GETTY / CELESTYAL
AFTER a night in the beautiful Athens Plaza Hotel, I joined the ship in Piraeus where I was handed a key card which doubled up as the pre-paid pass for the all-inclusive food and drink on board.
As I settled into my plush cabin with its large window and en-suite bathroom, that magical holiday feeling really kicked in.
Luxury living on board the Celestyal Cruises liner, featuring a choice of fine-dining restaurants and bars, a spa, a gym, dazzling evening entertainment and a glamorous pool deck, was what I had to look forward to after days spent soaking up the sights on some of the prettiest Greek islands.
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First stop was cosmopolitan and glitzy Mykonos.
With its myriad of manicured and twisty alleyways featuring luxury boutiques and more rustic jewellery, clothing and art shops, turning each corner was a pleasant surprise.
I headed to the Little Venice area where I had a beer at a seafront bar while enjoying my perfect view of the island’s famous windmills.
Then it was onwards to dinner at the harbourside Vegera restaurant to feast al fresco on the catch of the day, washed down with glasses of Greek rosé.
WHILE I savoured Greek yoghurt and honey at breakfast in the Aegean Restaurant on deck four, the ship docked at the resort town of Kusadasi in Turkey.
I embarked on a tour of the ancient city of Ephesus where St Paul was arrested for preaching to the Ephesians and Cleopatra’s sister was murdered by the agents of Mark Antony.
“Turning each corner was a pleasant surprise.”
Ephesus also boasted the third largest library in the ancient world. The remains are well preserved and there is much to see.
Meanwhile, Tom Jones and Elton John have played concerts in its impressive amphitheatre and, as I slipped past the remains of what was the ancient shopping parade, I was struck by how similar it seemed to our own modern shopping experience – give or take a mosaic or two.
Back on deck, I spent a couple of hours relaxing by the pool with cocktails. This afforded me some pleasant downtime before my visit to Patmos island, where David Bowie spent many summers.
Tour guide Ruud took us to a beautiful beach for a spot of paddling before a quick trip to the famous Monastery of St John, a Byzantine church, with its many frescoes.
Dinner back on board at the Leda buffet that night was made even more magical with the beautiful views over Patmos.
FLINGING back the curtains of my cabin, I was greeted by fine morning sunshine, so I took an iced frappe up to the pool to enjoy the heat.
I was full of anticipation for the day’s excursion to Santorini. It’s a place I had only seen on postcards and always wanted to visit.
After a drive from the harbour around hairpin bends, we reached Oia, with its famous white and blue painted buildings carved into the rocks and where newly-married couples pose for photographs. I strolled through the marble-paved alleys and popped into shops that line the route through the town.
I grabbed a table at the cliff-edge Thalami restaurant, famous for its fine tomato fritters and fava bean paste and views of the houses that cascade down the cliff towards the sea. I then took a cable car ride back to the harbour. As desserts were served back at the Aegean restaurant on the Celestyal Olympia, our waiter, Rony, serenaded diners with the Elvis classic Always on my Mind.
Better still, I was later entertained by the Mythologia dance and acrobat show.
Back in Athens, with time to kill before my flight, I enjoyed a coffee under the Parthenon and a walk around the old town. A magical finale to my Greek odyssey.
■ CELESTYAL Cruises offer an Iconic Aegean three-day cruise to four Greek islands and Ephesus on board Celestyal Olympia.
Prices are from £397pp on a full-board basis, including unlimited drinks package and two shore excursions.
To book visit Celestyalcruises.uk or call +30 216 400 9999.
Return flights from Heathrow to Athens are from £239 with Aegean Airways. Book at aegeanair.com.