Inside the world’s biggest commercial sailing ship and you can book holidays

Golden Horizon is the world’s biggest commercial sailing ship and it makes for a pretty special cruise holiday – Dave Monk headed onboard to see what’s on offer

A view of the Golden Horizon ship

To stirring music and the backdrop of a crescent moon in a sunset-streaked sky, the sails began to unfurl and my voyage on the world’s biggest commercial sailing ship had begun.

As we gently glided out of the harbour in Portland, Dorset, it was clear that a journey on the new Golden Horizon was going to be very different from a normal cruise.

The water seemed to lap against the hull rather than being churned up in the wake. Wherever possible, the 530ft-long square rigger – a near replica of a 1913 ocean vessel – will be propelled by wind rather than fuel.

Everywhere on the top deck were ropes (we were told to call them lines), pulleys, winches, blocks and capstans. And, of course, the five 200ft-high, gold-coloured masts and their 35 sails, which, combined, would cover the area of a football pitch. The ship can actually go faster by natural propulsion than with engines.

Below the vast teak upper deck are three levels of cabins connected by a warren of sometimes steep staircases – there are no lifts – bringing you to the focal point of the three-storey atrium with its impressive piano bar and two-floor main restaurant.

With dark wood, white columns and wrought ironwork, the ship feels elegant and timeless. Maritime pictures and charts line the walls, and sailing paraphernalia, such as sextants, are displayed in cabinets along the corridors.

Inside one of the elegant cabins

The 272 passengers can enjoy five bars, a library, a shop and gym. The spa includes a sauna, hammam and an ice room, where snow drifts from the ceiling.

When the ship is moored off a sunny coast, a marina at the stern opens up to allow guests to swim in the sea or ride pleasure craft such as paddleboards and kayaks.

On my two-night trip to Dover, most of the passengers congregated around the three pools on the top deck, including an 18ft-deep dive tank. Swimmers in the main pool can be seen underwater through windows in the piano bar below.

A view of the pool


The Polish captain, Mariusz Szalek, is certainly pleased to be in charge of such an iconic ship. Away from his small wheelhouse, checking instruments and rigging out on deck, he told me: “I’m not stuck in a glass cage like captains on big cruise ships. Here, you really need to be involved with the operation all the time, it’s much more demanding. I’m sailing because I love sails. I started when I was a kid and even when I go home, I race dinghies on a lake. Kitesurfing, windsurfing, whatever it is – if it has sails, I’m on it!”

Things are kept simple in terms of entertainment and activities. We had a talented duo on board to provide music, while whisky tasting was one of the highlights on the schedule.

Forget racing cars or water chutes on this cruise ship – quoits and curling were among the quaintly traditional games on offer. I attended a talk about the rigging, where I discovered that every mast and sail has its own description, from a jigger to a spanker. Working together, they keep Golden Horizon exceptionally stable.

As our ship headed along the south coast of England, it seemed as if we were truly sailing into the past and could be boarded at any moment by a gang of marauding pirates.

But the overall feeling was of being unhurried, unworried and cut off from the 21st century, although the free wi-fi is good should you need it.

Golden Horizon boasts some beautiful interiors


The 140 cabins, which all have an ocean view, include four suites on the top deck, which each have two bathrooms, a fireplace and butler service. Thirty-two other cabins on the main deck also have an outside space.

Golden Horizon has overcome many hurdles so far – a sold-out test voyage had to be abandoned when the Westminster government extended Covid restrictions on passenger numbers, and a round-Britain debut was scuppered by the Scottish parliament banning cruise calls to its ports. At one point the ship was even briefly “arrested” in Dover in a financial dispute, but was soon allowed to head on its way. So I wish this gentle giant plain sailing, though she may not keep her world-beating title for long. Operators Tradewind Voyages, based in Hadleigh, Suffolk, are planning to build more, even bigger ships.

The ship will reposition to the Caribbean this autumn

Having initially based Golden Horizon in the UK, they plan to take her further afield, following the prevailing winds and sunshine to the world’s most desirable spots.

The owners want to attract adventurers, empty nesters, yacht fans and lovers of sustainable travel to sail the high seas in the traditional way while benefiting from modern technology.

This is a haven of peace. On a calm night, stepping out on to the deck underneath the stars, there’s hardly a sound beyond the flap of a sail or the ripple of the ocean.

Silence, it seems, really is Golden.

Get on board

Golden Horizon will reposition to the Caribbean this autumn and Tradewind Voyages offer a seven-night Icons of the Caribbean round trip voyage, leaving Barbados on November 25. From £1,799pp, excluding flights, calls at St Barts, St Kitts, Antigua and St Lucia. Find out more at

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