overnight in Athens at the beautiful King George Hotel.
From the King George Hotel, we traveled the short distance to the port of Piraeus to board the ship. Having reserved our check-in time before leaving home, this new procedure allowed quick access to the required pre-boarding Covid testing and the other standard check-in items. We were onboard less than an hour after arriving at the pier.
Departing on Saturday, our first port was Mykonos on Sunday. Mykonos was the only port on our 7 night itinerary that required any passengers going ashore be part of a Celebrity Cruises excursion. We opted to stay onboard and explore the ship rather than book an excursion to places we’d seen before.
Monday brought us to Rhodes. Here we opted for a “Small Group Discoveries – Views of Rhodes” excursion. Departing at 9:45 we enjoyed a 45 minute island tour by coach, an hour walking tour of the old gated city followed by lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch we were allowed to leave the excursion for some shopping and return to the ship via a walk around the old marina.
Tuesday was a sea day enroute to Dubrovnik, Croatia. On Wednesday, having already explored the old city of Dubrovnik several years ago, we opted for the “Coastline and Wine Tasting” excursion which took us north from the city through the countryside and small coastal villages.
After another sea day on Thursday, we arrived in Santorini on Friday. Having explored Santorini on several past cruises, we opted for on-our-own touring to Oia, the small village on the north edge of the caldera. We enjoyed our day exploring the maze of passage ways in one of the most beautiful villages of Santorini.
And then, almost feeling like we should just be getting started, we were back in Athens on Saturday for disembarkation and our return trip to the US. This was perhaps the best cruise we’ve ever taken – excellent food, wonderful service and exceptional entertainment. We were among just 1100 passengers (2900 capacity) and nearly the same number of crew. The crew onboard was obviously overjoyed to be back to work and were friendly, upbeat and couldn’t do enough to show their enthusiasm.
Each of the ports were also wonderful – quiet from a lack of tourists, but nearly all shops, restaurants and tour operators were open and welcoming. While there were obvious pandemic protocols enforced, the overall feel of the experience was exceptional, and not unlike any other cruise we’ve enjoyed. Traveling with 100% vaccinated crew and passengers gave us a real sense of security in our “bubble”, and left us feeling more confident than shopping in a local supermarket or attending a sports or concert event back home.
Overall this was an amazing experience. The new Celebrity Apex is beautiful, her crew enthusiastic, the Greek Islands never disappoint, all of our flights departed early and arrived earlier, the Athens hotel was over-the-top posh and we learned a lot about the new “normal” of international vacation travel. Regardless of when you decide to travel, rest assured that the experience will be exceptional, the protocols are working and you’ll have a great time, just as you did pre-pandemic. Safe Travels!
The Celebrity Apex and her sisters, the Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Beyond sail to these destinations: