On Monday 19th July 2021 after a few false starts we finally set foot aboard the magnificent Golden Horizon.
It has to be said these previous false starts were all related to Covid! I had first planned to take her Delivery Voyage from Lisbon back to the UK, then booked for her Dress Rehearsal Voyage earlier this Summer, then finally her formal Inaurgural Voyage. Which, third time lucky, set sail!
Communication prior to the day of our Voyage, has to be described a little hit and miss, I expect this to be teething problems and related to the fact that very few people know what’s going on from one day to the next globally, related to covid, let alone a small new cruise company desperate to finally start operating amidst the plethora of rules needing to be followed, to keep us all safe!
With the pre cruise communication and the on board service, Tradewind Voyages is an adventure best served to the relaxed, laid back, avid cruiser. Those of us blessed with the ability to go with the flow and see what happens. I think if perhaps you are more a highly strung soul, who needs an itinerary set in stone and a packed plan for the day, then a Voyage on Tradewind Voyages may test you. This is in no means a criticism. The relaxed, laid back way of life aboard, is perfection in our current world of rules and regulations to live by. For example, when we docked in Cowes, no decision was made until mid morning about if we were allowed ashore independently. In my mind, the decision was always going to be no, I had not expected to set foot in Cowes and took this voyage to explore the ship, not the ports. However, it appeared to come as a surprise to some. As has been the way over the last 15 months, many had opinions and many chose to air them to anyone who would listen. Alternatively if you had a burning desire to head to shore, shore excursions could be booked to leave the ship within an organised Bubble, much the same as other cruise lines cruising the South Coast this Summer.
However do not misunderstand my admiration for laid back ness and going with the flow as being unsafe, this ship is far from unsafe in the current COVID climate. Hand washing facilities exist in the dining room, automatic alcohol gel dispensers are dotted around the ship and it is an expected out of respect for others and a necessity to keep everyone safe for you to wear a mask when moving around in the interior of the ship. I felt thoroughly safe aboard this ship and judging by the average age group, (of those who wanted the covid vaccine) would have been long been double vaccinated.
Following the minimalist pre cruise communication, with tickets emailed a couple of days prior to boarding and all the ‘arrested’ ship drama, we drove to Dover without the usual pre cruise excitement. Having wanted to experience this Ship so much, I wouldn’t quite believe we were going to spend the next 5 nights aboard, until I was on board, and, sailing away from the Port of Dover.
Check in , in Dover seemed organised. We first drove into the shed, we were give COVID request slips and a health questionnaire to complete. We then drove on to a small station to do our test through our car window, then a gentleman was radio’ed with the registration number of cars, whose passengers had tested negative, to allow to drive on to port parking. We also received a lovely large sticker on our passport to prove our COVID 19 negative-ness. Car park check in was next, no real difference to normal. We had paid for undercover parking. Having witnessed the power of the Ocean in Dover, when aboard Scarlet Lady in Feb 2020, we love our car too much for it to be soaked in lashings of sea water… We have lucked out with the weather this week, but as any true Brit knows, our weather can change in an instant. Ironically as has happened today, we have gone from a voyage of 30 degree Celcius heat and no wind, to a Met Office weather warning for gales and rain in the English Channel. Thankfully we shall not be returning to a rusty car tomorrow morning!
(Oh the irony, I have proof read this since writing and CPS Dover chose to leave our car outside despite paying for inside, repeatedly checking with the staff during check in, that we had the undercover parking we had paid for and then continually reassuring us, the car would be parked inside. They then decided to park it outside. Our car has a tracker and it had been parked outside all week, which the one saving grace CPS had was by not lying and claiming they had driven it outside on disembarkation day. Instead they happily admitted yes we took your extra money, but chose to leave your car outside, needless to say a refund is being arrange for the extra money they took.)
Our luggage was checked in at the front of a small terminal in Dover. Luggage tags were added to your cases, COVID negative stickers checked and you were ushered in through security, then straight up on the ship. We were then escorted to reception aboard and checked in and escorted to our Stateroom.
We had initially booked an aft cabin on the Marina Deck, Tradewind Voyages upgraded us to a Midship cabin on the Gallery Deck to cabin 340. I will be adding a cabin tour to my you tube channel.
Our cabin was small and perfectly formed. We had a set up with a double bed, there was also a small sofa in the room which would double up as a single bed. A desk and chair, two large bedside cabinets. A large TV mounted on the wall ( which we never watched) adequate wardrobe space and a spacious bathroom with shower. I think the designers of Golden Horizon heard it was beneficial to use mirrors to make cabins appear bigger, they just didn’t realise you need to space these mirrors opposite each other, not all in a long row.
Our cabin location, right next to one of the entrances of the Dining room was extremely convenient. However nowhere at all is far aboard Golden Horizon.
Golden Horizon consists of 4 passenger decks, Marina Deck, Gallery Deck, Main Deck and Upper Deck.
Marina Deck, it will come as no surprise is where the Marina is located. This Marina is fabulous!
A beautiful part of the ship, which will be a haven of activity in more tropical climates. Marina Showcase tours enabled the Watersports team to discuss all details of their watersports programme. The friendly, knowledgable staff explained how you could swim, stand up paddle board, wind surf, snorkel, use sea bobs, kayak, sail and even Scuba dive from Golden Horizon. Allegedly they even have an inflatable trampoline with a slide off it!
Golden Horizon has a resident Dive instructor , he can take guests on introduction to diving sessions in the Ships very own Dive Pool. I’ve been on many ships, but have never sailed upon a ship with its own 4 metre deep dive pool for Scuba Diving practice. The pool extends down from the Upper Deck down to the Main deck. It is almost aquarium like with base windows in the Library ceiling and side windows in the function room. It was quite the novelty realising someone was in the tank when both in the library and then the Function room on our first day aboard! I managed to attract Craig, the Diving instructors, attention whilst in the Library and received a divers ok hand gesture!
In more tropical climates, guests who wish to Scuba dive, can refresh PADI certificates and go on Dives in the ocean. All from your very own ship, so convenient.
As you leave the Marina you walk through the Spa. Life aboard the Ship is relaxing and refreshing anyway, if you want to go that extra mile, treat yourself to some time in the spa. A pamper hour treat is advertised in each daily programme. After the last 15 months or so , if you can’t treat yourself to some pampering, when can you?
Tradewind Voyages invite you to chose from the finest facials, relaxing massages, body rituals or foot and hand treatments. They have a Spa treatment partner with THALGO and have a carefully selected range of marine based products. Aboard there is a complimentary Sauna, Hamman and Snow Room.
Round the corner from the Spa you will find the Ships Gym. Opening between 0800 and 2200 with a wide array of gym equipment.
On Marina deck there are cabins with sea views, both aft, midship and forward. Down here you will find the cheaper cabins, but by no means cheap.
The Marina deck also houses the lower floor of the Dining Room. A beautiful room complete with a large central captains table. During my Voyage I only noticed the BBC Travel crew aboard eat at this table. I expect on longer voyages guests will be invited to eat here, once restrictions are hopefully relaxed more in the future.
When eating in the Dining room do ensure you look up! Above you may notice the odd body float past, or the odd foot dangling in. Here lies Golden Horizons main swimming pool. The base of the pool is clear and rests above the Dining room. The pool is a saltwater pool and is what one describes as ‘bracing’ or ‘refreshing’ when they are politely saying it is blooming cold. However on deck in 32 degree heat, freezing cold water was a godsend. I must admit it took a bit of courage to go swimming around the pool with the awareness that someone had quite the interesting view underneath, however once you got over that is was a nice pool to laze about in and swim the odd short lap.
Upwards to Gallery Deck. Do note if you have any mobility difficulties then sadly Golden Horizon may not be the ship for you. Given her small, intimate, beautiful, traditional design, there is no room for lifts. The ability to climb up and down stairs is a necessity. Stair cases are steep. They all are quite narrow with the ability to hold either one or two rails as you walk. You would never need to walk from Marina deck up to the Upper deck in one go, unless you wanted to. There are plenty of places to rest, if you needed to. We were blessed with calm seas for our voyage. Extra care would need to be taken if the ship was rolling, but it is all good fun, isn’t it!
The Gallery deck appears to house the majority of the staterooms, again aft, midship and forward. The Medical centre is based on the Gallery deck, midship, amongst the midship cabins. Reported to be staffed by a Doctor and Nurse ( being a Nurse I’m always on the lookout for colleagues, I have to say I never once noticed either the Doctor or Nurse) The centre is said to be equipped to deal with most medical emergencies and day to day issues. Consultations, if required can be booked for both the morning and afternoon, with availability for emergencies 24/7. All services are chargeable.
From our midship cabin we could enter the Dining room, on the second deck of dining room, via what felt like the back entrance. There is a Maitre De podium at the entrance on the opposite side. It is acceptable to walk through the restaurant to the other entrance as otherwise you would need to walk outside. Strangely at Breakfast we would always be intercepted as walking in, as if the restaurant flipped. I expect it is to accommodate people coming from cabins in the morning, and during the evening you have been expect to have come from evening drinks at a bar. Either way, it is no bother.
The restaurant has a beautiful staircase connecting Marina Deck with Gallery deck and Gallery Deck with Main Deck. The Captains table takes centre stage on Marina Deck, located underneath the swimming pool.
Food in the Main dining room was absolutely delicious, Service was brilliant too. The Breakfast menu had plenty of choice of different ways to break the overnight fast. Lunch in the main dining room consisted of a three course meal with plenty of choice! This stair case is quite steep and I imagine could be a challenge for anyone on rough seas. Handrails are on either side to ensure you travel up and down safely.
The restaurant itself seemed quite large, we always had a table for two , as most couples seemed to do. There were only around 100 guests aboard our voyage, so there was easily room for us to all eat at the tables we wished to. Breakfast was served in the dining room from 07:30 – 09:30, same timings for both port and sea days. The Breakfast menu was vast with plenty of choice for both the healthy breakfast fan and those more inclined to a treat whilst on holiday!
I have to say my favourite breakfast was the eggs and turf option, however on one day I realised I had eaten beef in some form for the last four meals. Not the healthiest of options maybe, but delicious and indulgent never the less.
The Lunch service in the main dining room commenced at 12:00 -13:30. Similar to the dinner service a 3/4 course meal was offered. Wine and soft drinks were offered with your meal. All drinks were included on our maiden voyage, on other normal voyages, drinks will be offered with meals. Then at other times drinks will be chargeable.
As you can see from the cocktail menu, the cocktail prices were incredibly reasonable. We didn’t notice the infrastructure present to charge for these drinks, there did not appear to be tills around, so it’ll be interesting how it’ll work when people need to start paying for drinks!
The Dinner service in the main dining room began at 19:00 until 21:00. A five course menu was offered, an appetizer, a soup course, a main course, a dessert and coffee or tea. It will come as no surprise, I love my food, the fancier the better! This food was absolutely scrumptious, presented so beautifully, like a work of art and served by the most fabulous waiters and waitresses. I do enjoy taking photographs of food, so let me add some of my favourites over the 5 nights here.
When leaving the Dining room on the Gallery deck you enter into the Reception area of the ship. This area has a lovely country house club feel about it. Comfortable armchairs, cosy sofas all around a central circular sofa containing lots of beautiful orchids, I didnt touch to see if they are real or not.
The reception desk is located her, to visit to ask any enquiries you may have. Doors are located on either side of the reception area, which open out to outside the ship, an area were a staircase goes down to the water level and you embark on tenders.
On the other side of the Reception area is a lovely little bar called Debeljaks. I recall reading this has been named after someone in the shipyard where Golden Horizon was built, but I can’t now find my source! The bar was frequently very quiet whenever we passed. It looked like the perfect place to lose yourself in a book on a cooler day or perhaps a beautiful sunny day, if you wanted a small haven away from the busy upper deck to relax in the fabulously refreshing air conditioning!
The rest of the Gallery deck houses more cabins, the shop and the absolutely magnificent library.
The shop was cleverly set up to allow for 24/7 browsing, as products were housed in locked cabinets. Then once you had decided what you wished to buy you could return during the he Shop opening times noted in the Daily Programme and make your purchases. Purchases were recorded on paper receipts and you were requested to settle the bill on your cruise card with the chief purser at reception.
Shop products ranged from unique silk scarfs, to tradewind voyages branded merchandise to every day items you may have forgotten to bring aboard with you. I do have much love for a cruise line who adds Lindt chocolates to their forgotten necessities cabinet!
The shop then opens out into the Library. I love a library at sea, Cunard Line, Queen Victoria has to be one of my favourite Libraries at sea, however after seeing this one, its a hard toss up between the two! This library is spectacular. Plenty of comfortable seating dotted around, shelves full of books, atlas’s and a globe to plot your voyage route. Beautiful windows with a wake view, plentiful choice of brand new board games and playing cards. Perhaps one of the most unusual views in the library is a view which so easily could be missed. Ensure you look up, preferably when someone is diving in the dive pool! The ceiling of the library contains a circle of windows into the base of the dive pool. Definitely an unusual photograph to capture, a diver giving you the OK hand signal whilst you’re relaxing, reading a book!
Upwards to the Main deck, the majority of the main deck housed cabins, cabins with balconies were found forward and midship on Main deck. The Piano bar is housed on the upper deck above the dining room, open from 0900 til close, the piano bar was a cosy area allowing for views out to sea, views over the two dining room decks below and views through port hole style windows of the main swimming pool. There was also a 24 hour hot drinks station in the Piano bar, as well as a tempting selection of breakfast goodies for the early riser breakfast from 0600.
When we embarked, we had missed lunch, so had some afternoon snacks, served from 16:00 – 17:00 in the piano bar in a served buffet style. These included savoury bites and cakes and scones. Delicious on our first day, as we were hungry, but we had absolutely no room for it on subsequent days… there was no shortage of food aboard.
During the evening, the resident pianist Andrey Shabala played a few sets in the Piano Bar, on the magnificent white piano taking centre stage above the restaurant below. Andrey was multi talent, not only did he play the piano he was also in charge of hosting the daily deck quoits game up on Compass deck and was quite the persuasive chap in mustering up teams to play!
From the piano bar there were swing doors out to the Horizon Grill Bar. We spent a lot of our cruise in the Horizon Grill bar. A lovely area with ample seating, a mix of high fixed stools around high tables and normal height tables with comfortable cushioned wooden deck chairs. Lunch and Dinner could be eaten in the Horizon Grill. The menu was slightly more casual dining than the dining room menu, equally as delicious. The menu in the Grill didnt change over the course of the cruise. In the evening the menu was, it may come as no surprise, that of a grill, Grilled Chicken, Fish and Steak were offered. We took a few lunches outside in the Horizon Grill, mainly because we could sit down there with our swimwear cover ups and not need to go inside to change for lunch.
Dress codes are relaxed on Golden Horizon, seeing as the most popular question I seem to get from new cruisers is about dress codes, they seem to be an area of cruising which bring on the most anxiety in some.
Tradewind Voyages formal spiel on dress codes is : ‘ During the day (both aboard and ashore) the dress code is casual and comfortable, including shorts, jeans and sturdy shoes for walking tours. Naturally swimsuits, brief shorts, cover -ups and exercise attire are fine for the poor side and gym. For dinner, we suggest a smart casual outfit. Jacket and ties are optional for the men. Shorts and open toe shoes are not considered appropriate for dinner.’ I have to say I did notice a few of the older men in shorts for dinner, however until reading Tradewind voyages dress code statement and seeing it was in fact not allowed, it hadn’t bothered me in the slightly, they all appeared to be in smart shorts. My husband mostly wore chinos with a shirt and I wore either a dress, or a sparkly top with very dark smart jeans. There are no formal nights aboard Golden Horizon. However I wore a dress aboard that I would sometimes wear on a formal night, so if you want to dress up and cruises are you’re only chance to, then you dress up, you would not feel out of place.
In the evening we often spent time in the Horizon Grill and Bar, it doubled up as a Live music venue, with a little stage. We watched a duo called ‘it takes 2’ a talented pair, playing the guitar and singing, putting on 3 sets a night for guests. As the night went on , the sets got more party-like and by the end of the evening, there would be many busting a move on the dance floor. Due to the intimate nature of the ship and the small number of passengers, Crew got to know your usual order in a couple of days! Fabulous service. For a small ship, there was an abundance of evening entertainment for all tastes, an evening film in the function room, a quiz in the piano bar, Live music and singing in the Horizon bar and evening piano melodies with Andrey in the Piano bar, never a dull moment onboard!
Moving onwards to the Function room, a large room located at the aft on Main deck. Whilst aboard the main functions of the function room seemed to be, as a cinema and as a lecture room for the enrichment activities aboard. I didn’t attend to watch any films, however we did attend a couple of lectures. Our speakers onboard for Golden Horizon’s maiden voyage included resident speaker David Graham, and Guest Speaker Commodore Rupert Wallace. We attended a couple of Rupert Wallace’s talks, both of which were very interesting, ‘The Sea : Ungoverned space’ and ‘The English Channel’. David’s talks were focused on our voyages ports of call.
The focal point of the Function room was most definitely the Dive tank! Another opportunity to take photographs of the passing diver from the dry floors of the function room. The function room struck me a perfect place to perhaps get married, then a small reception on Captains table, fabulous photographs on board, in the library, then up by the sails. I hope one day this would be an option for sailing obsessed lovebirds!
The final location on the Main deck, is the Quarterdeck bar. Given my love for a wake view, I was so looking forward to spending time at this bar. Sadly it seemed to have been changed to a crew bar during our voyage. I expect when running at full capacity of guests, they will need to change it back? It was the only disappointment of the ship, not being able to use the bar they advertised as for passengers.
Now up to the Upper deck, technically our 4th and final passenger deck, however I had not included both the Bridge deck and the Compass deck in my calculations.
The Upper deck is quite simply magnificent. It is the main reason people have come to experience sailing. The niche Rigged sailing ship views, those fantastic sails. It truly felt like we were part of a film set. The Upper deck was breathtaking. Then when sitting watching the sails rise, with the dramatic, specially composed music playing, it was quite the moving moment.
There is another bar up on Upper deck, the pool bar. A lovely little bar, located near the main pool. You were able to order your drink then could sit on high stools at the bar, sit on lower stools peering into the Horizon Grill and Bar, take up a seat or lounger dotted around the upper deck. One think the pool bar lacked was waiter service, however given who close everywhere is and how few people were on board we didn’t need a waiter service. Yet on holiday, sometimes it is rather lovely to be waited on. This pool closed at around 19:00, so not one to enjoy moonlit cocktails at.
The rest of the main deck had an abundance of comfortable padded sun loungers, deck chairs and tables and housed the two pools for swimming, the main pool, with the base over the dining room and the forward pool. A small circular pool for dunking in, however this was shut for much of the maiden voyage.
Our lifeboats also lived on the Upper deck, all prepared and ready to go if required. It was reassuring to see the crew regularly checking and cleaning the lifeboats.
Walk forwards and up a flight of deck stairs you head up to the bridge deck. Here you find, surprisingly, the Bridge. As mentioned previously, there is an open bridge policy aboard, so do make sure you go and visit when aboard!
The wings of the Bridge were quite the spectacular place to take awesome photographs from and also a fabulous vantage point for both pilots disembarking and early morning dolphin watching.
The 4 suites, Mary Rose, Victory, Endeavour and Discovery are all located close to the Bridge. Each suite consists of a living room and dining area, a balcony, a master bedroom with double or twin beds, an en-suite bathroom with both a shower and bath tub. A double sofa bed in the living room for guests, a guest shower room. A walk in wardrobe, concierge services 24 hour room service, a complimentary mini bar with bottles of liquor. Daily Canapés, luxury suite amenities, twice daily housekeeping and complimentary laundry and pressing service. Each suite can accommodate 4 people, then can connect 2 suites, to allow for 8 people to stay together.
Whilst on the subject of Cabins, the Deluxe Balcony cabins, on Main deck, consist of a Balcony, double or twin beds, a sofa bed to sleep one adult or two children. A deluxe bathroom with shower over the bath. 24 hour room service, complimentary mini bar, luxury suite amenities and twice daily housekeeping. Deluxe cabins can accommodate 4 guests, as long as 2 are children.
The remainder of the cabins on Gallery and Marina deck are classic cabins with a double or twin beds, two portholes, a deluxe shower room, complimentary water, luxury cabin amenities and twice daily housekeeping. All cabins can accommodate 2 guests with the exception of the 6 single cabins which accommodate one person.
The highest deck for passengers aboard Golden Horizon is the compass deck. A lovely vantage point to admire the ship, to check out the bridge info display and check we are heading in the right direction with the compass. An operational ships wheel is located up here, perfect for the odd sailor selfie. A peaceful location used for both early morning rise and flow yoga classes and serene late afternoon relaxation sessions promising to relax both body and mind. To be fair I found the whole on board Tradewind experience massively relaxed both body and mind, the pre cruise experience less so , but the experience aboard is truely what matters and they absolutely delivered on their promise of an adventure like no other, ‘aboard a ship which perfectly marries rich sailing heritage and modern luxury with a sustainable twist.
I would almost certainly sail with Tradewind Voyages again. Currently have 14 cruises booked for this year and next, so maybe not for a while, but I can definitely see myself wanting to experience it all again. It was perfect.
I do wish Tradewind Voyages every success in their new business and wish Golden Horizon and wonderful Inaugural season of sailing.
Do watch my Vlog posts about my time aboard Golden Horizon.
Vlog 1 aboard Golden Horizon, Tradewind Voyages https://youtu.be/pwxETBPhmgc
In due course as I publish them, I will add links to this blog post.
I shall be publishing a ship tour and a cabin tour of a standard Gallery deck cabin.
Do also make sure you look at my photographs taken aboard on my instagram page and my highlight folder entitled ‘Golden Horizon Inaugural Voyage’
Finally, if you have any questions relating to taking a voyage aboard Golden horizon, feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Instagram