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Crown Cruise Vacations | August 20, 2018

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Shore Excursion: Arriving in Athens for night before Celestyal Olympia cruise

Shore Excursion: Arriving in Athens for night before Celestyal Olympia cruise
Jackie Sheckler Finch

If I could give one piece of advice to fellow cruisers, it would be to arrive in your cruise departure city at least a day ahead of the cruise.

As Geoffrey Chaucer said, “Time and tide wait for no man.”

Or woman.

Flights can be delayed or cancelled so it is best not to plan to arrive the day of a cruise, especially when it is an international flight to board a cruise ship. I’ve been on cruises where a passenger didn’t arrive on time and the ship had to sail anyway. Sometimes a delayed passenger can catch up with a ship at its next stop but what an expensive hassle that could be.

All was well on my flights from Indianapolis to Athens, Greece, for my “Iconic Aegean” cruise on the M/V Celestyal Olympia.

I flew Air Canada for a 90-minute flight from Indy to Toronto, then connected for an almost 10-hour flight to Athens. Doesn’t seem like sitting could be so tiring but it is.

Even though I slept most of the way, I was worn out when I arrived in Greece and checked into the impressive Athenaeum InterContinental Hotel. As part of my trip, I am spending one night in the hotel before my cruise and one in the hotel after the cruise. Wonderful plan!

Built in 1982 and renovated in 2009, the hotel is sleek and modern with interesting art work. It is also very clean and staffed by friendly courteous folks. The 5-star hotel offers 543 guestrooms on nine floors.

I settled into my comfy room about noon, checked my email, took a nap, a shower and a slow stroll around the Athens hotel area. Then I met up with fellow passengers to walk about 10 minutes to the Hytra restaurant for a leisurely dinner.

Located on the rooftop seventh floor of the Onassis Cultural Centre, Hytra offers classic Greek recipes prepared in an open kitchen. The name “Hytra” refers to the Greek word for a cooking pot.

The Michelin star restaurant is known for its spectacular setting and its contemporary take on traditional Greek dishes made with local fresh ingredients.

Since I don’t eat airplane food, I was really hungry for the five-course dinner which started with chilled cucumber soup. Next was a green salad, then asparagus with sea greens, rocket and roasted hazelnuts. The entrée was sea bass with orzo pasta scented with wild fennel and fish roe. A decadently delicious chocolate pie was dessert.

Another 10-minute walk back to the InterContinental and I was ready for bed. No need to even unpack.

From my hotel room and from the Hytra restaurant, I could see the awesome Acropolis and Parthenon watching over the city. I’ll visit those after my cruise but, as another traveler said, those historic sites are an awesome reminder that we are in an ancient cradle of civilization.

Tomorrow, I’ll have breakfast at the hotel, check out and meet in the lobby for a short van ride to the port of Piraeus to board the Celestyal Olympia. I’m leaving my hotel room draperies open tonight so I can bask in the moonlight glory of Athens.

Now that’s the way to start a cruise.

Story and Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch