At the end of June 2021, I was lucky to receive an assignment to sail aboard Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, the Celebrity Apex for its Greek Islands and Cyprus cruise as a paid guest speaker for their onboard Enrichment Program.
It was Celebrity Cruises’ maiden voyage for this itinerary and an exciting time for both the crew and passengers, yet in these new travel times, strict procedures had to be adhered to to ensure smooth sailing and an enjoyable time for all.
Here’s what I learned about cruising the Greek islands in these times with Celebrity Cruises onboard the Apex.
Entry Requirements For U.S. Citizens To Greece
I am a UK citizen who lives in Greece and have been here since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Greece has handled the COVID-19 situation very well and since its inception, has recorded just over 512,000 cases and roughly 13,000 deaths in a country with a population of nearly 11 million.
Since Greece opened up for travel again in 2021, the following rules apply to U.S. citizens coming into the country:
- A PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arriving into Greece.
- A PLF (Passenger Locator Form) filled out no more than 48 hours upon arrival in Greece.
- Masks to be worn whenever inside a building such as the airport, supermarket, etc., with the exception of sitting down to eat. But to sit inside a restaurant, proof of vaccine must be provided.
More detailed information can be found from the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Greece and should be consulted as the rules are very fluid due to the nature of this virus, and are constantly being updated.
Cruise Boarding Procedures
To board a Celebrity Cruises ship in Greece there are similar requirements, but also extra ones to follow. Celebrity maintains it will sail with a fully vaccinated crew and at least 95 percent vaccinated passengers.
Celebrity Cruises has a very smooth boarding procedure at the cruise port in Piraeus and it’s advisable to download the Celebrity Cruises app to your smartphone so you can check into your cruise and receive the QR code to show the staff once you arrive at the port.
After being dropped off by my taxi, my luggage was helpfully whisked away and would be available for me in my cabin — Celebrity provides you with printable luggage tags pre-trip for this purpose.
I was required to go to an outdoor tented area first where my QR Booking Code was scanned and vaccination certificate checked. Then I was required to head further into the tent where we waited for our complimentary antigen test to be administered and given a ticket with a number to wait for the results.
As I waited for my ticket number to appear on the screen, I was provided with water and cooling towels — it was unusually hot at this time of year and they were certainly welcomed! Within 10 minutes, my number was called and, thankfully my antigen test was negative so I could board the ship and look forward to the days ahead.
In true Celebrity style, as I boarded, I was given a round of applause from the crew waiting to greet passengers — an added touch that proved to me the days ahead with this ship and crew would be eventful.
Daily Life On Board
Celebrity Apex, as with many of its ships, sailed at less than 50 percent capacity to ensure enough cabins were available as “quarantine cabins,” should anyone become sick on board.
With 16 guest decks, although a truly spacious ship anyway, this sailing at less than full capacity meant I had the opportunity to escape for more privacy — whether that would be in one of its 29 restaurants, bars, and lounges or by the pool. I enjoyed mingling when I wanted to, or finding a quiet spot rather than feeling I had to confine myself to my cabin for privacy.
On that note, in these unprecedented times, it’s necessary to wear your mask on board the ship at all times and keep a good 6 feet distance from other guests. Celebrity helpfully provides you with hand sanitizer and masks for this purpose — it’s always good to bring your own, too.
Worth knowing is that the currency on board is the U.S dollar and if you register your credit card on the app before traveling, no money needs to part hands while onboard — but do watch your spending through your online account!
Entertainment On Board And Enrichment Program
One thing’s for sure, you’ll never get bored on a Celebrity Cruise! All cruise ships are known as floating hotels and the Celebrity Apex was no exception. Unique shows such as the rock history Rockumentary, Tree of Life — an uplifting journey through the seasons of life and Crystallize — electrifying pop violin music, took place in the state-of-the-art and most technologically advanced theater of all of their ships.
With the many bars and smaller meeting rooms with various quiz shows, or a trip to the casino – Celebrity Apex and the cruise around the Greek islands never left you short of something to do.
I was honored to be asked to come aboard and take part in its Enrichment Program, which entailed giving two talks and a Q&A session about life in Greece and specifically for me, talking about my novel since it has a Greek theme.
I was also thrilled to be asked to appear on the ship’s television before each port to help introduce the destination and offer some insider knowledge to the Greek islands and ports of call. As I love this country, it was a pleasure to inform guests and help them see Greece through my eyes.
My Greek islands cruise with Celebrity Apex went from the Athens port of Piraeus to the port of Limassol in Cyprus, then back via Rhodes, Santorini, and Mykonos. With a short time in each port, Celebrity made the best of this by offering a selection of really condensed Tours and Sightseeing trips especially for its passengers, bookable on board and to help them get the most out of the time onshore.
For me, because I am familiar with the destinations and because the weather was so hot I decided to use my time to just relax onboard and enjoy the facilities such as the spa or the pool. If you’re unfamiliar with a destination though, I would urge you to book at least a short tour to get the highlights.
Best Time Of Year
Talking of booking tours, as I mentioned, the time of year I went — the end of June 2021 was unusually hot and humid, hence I didn’t want to take too many trips ashore. This could affect when you choose to take your cruise. I’d check the Celebrity website to see when they operate.
For me, the best season is spring or fall up until the end of September, even into October if the cruise is operating around the islands because it’s cooler and less busy.
Having never been on a Celebrity Cruise before, I have to say I was impressed with Celebrity’s professionalism, COVID-19 protocols, and ability to make passengers feel genuinely welcome.
There is, however, much more to Greece than Santorini and Mykonos — for example, these 7 Best Island Day Trips from Athens show you some of the lesser-known Greek islands and prove you don’t need to travel far from the capital to enjoy a Greek island.
Why not spend some time having a city break in the capital and treat yourself to one of these 7 Incredible Boutique Hotels to Stay In Athens before heading off on your Greek island cruise?
Greece has many beautiful islands and cities to explore: