- 106.5m | Olympic Yacht Services | 1997 (2018)
When speaking with Captain Nikolaos Psallidas, his passion for his job is abundantly clear. Having spent more than 15 years at sea, Captain Psallidas is a loyal captain who sees both his guests’ and crew’s needs as his highest priority.
Heading up Dream – which he describes as a ‘floating palace’ - and its crew of 32, Captain Psallidas loves providing guests with one-of-a-kind experiences, be it a dance party on a private island or a romantic-dinner for two on a secluded beach under the stars.
“The beautiful thing is that we don’t really feel as if we have gone above and beyond,” he explains. “We are just thankful that all the stars aligned and both us and, most importantly our guests managed to experience these amazing moments.”
Here Captain Psallidas talks us through an incredible charter on board Dream, from its plethora of water toys to the myriad of different experiences that guests can enjoy during their trip.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into yachting?
I was born in Athens. I have had a love of the sea from a young age, so I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and initially joined merchant shipping. I graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy of Aspropyrgos in Athens and spent the following six years aboard ocean-going container ships, first as a second officer and then as a chief officer.
My thirst for gaining experience in other types of ships took me aboard high-speed ferries where I spent two years sailing Greek waters. On my time off, I also worked as a windsurfing and cat sailing instructor.
In 2007 I decided to make a major career change and joined the yachting industry. My obsession with sailing made it impossible to refuse an offer to command charter SY Callisto, an 80ft classic Nautor’s Swan. After that there was no looking back.
What are some of the yachts you’ve worked on?
The most memorable yacht I worked on was my first command, the SY Callisto I mentioned previously. Apart of being an amazing boat to sail, she was also my entry into the yachting industry which meant a change in my mindset - I suddenly had to become a Jack of all trades as every small yacht captain should be. My next command was MY Obsession, a 36m Baglietto on which I sailed the waters of Croatia and Italy. She made me appreciate the advantage of speed when the charter period is short and you want your guests to experience as many beautiful places as possible in the available time.
I also have great memories of my time on board SY Ellen, a 40m Perini Navi, but the most challenging experience was the transfer of SY Sunset (ex Stavros S Niarchos), a 60 m brig-rigged tall ship, from UK to Greece, during winter. Most of us had no prior experience of sailing a square-rigged vessel so the learning curve was really steep. The conditions were tough but the whole experience was like a time travel to the era of the Clipper ships. It was an eye opener for me and reminded us all to appreciate the safety and comfort that 150 years of technological advancement have brought to our lives at sea.
When did you join Dream?
In September 2018 after a six-month contract on a large sailing boat belonging to the same owner.
How would you describe the owner’s vision for the yacht?
To build the ultimate superyacht based on his vast experience in yachting. He wanted it to be large and comfortable, and to incorporate all the modern features and amenities possible. Her size means she can accommodate up to 36 guests comfortably.
How would you describe the style and personality of Dream?
She is a floating palace with an interior designed to be nautical in its essence, with a contemporary yet classic style. Guests can easily perceive the high quality and attention to detail, but at the same time it is extremely comfortable with an inviting and calm environment.
How would you describe the ambiance on board?
The ambience is formal, as this is the standard approach to the gold service we provide. It’s not stuffy though, and the crew is able to adapt to the guests’ idea of what a good ambience means for them. Sometimes, for example, some of the guests need to unwind and enjoy their privacy in almost complete absence from the crew. They know that they may need to call for service, but they prefer that to having crew around them all the time.
What’s your personal style as captain?
As I originally come from merchant shipping where you spend long periods of time away from your family, I quickly came to realise that the crew is actually my second family for the period I spend on board. They take care of me and our ‘home’, and I take care of them by trying to resolve any personal issues or team problems that may arise. We are very close and we all work hard so that our common project, running this megayacht and ensuring our guests have an amazing time, always leads to a success.
Yachting taught me more about psychology and I quickly learned that the most important thing is to try to understand what the guests need so you can better plan how to effectively provide all those things. The first couple of days of a charter feel like you are on a blind date. You have to listen to what the guests are saying and at the same time you have to prove to them that you are someone they can trust with their wellbeing and their safety. Service is all about caring - caring to provide the guests with the experience of a lifetime.
What’s the best thing about working on Dream?
I definitely appreciate the communication with the owner. Having an owner who is a true yachtsman and has sailed all types of yachts – sail, motor, small, big - for the last 50 years is a blessing. We talk the same language and we both respect the beauty and the force of the elements. His love of off-beat destinations matches mine and therefore the places we usually sail to are places I would visit on my own. With respect to the yacht itself, I can only say that she provides me with a lot of confidence.
What are some of her standout features?
For starters, the fact that we can accommodate 36 guests. Another special feature is our Japanese-style dining room complete with teppanyaki grill, as is the expansive atrium which spans four decks and has direct access from the tenders through the side balcony doors.
Then there’s the large diving centre at the stern with an expansive door that opens down creating a 40 square metre terrace on the sea, the huge spa and gym area, the top-quality cinema and large saloons and dining rooms. My personal favourite is the open-air cinema which can be set up in three different locations on the yacht’s exterior. On a calm Mediterranean summer night, if you want to watch a movie what better way to do it than under the stars with the breeze cooling you down and a cocktail in your hand?
Which areas of the yacht do guests most tend to gather on board?
During the day the hotspot is our diving center aft, which opens up to the sea and provides the perfect platform to enjoy watersports.
At night most guests head to the swimming pool deck with its fully equipped bar and observation deck – it’s the perfect place to hang out after dinner. Occasionally guests decide that they have had enough relaxing and throw amazing parties where they dance all night under the stars.
Which types of clients are most attracted to a charter on board?
Big groups of people who also appreciate elegant design and quality.
What types of experiences and facilities do you offer charter guests?
We do group diving in beautiful places, snorkeling using our two SeaBobs, spear gun fishing, sailing lessons for both adults and youngsters, waterskiing and wakeboarding – and so much more!
Our gym comes fully equipped with state-of-the-art Technogym equipment so our guests can easily follow their normal work out routines. Then there’s the spa area which is equipped with a sauna, a separate steam bath and a jacuzzi, while guests can also enjoy special treatments provided by our professional masseuse. The beauty parlour offers a variety of facial and nail treatments as well as haircuts and hair styling.
How would you describe the style and approach of the crew?
Our crew is characterized by their high level of professionalism but also their ability to care for every guest’s needs. The clients’ wellbeing is what drives us to perform our best during the charters. We also do our best to motivate guests to try out different activities and also to discover the hidden gems of the places we visit. We feel that yachting is all about discovering new places and enjoying the beautiful nature surrounding us.
Please share some examples where you and your crew have gone above and beyond to make the guest experience as special as possible.
Organising a full moon beach party with BD and the works, or an impromptu little ‘sirtaki’ dance party at the pier of Thira in Santorini at midnight are just a couple of the memories that come to mind. The beautiful thing is that we don’t really feel as if we have gone above and beyond, we are just thankful that all the stars aligned and both us and, most importantly, our guests managed to experience these amazing moments. These memories will always put a big smile on our faces and bring warmth to our hearts.
Are there any interesting personalities or talents among the crew?
Dancing is certainly an area where some of our stewardesses excel - it certainly helps them unwind! Our crew loves to throw the occasional karaoke party with some of them playing the guitar or the tambourine too.
How are the yacht and the crew prepared to accommodate children and teenagers on charter?
Our goal is to have the youngsters as close to the water for as much time as possible, keep them active and introduce them to all the water sports available on board. Most of them seem to love the towable water toys, but we have three sailing dinghies available as well as two surfboards and we love to give them sailing lessons. In the beginning, those with no prior experience find it intimidating but once they get the hang of it you can’t wipe the smile off their faces.
A number of popular board games are also available as younger kids, and for those who do not wish for a completely screen-free time on board, we have three game consoles with an extensive games library.
Tell us about the toys and tenders – which toys are the most popular with guests?
I would definitely say that the Fliteboard is the one that everybody wants to try. People love the speed and the feeling of flying over the water with their own ‘magic carpet’. The fact that, with a little guidance, they can get airborne in just a couple of hours gives them a sense of accomplishment as well.
Our jet skis are the second most popular, and since we are an RYA recognised training centre, a lot of our guests trust us with their training in order to get more out of the jet skis and do so in the safest way possible.
Scuba diving also draws a crowd as the Mediterranean and especially the Greek waters are full of beautiful diving sites and wrecks to visit. Our certified diving instructor is on hand to make sure that our guests enjoy well planned dives with safety.
What are your usual cruising grounds?
We usually cruise the East Med region, spending most of our time in Greek waters, but we have also extensively cruised the South of France, Italy and Malta.
Which destinations and your personal favourites and why?
I personally love all the offbeat destinations of the Aegean sea, where one can enjoy being away from all the fuss and noise that usually surrounds us in our everyday lives. The smaller the islands the purer they are, and therefore we can focus on enjoying the sea, the cooling breeze and night skies filled with stars.
Milos, Kimolos and Polyaigos is a cluster of islands that provide some amazing scenery and clear turquoise waters. The islands of Sporades are another favourite as they are really green in contrast to the Cyclades, not to mention they also see milder conditions during the peak of the summer season.
As to be expected, Mykonos and Santorini are by far the two most popular destinations and that almost all of our guests ask to visit them during a charter.
What have been some of the highlights or your favourite memories as captain of Dream?
My fondest memory is the summer of 2019 as a whole. It was the yacht’s second season and the owner wanted to enjoy the most of his time on board.