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ATHENS, GREECE – Celestyal Cruises, the award-winning, number one choice for cruise travelers to the Greek Islands and the Eastern Mediterranean, is pleased to announce the introduction of a new, small group shore experience program – “Authentic Encounters.” The new intimate, immersive and hands-on shore excursions allow guests to go deeper into a destination and pursue personal passions such as food and wine; art and archaeology; culture and active adventure pursuits. The shore excursions are offered in ports in Greece and Turkey and range in size from two to 20 participants. The excursions start at $84 per guest.
Sample “Idyllic Aegean” Itinerary Experiences Range from Wine Tasting in Thessaloniki, Hiking in Santorini and Pottery Making in Rhodes to Home Cooking in Mykonos and Sea Kayaking in Milos
On Celestyal’s popular “Idyllic Aegean” itinerary, the new “Authentic Encounters” program includes added options such as a wine tour of the Epanomi Hills region of Thessaloniki and visit to the Ktima Gerovassiliou, one of the most reputed wine companies in Greece where they have been making wine for more than 40 years. Wine aficionados will join a local wine expert on a production and tasting excursion of local varietals and rare vintages along with a visit to the region’s dedicated wine museum. For “art and culture vultures,” Celestyal is offering a hands-on pottery making experience in Rhodes where pottery has played a significant role in early Greek history and culture. The ancient Greeks used ceramic vessels in every aspect of their daily lives, for storage, carrying, mixing, serving, and drinking, and as cosmetic and perfume containers. At the Bonis Ceramic Factory guests will learn out about the various techniques adopted in pottery making, and following a demonstration from one of the craftsmen, guests will be invited to make their own ceramic item and have it shipped home.
While many flock to Santorini and the town of Oia, known for its spectacular sunsets, few take the more adventurous path here. The new guided hiking tour of Santorini does just that by walking along a natural trail beginning at Imerovigli and passing abandoned chapels, with stunning views of the caldera along the way and the islands of Nea, Kameni, Palea Kameni and Thirasia on the horizon. The climb ends high up on the ridge of red rocks, hanging over the caldera with a panoramic view of Santorini’s whitewashed houses and colorful rooftops. In Santorini, music and mythology lovers are in for a special treat. Celestyal takes guests to Megalochori, a remarkably preserved village of Cycladic and neoclassical architecture, for a special music and mythology experience. A stroll through the rustic streets past homes dug into the volcanic rock leads to the Symposion Music and Mythology Cultural Center housed in a former winery for a one-of-a-kind presentation and participatory musical journey with mythological narration and fifteen hand-crafted wind and string instruments.
In Mykonos, foodies will be able to experience legendary Myconian hospitality in an exclusive home cooking class. Guests will be hosted in a traditional homestead or Spiti, for a lively Greek cooking experience. The class begins with a tour of the kitchen and garden and an informative session on how to cultivate one’s own vegetables year-round. This will be followed by a masterclass on how to make a Greek spinach pie, stuffed tomatoes and peppers and the famous Greek dip, tzatziki. Afterwards, participants will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor during a lunch complemented with locally produced wine. For art lovers, Mykonos also offers an opportunity to learn the skill of mosaic making. Mosaic making is said to be one of the earliest art forms still in existence today and an integral part of Greek civilization and culture. Participants will be led by a skilled artisan in creating their own unique work of art to take home as a personal memento of their visit to the island.
In Milos, adventure seekers can explore the coastline of the stunning volcanic island of Milos on a guided kayaking excursion. Paddlers can get up close and personal with the rich geological wealth of Milos including its breath-taking rock formations, deep sea inlets, caves and turquoise crystal-clear Aegean waters. The journey begins at Fyriplaka heading to Gerakas beach (completely inaccessible from the land) with a stop for swimming and to explore a small sea cave. Participants then paddle back towards the famous beach of Tsigrado for a snorkelling stop in a small complex of sea caves. The excursion concludes by paddling back on the sit-on-top kayaks towards the famous beach of Tsigrado (the one with the rope ladder) for a snorkelling stop in a small complex of sea caves.
Kayakers might also want to explore the “pirate coves,” rock formations and sea caves of Rhodes’ spectacular coastline. The excursion is led by expert guides who know the best routes to the tucked away beaches, pointing out the marine life and natural “sculptures” along the way. The excursion starts just 20 minutes from the center of Rhodes at Kathara Beach and includes a visit to the famous inlet where the popular wartime epic 1961 film “The Guns of Navarone” was filmed starring Anthony Quinn (also the star of “Zorba the Greek”), Gregory Peck and David Niven. Participants will enjoy panoramic vistas of stunning rock formations before venturing into hidden sea caves along the coast. There is also a chance to swim or snorkel in the clear blue Mediterranean waters. Olive Oil Harvesting in Volos, Baklava Baking and A Special Gentleman’s Hammam Experience in Istanbul Round Out New Experiences on the “Eclectic Aegean” Itinerary.
On Celestyal’s “Eclectic Aegean” itinerary, guests can explore the mountainous Pelion peninsula on Volos. From its snowy mountains to beautiful beaches, Pelion has been untouched by mass tourism and is home to some of the most fertile land and some of Greece’s best olive oil or “liquid gold” as the locals refer to it. For centuries, olives and olive oil have been an essential in every Pelion home and a source of pride and joy for those who produce it. The exclusive olive oil production and tasting experience begins with a drive along the coastal side of South Pelion. At the village of Koropi, guests will stroll through the olive groves and learn about various olives, the production process, some secrets from the local producer and the chance to participate in the harvest and visit the olive mill and watch the extra virgin olive oil being produced followed by a special tasting.
Among the special new excursions offered in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul is the opportunity to learn the art of baklava making from Nadir Gullu, Istanbul’s “master baklavaci.” Turkish Baklava, also known as Fistikli Baklava or pistachio Baklava is a deliciously rich, buttery, sweet dessert made from phyllo dough, finely ground pistachios, butter, and a syrup made from sugar, water and lemon juice. The family business opened in 1820, and Nadir’s father moved the factory to Istanbul in 1949. Guests will tour the five-story factory across the water from the Topkapi Palace and watch a demonstration of the baklava-making process by the master himself followed by the opportunity to join in and help with the production. This will be followed by a sampling of a variety of Turkish pastries and desserts. Next to Baklava, nothing is more Turkish than the Hammam or Turkish bath, which is a significant part of Turkish culture. A special gentlemen’s wellness and grooming experience in Istanbulat Cemberlitas Hamami, an historic Turkish Bath originally built in 1584 for Nurbanu Sultan, the head of Istanbul’s imperial harem, combines the health benefits of the Hammam’s steam, sauna, body wash and massage with a classic Turkish haircut, shave and shoeshine. For those wishing to express their artistic side, in Istanbul Celestyal offers a hands-on workshop in the ancient art of Ebru painting or paper marbling, which dates back to Seljuk and Ottoman times and was used to produce imperial documents. The craft involves floating colors and creating designs on an aqueous solution and transferring the design to an absorbent material, such as paper or fabric. This time-honored technique has received UNESCO Intangible World Heritage Cultural status. Participants will be able to create their own piece of unique and unforgettable artwork to bring home with them. For visitors to Kusadasi who have perhaps already been and done Ephesus or are thrill seekers looking to see another side of Turkey, Celestyal offers a buggy safari adventure. The buggy safari will take participants on an exciting journey over natural terrain and a fascinating and varied landscape through forests, marches, creeks and back roads, spotting wildlife and enjoying spectacular views of the Aegean along the way.
“Today’s traveler is looking for more immersive and experiential vacation options. We have reimagined our shore excursion program with this in mind and have created a bespoke destination rich program exclusively for smaller groups. This allows us to include more interactive experiences such as art making, cooking and adventure activities, said Leslie Peden, chief commercial officer. “As Greece is Celestyal’s hometown, and we’ve been sailing to Turkey on an ongoing basis longer than any other cruise line, we are uniquely qualified to offer such deep destination enriching experiences that allow for our guests to make memories of a lifetime.”
This is just a sampling of the many new shore experiences being offered. For a complete listing of available shore excursions see the “Authentic Encounters” brochure and to book visit: https://celestyal.com/us/.