Colleen Kelly and her family in Kusadasi, Greece. Featured in Family Travel with Colleen Kelly.

The perfect family vacation to explore the Greek islands this year with your family.


Recently, I decided to go to Greece with my family. During initial planning, I knew we would fly into Athens and use that as our gateway to explore the Greek islands. I researched flights to three islands, but they were costly, and not enough flights per day went in and out of these small islands. Then, I researched the Greek ferries. The average ferry would take 8 hours or more, and the high-speed ones took 3 or 4 hours. Trying to coordinate these ferries was just not worth it to me.


Finally, I looked up cruising the Greek islands, and I had found my solution. Who wouldn’t want to wake up every morning in a different enchanting and gorgeous Greek island?


If you’re looking to explore the most beautiful and stunning islands of Greece, then look no further than Celestyal Cruises.

Celestyal Cruises ship out on the water.

We decided on the Greek-owned cruise line of Celestyal Cruises because they had a medium-sized ship—not gigantic like some of the very large cruise line ships. Yet, it still was big enough to have all of the amenities you would like on a cruise. Plus, the ship could dock closer to the islands, and, on some islands, they could stay longer than the other cruise lines. So while the other big ships unloaded in the morning and sailed off by 5 p.m., Celestyal Cruises would stay on into the late evening when all of the other tourists had cleared the island.


Also, Celestyal Cruises is a fantastic option for active multigenerational families who have different interests and activity levels but still want to gather in one central location. As for us, it was our family of four, and we decided to take the Celestyal Cruises 7-night Idyllic Aegean Greek island itinerary. We loved the itinerary of the cruise as it took us to 7 gorgeous islands, each one unique in their own landscape and culture.


Bon Voyage from Athens, Greece

We started off our trip in Athens, where we arrived a few nights ahead of the cruise to explore a bit of this ancient city. We also wanted to insure that we didn’t get diverted from our flight and miss the cruise. This is an important tip when departing on a cruise ship.


After exploring Athens for a couple of days, we boarded the ship and went to our cabins where we found our two beautiful staterooms, for my husband and I and our teen daughters, complete with balconies. Though not necessary when taking a cruise, the balcony was a great perk to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or sunset with stunning views of the islands in the evening. The rooms were very well laid out, and we had a king size bed and plenty of storage for our clothes and amenities. Also, we only unpacked once, which is a huge cruising perk!


We then checked out the rest of the ship, which included two dining rooms, a disco, a bar, a pool, a lido deck with casual dining, and even a small casino.  We also went to the excursion desk to sign up for our immersive experiences on the islands, and the options did not disappoint.


Finally, we attended the super exciting Bon Voyage party, and then went to dinner where we had the most amazing cuisine, which was freshly and expertly prepared. The service and the people were so friendly and welcoming.  (Truly, when we left, we felt we were leaving our extended family, from the cabin stewards who we knew by name to the servers and maître d at dinner.)


And with that, we sailed off on our first night filled with excitement about the adventures we would be having. Here is what we experienced on our unforgettable cruise with cultural exploration and crystal blue waters.


Thessaloníki, Greece

Island of Thessaloniki.

After a good sleep, we woke up the next morning to the most beautiful view of the second largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki. We decided to take part in an excursion called the Panoramic Thessaloníki tour. Roughly about 6 hours, this excursion gives you a beautiful tour of the city while also teaching you about Alexander the Great and many other legendary historical characters, thus providing an education in an entertaining way.


Kusadasi, Turkey

Next up, we set sail for the only Turkish location, the town of Kusadasi. Known for being one of the “largest archeological open air museums in the world” according to the World Tourism Cities Federation, this ancient city of Ephesus did not disappoint. We joined the Celestyal excursion of House Of Virgin Mary & Ancient Ephesus, and we were in awe of the well-preserved ruins of this intellectual city built thousands of years ago. It was one of the highlights of our trip.


We also were honored to visit the House of the Virgin Mary, where it is believed Mary lived out her final years. Several Popes have visited this holy site, and people come from all over the world just to visit this sacred place. We were very grateful to also have that chance to experience it.


Finally, we were able to go to a Turkish bazaar, where we did some shopping and got amazing deals on gifts to bring back home to family and friends. 


Heraklion, Crete, Greece

A stone arch in Crete, Greece.

Heraklion is known for its beautiful rolling hills and mountainous landscape that makes this capital city so magnificent. It is also known for its fresh local cuisine and local culture. We opted for another well-planned and fun Celestyal excursion, Experience The Cretan Countryside And Lifestyle, where we were whisked away to experience the majestic views of this fruitful land. We arrived at a winery where the owner greeted us all. Then, we had a beautiful tasting of wine and Cretan appetizers while traditionally adorned Cretan dancers performed. It was a lovely taste of Crete.


Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes is another stop on the itinerary and known for the Acropolis of Lindos. It is located within walking distance from the port and has a lot of medieval history, as well as cute little shops and restaurants surrounded by the walls of a fortress. On this trip, the waters were too rough to dock in the port of Rhodes, so Celestyal diverted us to another island, which was lovely as it was full of locals and very little tourists. In fact, we felt like locals ourselves! Celestyal doesn’t disappoint when taking care of their passengers: They make sure they are not only safe, but also find alternatives to keep them exploring the islands. We sure appreciated that so much.


Santorini, Greece

White houses on the waterfront of Santorini, Greece. Featured in Family Travel with Colleen Kelly

The famed Santorini island, formed from volcanoes, is known for its incredibly gorgeous sunsets, winding streets, and beautiful white-washed houses. Upon visiting Santorini, we chose to play our day by ear (bringing our bathing suits and towels with us) as we heard you could rent a boat in the port and go swimming. So for about $200 (US dollars), we rented a private boat, which took us to a little watering hole so we could dive into the naturally warm water surrounded by volcanic rock. We were all truly thankful for this family experience, as it was unlike anything we had ever done in our lives. Later, we took the ferry up to the top of the island, where the village is, and found a lovely spot to have dinner while watching the famed sunset. A truly magical day in Santorini was had before we boarded the boat later in the evening to head to the other well-known island of Mykonos.


TIP: You can also book an excursion to Oia for sunset, where many of those famous photos you always see of Santorini are taken. Go to the castle ruins to get the best view, but make sure to get there an hour or two ahead of the sunset to get the best shots.


Mykonos, Greece

Two young women on the edge of the beach in Mykonos, Greece.

Mykonos turned out to be, along with Milos, my favorite island. With its famous windmills, cobblestone winding walks, and homes with colorful doors, it truly was something out of a movie. We had our longest time in port here, which gave us time to not only explore the beaches and the island but also the nightlife. Mykonos is known for their nightlife, and they do not disappoint. It was a magical fairytale town that became my favorite island to visit on the cruise!


Milos, Greece

a red 4-seat beach buggy

Milos was my other favorite island. It is small, and a lot of the big cruise lines do not stop here. This is why Celestyal Cruises is so special. I felt like we were stepping into a non-touristy Greek island, and we were! The best part about Milos was that we were told it is best explored by driving a car or an ATV, with an ATV being the preferred choice for many visitors.


However, with two teen girls and a lot of hills to drive over into the countryside, we all decided, as city folk, we weren’t ready for driving four ATVs through an island where we were unfamiliar with the territory. That’s when a little miracle happened: Someone returned a little red 4-seater buggy to the rental car place. We hopped in our red buggy, blasted music, and drove up and down the hills of Milos. Along the way, we discovered the local oceanfront alcoves and beaches where the locals seemed to gather. To top it off, we went swimming as a family.


There is also the option of booking a full-day Nostalgic Milos Cruise – Land & Sea excursion, complete with a visit to the famous Sarakiniko beach, a boat tour, and swimming in the ocean through sea caves, which I have heard from friends is fabulous, as well.


Sailing Back Home

All in all, if you are thinking of the Greek islands for a family, as a couple, or with a friend, I personally recommend Celestyal Cruises. Their well-appointed cabins with panoramic views, culinary dining options which feature both Greek and international cuisines that are locally sourced, their nightly entertainment and live shows each evening, and their incredibly friendly and attentive staff make this cruise line truly stand out among the others.


Plus, they have a brand new ship launching in 2024 for this exact itinerary called the Celestyal Journey, which holds 1,260 passengers and has 7 restaurants and bars, beautiful suites, 2 swimming pools, a casino, full gym, spa, and an entire deck devoted to heath and well-being. It is going to be a very popular ship and great for couples and families alike!


As a family, we will never forget our trip to the Greek islands on Celestyal Cruises. Thank you, Celestyal. You helped us create a lifetime of memories, and, for that, we are truly thankful. We can’t wait to book our next trip again!


Photo credits: Colleen Kelly

Updated December 20, 2023.


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