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Celestyal Cruises is introducing Authentic Encounters, a new, small group program that provides intimate, immersive and hands-on shore experiences. The cruise line says this will allow guests to go deeper into a destination and pursue personal passions such as food and wine, art and archaeology, as well as 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.

Kayaking in Greece is on the Authentic Encounters agenda.

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 a visit to the Ktima Gerovassiliou, one of the most reputed wine companies in Greece. 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. 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. There are also hiking and kayaking tours as well as foodie, art and musical experiences.

Passengers can learn to make baklava.

On the Eclectic Aegean itinerary, there is olive oil harvesting in Volos, baklava baking and a gentleman’s hammam experience in Istanbul. There’s also a buggy safari adventure as well as a hands-on workshop in the ancient art of Ebru painting or paper marbling.

“These Authentic Encounters are fantastic,” Leslie Peden, chief commercial officer of Celestyal Cruises, tells Recommend. “You’ve got a lot of multi-generational families traveling, and they are looking to reconnect. Now they can go and do an excursion together and have this great experience.

“For example, you can learn how to play the bouzouki. And the experience includes a talk on the history of the bouzouki and how it plays a part in Greek mythical music. Or they can go and create these beautiful mosaics together. You’ve also got the other extreme, where they can go kayaking together. People don’t automatically think of kayaking and Greece, but there are some phenomenal places to kayak, and even hiking.”

For a complete listing of available shore excursions check out the Authentic Encounters brochure and to book, visit