Sailing on the world’s largest tall ship, Golden Horizon
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From the tips of
the masts to the depths of the diving pool Golden Horizon offers a unique way
to explore the world, Jeannine Williamson explores it all.
you snore?” asks Craig Smith as I wriggle my way into a wetsuit. It might be a
surprising opening gambit, but my hesitant response that I have allegedly been
known to at times elicits a positive reaction. “That’s good, it means you are
used to breathing through your mouth,” he says with a smile.
I perch on the edge of Golden Horizon’s 4.35 metre dive pool Craig runs through
the equipment and techniques that will come in useful for my taster scuba
diving session, which include pretending to be like a baby orangutan kissing
its mother as I get to grips with getting my lips around the mouthpiece that
will enable me to breathe underwater. A few minutes later we are submerged in
the pool –
a unique feature on the ship and akin to a human aquarium as the glass walls
and base are visible to anyone in the conference room or shop. But I’m far too
engrossed to notice, and Craig’s sense of humour and professionalism makes the
whole thing great fun.
on deck, Craig, who works as a diving instructor on the Costa del Sol, said: “It
is really unusual to have this type of facility on a cruise ship. It gives
beginners loads more confidence to learn in a confined environment than at sea
and passengers can go on to take a PADI course during their cruise combining dives
in the pool with sea dives.”
joined Golden Horizon’s inaugural sailing along the British coast before the
vessel follows the wind, ocean currents and sun to different climes. The pool
is one of the many experiences that make this a one-of-a-kind vessel. Operated
by new line Tradewind Voyages, the vessel is the world’s largest square-rigged
sailing ship with five masts soaring towards the sky to a height of 62 metres
and 35 sails totalling 6,400 square metres – enough to cover a football pitch.
conditions allow, Golden Horizon is propelled by the wind to speeds of up to 17
knots, faster than it can achieve under engine power. I never tire of watching
the crew members set the sails; an operation involving, to the unqualified eye,
an intricate web of ropes – or lines to give them their nautical name – and winches. It
is a truly spectacular sight.
the outside, Golden Horizon, which was built at the Brodosplit Shipyard in Croatia,
is a near replica of the 1913-built ocean vessel, France II. Inside the surprising
capacious and almost Tardis-like there is an expanse of gleaming wood and
shining brass fittings that combine retro nautical styling with modern day
Far more than just a
means of getting from A to B, the experience is based around the ship. Indeed,
some passengers preferred to stay on board at various ports of call rather than
opt for the excursions offered in every port.
In keeping with the
whole character of the ship, the daily activities, of which there are plenty,
are low-key. You can expect dawn exercise sessions on the open deck, lectures
on seafaring and the history of the destinations visited, knot tying classes,
deck quoits, and music from the resident duo and pianist who plays a striking
white grand in main lounge.
Various experts join
cruises and in our case they included David Graham, the chairman of GlenWyvis Distillery, who cut a dash as he
walked around on deck in his kilt. Originally Golden Horizon’s maiden voyage
was due to visit Scotland, but restrictions on cruise ships meant a
rearrangement of plans.
Instead, David hosted
engaging whisky tasting sessions off the coast of England and told the story of
the distillery in the Scottish Highlands that was established in 2015, almost
90 years since Dingwall’s last distillery closed in 1926. GlenWyvis revived
the town’s distilling tradition, made its own history by offering locals and
whisky-lovers shares to become the first-ever community-owned distillery. They
brew boutique gin there, too.
you’re feeling energetic, Golden Horizon has a marina deck that extends from the
back of the ship and includes complimentary snorkelling, paddleboarding, kayaking and windsurfing.
For those who prefer to relax, there is a well-stocked library and games room.
It should be noted that you need to be fairly active and mobile to make the
most of the ship, as there are no lifts.
When it’s time to eat,
Golden Horizon has a magnificent dining room spread over two decks, big enough
to seat all 272 passengers and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Earlybird
pastries and fruit are served at the 24/7 tea and coffee station in the lounge bar, and al fresco dining is available in the Tropical Bar. One of my favourite
spots was the convivial pool bar on the sun deck; a great spot to meet
passengers and watch the sunset. My fellow shipmates, many of them silver
travellers, were an interesting crowd, including retired Royal Navy officers and
yachtsmen as well as those with no sailing experience who simply want to
experience the thrill of sailing on a tall ship.
Unlike large ships,
where it is a rarity to meet –
let alone talk to – the captain and
officers, this is the norm on Golden Horizon. They are happy to chat all things
nautical and unless the ship is leaving or entering port, or carrying out
technical manoeuvres, passengers can even go into the wheelhouse. Captain
Mariusz Szalek’s first experience with a square-rigged sailing ship was in 1985
when he was a student at a Polish maritime university. He told me it was a
dream come true to be at the helm of Golden Horizon.
it’s time to for bed, the 140 cabins reflect the nautical vibe of the rest of
the ship, range from singles to four large suites with balconies. The majority
of them have portholes, which really adds to the atmosphere.
the last night I have no idea if I
snore, but with the motion of the ship I am once again gently rocked like a
baby into a deep sleep. And Golden Horizon certainly is a ship to dream about.
Horizon sails in Europe, the Mediterranean, Arabia, Indonesia and Australasia.
Fares include meals, snacks, drinks with lunch and dinner, Wi-Fi, flights,
transfers and gratuities. This September the ship will explore the Croatian Islands with three voyages
from Split to Venice. Part of the Owner’s Collection of itineraries, the
seven-night Venetian & Adriatic Discovery cruise starts from £1,649.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Tradewind Voyages.
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