I’m a worrier by nature, so although I was very much looking forward to a Greek Isles sailing aboard Celestyal Cruises’ Celestyal Crystal, I was nonetheless anxious about fulfilling the requirements for entry into Greece and the cruise itself.

For me, what was most anxiety-provoking was the fear of the unknown. Although I’ve traveled to Europe countless times, I had yet to do so in the wake of the pandemic.


There was arguably a lot to check off the list of requirements before my July 1 departure from JFK to Greece.

Santorini. (photo via Claudette Covey)

To enter the country, U.S. travelers are required to present one of the following: a vaccination certificate, a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before travel or a negative RAPID antigen test performed within 48 hours before travel.

Travelers are also required to submit an online passenger locator form to enter Greece along with a hard copy of the be presented when checking in at departure airport.

Upon arrival at the Athens International Airport, they must check their mobile phones for an email with a QR code to be scanned to enter the country.

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For the cruise, Celestyal requires a PCR test taken not more than 72 hours prior to departure, and a printout of a public health questionnaire and passenger locator form to be filled out no sooner than 24 hours prior to embarkation.

Beyond fulfilling the pre-trip travel requirements, I also worried that the travel experience would be dampened by COVID-related protocols on land and at sea.

Those concerns were quickly dispelled.

Although Celestyal requires guests to wear masks in all indoor public areas except when eating or drinking, I found I didn’t mind at all.

It felt liberating to be among fellow travelers again. I even found myself forgetting to put my mask on and having to go back to my stateroom to retrieve it.

I also felt that the staff and crew aboard Celestyal Crystal were doing everything in their power to keep guests not only safe but happy as well.

The ship, which carries 1,200 passengers, sailed at approximately 60 percent occupancy, which, for me, was another plus.

Similarly, the destinations we called at were considerably less crowded than during peak seasons prior to the pandemic.

Mykonos. (photo via Claudette Covey)

In the past, I’ve visited such destinations as Santorini and Mykonos where travelers were elbow-to-elbow in the streets.

Yes, there were a fair number of tourists on the islands, but their numbers were not near what they were before the pandemic.

Better still, the trip made me feel as though I had transcended the pandemic.

As a case in point, while sitting on a spectacular stretch beach on the island of Marathi east of Patmos, one of my fellow travelers noted that not one person in our group had mentioned the pandemic.

And that’s because we simply weren’t thinking about it – which was a true gift.

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