Elixir Cruises MS Elysium
Description: MS Elysium aerial view I Location: Sikinos I Date: September 2021 I Copyright: SHIPS@SEA

MS Elysium: Boutique cruising for the soul

Getting lucky in these special times is not always easy. Neither for each individual privately, nor is it easy for a cruise line to have a „fortunate hand“ in business. The Corona pandemic has been a multifaceted challenge for a long time.

A new cruise star is born

It is therefore all the more gratifying that since late summer 2021 there has been a Greek „place of happiness“ in the form of the cruise ship MS Elysium. Like the name of the ship, the name of the shipping company is also taken from mythology: „Elixir“ Cruises means something like a substance with magical qualities that prolongs life and energizes. The young, exclusive cruise line based in Athens has set its sights high and has bravely entered the cruise market with already experienced staff. What was once only a marginal note is nowadays a considerable commitment that even large cruise lines hardly dare to make at present.
Before Elixir Cruises could set sail on its maiden voyage with the newly renovated Elysium, there were a few barriers to overcome: Celebrity Cruises previously used the ship, built in Spain in 1998, as MS Celebrity Experience for Galapagos expeditions in the Pacific. After the purchase by the Greeks, the small ship made the grand voyage from its previous area of operation to its new home port in Athens. Due to Corona, there were already delays here, which did not diminish during the shipyard period in Perama, Greece. Therefore, the premiere of the Elysium had to be postponed again and again until it could be successfully launched at the end of August.

Lavrion is calling for boarding

Since so much mythical promise can only be good, we board the boutique ship and immerse ourselves in the Greek world of the Cyclades. The small and smallest island pearls offer mythology and magic par excellence – we are very excited about the symbiosis between ship and land. The planned itinerary is so colourful, varied and primordially Greek that it is hard to believe which islands and places we are to experience within a week: Cape Sounion, Sifnos, Milos, Kimolos, Ios, Santorini, Schoinousa, Koufonisia, Despotiko Anti-Paros, Naxos, Delos, Mykonos, Serifos and Kythnos. These are the planned key dates that want to be filled with life – with experience.

The cruise starts in Lavrion, which is relatively far outside Athens and best reached by taxi. The journey there takes about 1:20 hours from the city centre and about 30 minutes from the airport. The cosy marina can easily be walked around – several tavernas invite you to refresh yourself. Some large cruise ships are idle in the harbour and will not set sail until further notice. However, the smallest and most exclusive ship is ready for boarding and departure on time: MS Elysium. It is obligatory for every guest to pass a Covid antigen rapid test before they can consider themselves healthy and blissfully happy and board the ship via the stern gangway.
We are personally shown the way to our cabin and shortly afterwards the emergency rescue exercise takes place in the lounge.

Captain Anargyros holds the drill himself and takes the opportunity to greet his 25 passengers of international origin. Finally, with a wink, he announces the most important thing: the WiFi code for free internet on board to keep in touch with loved ones back home.

Short haul sail away

Before the lines are cast off, we have a moment to explore the outside decks and public areas. The first impression is convincing: a feel good ambience is spread by warm colours, wood and the maritime reference to the water.

The first hop is short: Cape Sounion with the Temple of Poseidon, visible from afar, is reached after a good hour’s journey and we set anchor directly in front of the sublime temple. The offered swimming stop is enthusiastically accepted by the guests and quite a few jump directly into the refreshing waters of the Aegean Sea.

While the sun sinks into the sea in a postcard-perfect way, we raise anchor – with finger food and a welcome cocktail, heading for Delos and Mykonos: the routing is adjusted due to stronger winds and therefore we spend this night at sea. Part of the Elixir concept is, that there is usually no dinner on board, as the ship is mostly in port in the evening. This gives guests the opportunity to experience the local cuisine individually. The concept is not only enthusiastically accepted by us, but obviously also positively perceived by the fellow passengers. On embarkation evening, however, the galley on board does not remain cold: an appealing 5-course menu is served by the attentive service crew.

Ancient Delos attracts the Elysium guests

After a relaxing night on board – the beds are extremely comfortable (!) – we experience a sensational sunrise the next morning abeam Mykonos, before we anchor on the neighbouring island of Delos. For the crew, however, the morning has its pitfalls: the engine of the Zodiac just won’t start. Without further ado, the Zodiac is hoisted back on board and a replacement engine is brought in and connected: the Elysium crew is obviously prepared for imponderables and gets them under control immediately. We still have enough time to explore the island, which is recognised as a World Heritage Site. Access is only granted to ships that have a special permit for landings – overnight stays are completely forbidden on Delos. The visitor is offered a breathtaking, extremely extensive and excellently preserved archaeological site.

SHIPS@SEA tip: be sure to climb to the top of the hill and enjoy a fantastic 360° panorama.

Back on board, a delicious buffet is offered and best enjoyed aft on the spacious outdoor terrace overlooking the Greek islands. In a short hop back to Mykonos, MS Elysium drops anchor in Ornos Bay and we easily tender ashore with the Zodiac.

Mykonos delights with its kitesurfers as well as with its „evergreens“: the windmills and „Little Venice“. What would a perfect day like today be without a sunset in front of this panorama?
Past midnight does the journey at sea continue: our new destination is an extended swim stop in the morning off Sikinos island. We reach the almost uninhabited spot in late summer sunny weather and have plenty of time to make extensive use of the water sports offered on board, such as kayaking, SUP, snorkelling and swimming.

If you like adrenaline in your blood, the captain personally encourages you to jump into the water: either from a deck height of about 5m or 8m. We didn’t miss this „kick“ – but 5m is enough for now…

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Intimate ship behind the scenes

The boutique ship for a maximum of 50 guests comes with an authentic Greek charm that is very endearing. This makes up for the one or other little thing that is not (yet) perfect on board the young company, such as the missing mini-gym. Its exceptionally dedicated, open-hearted crew looks after every guest with a spirit that is rarely found at sea. The motley crew on board of 27 comes from „near“ such as Greece and Egypt, and „far“ such as Indonesia, Cuba and Ukraine. The chemistry on board is right and together everything is done to offer all guests a wonderful journey.

All doors are opened for SHIPS@SEA and we go on an exclusive behind-the-scenes discovery:

Bridge tour

On the spacious bridge, Captain Anargyros – he has been a sailor for 47 years – explains his Elysium and its nautical equipment to us. This consists of the most modern technology as well as traditional mechanical back-up devices, such as the emergency telephone to the engine room. We learn that even on a smaller ship everything necessary exists and that it is steered exclusively manually – there is no autopilot.

The captain reports that MS Elysium is a robust ship, but does not have stabilisers or a bow thruster for manoeuvring. Therefore, it may occasionally be necessary to call on tug assistance. In order to provide guests with the best possible travel experience, attention is paid to calm weather conditions and, if necessary, the routing is proactively adjusted.
The view glides down to the spacious foreship, which also accommodates the water sports equipment. Just in case, there is also a spare anchor „at hand“ and the anchor chain brakes are operated manually by the crew.

Mooring deck & stearing gear

Well guided by the chief engineer, the mooring deck at the stern serves us via a „manhole“as access point to reach the steering gear . There is not much space down here, but it is easy to see how the Elysium double rudder is mechanically connected and hydraulically controlled. The two ship’s shafts turning at about 1000rpm are invisible below the stearing gear. They motor the two 4-blade Elysium-propellers.

Energizing centre: The engine department

The hidden heart of the ship is – of course – the engine room. On the lowest deck, it extends over almost the entire ship and amazes with its spaciousness. Chief Engineer Issa takes SHIPS@SEA into his realm and shows us many technical details of MS Elysium.

Seven other engineers from Egypt work with him in the engine department and maintain all the ship’s systems. Original systems such as the two main engines, each with eight cylinders and 1500KW output, or the emergency telephone – counterpart to the bridge – are just as present as modernised systems. Air-conditioning, generators and piping are particularly noteworthy here. The engine crew, under the direction of their experienced chief, carries out all necessary maintenance and repairs on board to ensure smooth ship operation.

Visiting the chef

One deck above the engine room is the galley, where things are hot almost all day: the team of chef Ersi and cook Ahmed work from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. to spoil the guests and keep the crew going. „Good food – good mood“ is the motto that runs like a thread through the day.

Once the selected ingredients have made it from the fridge to the plate via the various preparation stations, they face a lift ride before arriving at the hungry guest’s seat as an exquisite dish. The simple crew mess serves the crew as a quick snack in between meals: but be careful – if you eat too much, you might be weighed on the historic-looking scale…

MS Elysium at a glance

Passengers have four public decks at their disposal: „Ammos“ is the lower Main-Deck which offers the modernised cabins in three different categories – all with portholes. The Weather Deck above houses the public areas of the Elysium: the lounge in the bow is attractively designed and is used by many travellers for reading, chatting or working. Midship is the reception with a small library selection, as well as the Elixir brand boutique. A bar with complimentary coffee, tea and cakes is available to all guests 24/7. The on-board restaurant with buffet area offers a tasteful setting for all passengers in one sitting. The timeless stern bar with lounge area and alfresco dining option captivates with its 270° sea view: a place you simply love to be.

The „Astra Deck“ above offers the ship’s highest quality cabins with plenty of space and large windows. The port cabins are the largest on board; in addition, two cabins offer a wonderful view over the bow. A special feature for a ship of this size is the Gemaya Spa, which offers an extensive range of massages and other treatments. The outside deck area houses the two Zodiac’s, as well as the lifeboats.

The bridge is located on the sundeck. Behind, a large open deck area with comfortable loungers under sun sails invites you to chill out. Twice a day – weather permitting – yoga classes are offered here by resident-trainer Ainola from Greece, and are well received by the guests. The Jacuzzi mini-pool is another special feature for our small ship, but it cannot be used due to the current Corona restrictions.

Onboard delights

Onboard prices reflect the boutique character of the ship: an Elixir burger from the room service menu costs 18€, cocktails at the bar 9€, soft drinks 4€, wine by the glass 8€ and draught beer 4,50€. Espresso at breakfast costs extra, as does freshly squeezed orange juice – but other juices at breakfast are included. Drinking water is available free of charge at several points on the ship along with your own Elixir aluminium bottle for re-use.

Spa prices are on a ship’s standard level and range from €15 (manicure) to €120 (90′ Balinese body massage) depending on the programme and duration.

The staterooms, with the latest air-conditioning, make a tasteful impression, offer plenty of storage space and a minibar that is the same price as the ship’s bar. High-quality beds allow for a great night’s sleep and the window blinds perfectly darken the cabin – if desired. The bathrooms are spacious, but offer little storage space. Showering in rough seas means risking flooding the bathroom as water easily finds its way out of the shower. No paper of any kind (!) may be thrown into the on-board toilet system, which is unusual for a ship. Plenty of European standard sockets, a hairdryer, flatscreen TV and a comfortable bathrobe round off the cabin equipment.

The „COVID thing“

„Covid-19“ is not an overly big issue on board, by the way: all documents are checked at embarkation and another quick test is done before boarding. During the voyage, the crew wears masks and guests are only supposed to do so inside the ship if the distance from each other cannot be maintained. Shore excursions are organised or, fortunately, also possible individually. The latter is by no means standard at present and therefore all the nicer to have this freedom with Elixir Cruises. All in all, „Covid“ is handled with confidence.

Let´s talk aboard: the Elixir co- founder with SHIPS@SEA

The co-travelling Managing Director and co-founder of Elixir Cruises Ioannis Terdimos talks to us about his young cruise line, founded in 2020: „To do something different from others“ is his intention: an ocean voyage in a small circle without constraints, but with a lot of relaxation is to immerse guests in his boutique world. In addition to the generally relaxed atmosphere without any dress code, longer and later dining times are offered. Whenever the weather permits, dining is done outside on deck – there is room for all the ship’s passengers and the Greek islands provide the framework.

Discreet music, which sometimes invites you to dance under the stars, accompanies your stay on board. There are practically no announcements – on purpose, as owner Ioannis points out. Information of any kind is passed on personally by the staff and underlines the individual Elixir style, which generally knows no strict rules on board. If you like, you can even look over the captain’s shoulder now and then in his realm and deepen your own nautical knowledge. Extensive swimming stops are just as much a part of the cruise with Elixir Cruises as visits to almost unknown (dream) islands. On the evening before departure, no suitcases have to be left in front of the cabin and disembarkation takes place in a relaxed manner until 10 a.m. after breakfast. „Stress on board? No way!“ emphasises the company boss. We feel the same way on this cruise.

During the renovation, much of what is „invisible“ to passengers was renewed: the engine room and the bridge were modernised, as were new water pipes and a lot of electrical equipment throughout the ship, and a completely new air-conditioning system was installed. Absolutely visible, on the other hand, are new carpets, completely new furniture, as well as comfortable beds and an extensive selection of pillows. All bathrooms have been given a fresh look; the tasteful Elixir design style can be found stringently on board. However, we still have to do without a fitness room on board, explains owner Ioannis – the completion was delayed at the shipyard.

The shipowner confirms that the modernisation of the ship will continue during the winter lay-up period. At the same time, for the coming winter programmes, the area of operation will be expanded to include voyages to the Red Sea and the United Arab Emirates – these itineraries are currently being polished, as are themed cruises for the summer of 2022 in Greek waters.

Weather trade: Cyclades for the Peloponnes

Finally, on our itinerary, picturesque Folegandros awaits us in the late afternoon, offering a fantastic sunset to be enjoyed from the lofty Church of Panagia.

Due to rough weather, our itinerary is changed again and we travel on towards Sifnos during the night. We experience first hand the professional reaction of the crew to changing conditions. In Sifnos we take part in a worthwhile shore excursion, which takes us to the most beautiful places such as the castle of Sifnos, its beaches (Apokofto Beach) and the cosy main town of the island. Afterwards, it is clear: Sifnos is little known, but possibly a Cycladic pearl for that very reason.

Wind and waves are getting stronger and stronger in our area and therefore the further itinerary is completely adjusted, in which we turn off in the direction of Peloponnes. With an atmospheric evening buffet on deck, we leave the port of Sifnos and set course for Monemvasia – a bumpy night ride is on the agenda.

Monemvasia is an impressive castle town only visible from the sea and connected to the mainland by a narrow pathway only. The historic castle town remains one of the country´s best kept secrets and is like a trip back in time: it will mesmerize everybody: promised.

After what feels like a journey back in time to the Middle Ages, we weigh anchor with destination Nafplion and are immediately shaken up – the swell with its 4m high waves and wind force „8“ gets MS Elysium moving – taking a shower is out of the question. Instead, the cosy bed calls and so I am pleasantly lulled to sleep.

Unforeseen final destination

In the ancient capital of Greece, Nafplion, we have a choice: an excursion to Epidaurus or mastering the at least 1000 steps up to the 18th century fortress of Palamidi. We decide on the latter and are rewarded with a phenomenal view over the elegant old town and the sea after the sporty climb.

Poseidon is no longer kind to us: outside the bay of Nafplion, the waves and swells increase to such an extent that we can no longer think of continuing our journey. The captain therefore has to make the unpleasant decision to end the journey. The last two planned islands, Spetses and Poros, are cancelled and we remain in entertaining Nafplion until the day of departure. Elixir Cruises organises the departure by bus to Athens and the airport, so that all guests reach their planned destination without any problems.


Heading for a bright future: Elixir Cruises has introduced a promising, relaxed cruise style with MS Elysium. The entire team on shore and on board is exceptionally committed and strives towards the new boutique ease at sea feeling. Passion and joy for their work is evident throughout the entire crew.

The fact that not everything is 100% perfect immediately does not detract from the travel experience. The twinkling of an eye allow individual solutions to be found between crew and guests if necessary. „Anonymous“ is an unknown word on board: rather, after only a short journey, a warm sense of community develops in which everyone on board participates.

MS Elysium is a very personal ship with a lot of charm and a little patina. The route we finally took, which deviated from the planned one, really showed us the diversity of Greece. We actually leave this maritime place with a nice feeling of happiness and like to come back on board to recharge our batteries again.

MS Elysium – sea you next time.

Advertising: SHIPS@SEA travelled at the invitation of Elixir Cruises and with the support of the extremely helpful crew of MS Elysium.



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