By Jeremy McKenna, Sales and Marketing Director, Tradewind Voyages
Just seven months after five us sat in a one-room office, with pieces of paper and lots of ideas, we are almost ready to launch.
The growth of Tradewind Voyages has been nothing short of miraculous, all the more so because we’ve had to do so much of it in lockdown.
Although March 2nd was the official launch of the company, I’d been approached in the middle of November last year and asked if I would be interested in the opportunity to be part of a team setting up a new cruise line. Who could turn down that offer?
From that point on, I started writing down questions on a piece of paper. What type of customers would we want? What would our magnificent ship be called? What would the brand stand for? What would the website look like? What would be our commercial strategy? How would we tell our story? and so on, and so on.
It wasn’t long before I had 100 questions on that piece of paper.
Gathered in the office on that Monday morning in March were Chief Executive Officer Stuart McQuaker, Product Director Oliver Hammerer, Head of Marketing and Distribution Amanda Norey, Head of Marine John Grenville-Goble and myself.
We gave ourselves until the end of the week to come up with a connected plan.
Back then we didn’t even have wifi and had to log on to a public service in a building nearby!
But we managed it and Tradewind Voyages was up and running.
By the second week, lockdown was upon us and the office had to be mothballed. It’s only recently that we have been able to go back.
For everyone, working from home has presented its challenges, but I think it is particularly difficult when you are starting and growing a business.
We’ve saved time in not having to travel to and from meetings, but you miss the personal touch of a face-to-face meeting when you are hiring people or trying to agree deals, not forgetting building a team spirit. I think I must have done well over 800 Zoom calls!
I’d like to thank the trade for the enormous support they’ve given us during our rapid growth. People like Trailfinders Commercial Director David Ness, Mundy Cruising owner Edwina Lonsdale and TripSmiths founder and ChiefExecutive Officer Charlie Starmer-Smith were incredibly enthusiastic from the off and also freely offered us help and advice.
They immediately understood the concept of Tradewind Voyages and the fact that we will offer sustainable trips, following the wind and the sun, on the largest square-rigged sailing ship in the world.
The trade has given us an amazing reception and seem genuinely delighted to have something positive to talk about during COVID-19. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me that we are the only good news story in town!
And we would not have been able to get to our present position without our fantastic staff. We now have nine people in the Sales and Marketing team and they have been nothing short of magnificent.
We decided from the off that we would hire people with a ‘can do’ attitude – a positive mindset about our plans even though the pandemic is the most challenging time in the history of the travel industry. We got that – and skill – in spades.
The ship is currently in Croatia and during lockdown, we were unable to travel to see her until the end of July.
Standing on the deck, I was blown away (excuse the pun) looking at the five masts – the ship is beautiful, elegant and classic and our guests are going to love it.
We have 30 incredible voyages from May 2021 – May 2022, starting off with a programme of 9 ex-UK sailings and then travelling East through the Mediterranean and the Suez canal, following the coast of India as we head toward Australia where we do a full circumnavigation – spending Christmas on the Great Barrier reef before we traverse the Indian Ocean to Africa and then coming back to Singapore via the Seychelles and the Maldives.
We have already had a significant number of people registering their interest and the voyages will go on sale at our official launch on November 2, exactly eight months after that first office meeting.
The pandemic has made people think about different types of holidays and how they can live and holiday in a more sustainable way. The winds of change are coming and we intend to play our part in leading that change.
I look forward to sharing more details with you as our exciting adventure continues.
An application available to download on smartphones is helping Tradewind Voyages plan unique itineraries around the world.
Savvy-Navvy is being used by Head of Marine John Grenville-Goble, the man charged with plotting the voyages next year and beyond on Golden Horizon, the world’s largest square-rigged sailing ship.
Tradewind Voyages use the winds to follow the sun to create sustainable trips around the world, with the aim of sailing (without using engines), for on average 70% of each season. After an inaugural UK season in May 2021, Golden Horizon will head east in August 2021.
The starting point for Grenville-Goble was to use routing charts, a navigational technique used for hundreds of years, before steam power made the wind less relevant (see ‘Routing Charts Helping Plan Unique Voyages’).
After initial routes are plotted, Grenville-Goble consults Savvy-Navvy.
“The app helps take the philosophy and turn it into a voyage plan,” he said.
“It’s not used for navigation, it is purely for reference. But it is a helpful next step in the planning process.”
For example, when Grenville-Goble is plotting an itinerary in the Sulu Sea, he can use the app to plan the route from Sandakan, north of Borneo, to Puerto Princesa, on the Philippine island of Palawan.
“The app can draw the distance between destinations and tell me the current winds and where they are coming from. It’s a help in planning how much the ship can sail.”
After using the app to scope the intended route, the next stage of the process is to properly plot the route, for this Grenville-Goble uses an ECDIS system called NaviPlanner, from Wartsila, the same system that will be deployed on Golden Horizon.
“This is a specialist bit of kit dedicated to navigation that professional navigators use to create the waypoints that make up the voyage plan.”
For our UK itinerary, NaviPlanner gives Grenville-Goble access to the full worldwide chart portfolio, some thousands of charts.
“It is the same system used on the ship, so that there is no confusion about the route.”
Grenville-Goble has been seeking out iconic cities and hidden beaches to visit and is not totally reliant on technology.
“We have a great shore excursion team who help us with the planning. Our philosophy is that we are less likely to have large groups going jet-skiing and much more likely to have small groups going snorkelling or on a cultural trip, so they help us find the right destination or those hidden beaches.”
“As an example, on the east coast of Australia there are some beautiful coves that offer natural protection against swells but in most cases it’s not possible for us to get in, so we will find the best place to anchor and tender in and we are having local help to find the most suitable places.”
Golden Horizon’s air draft i.e. her height from water line to mast head, is 64 metres and it has a draft of 6.4 metres.
One of Grenville-Goble’s key tasks is to ensure that wherever she sails, bridges are high enough for the ship to get under and the water is deep enough to accommodate the ship.
“Around countries like Denmark and Japan there are quite a few bridges on our routes, however Golden Horizon has the ability to fold down the top four metres of her masts to get under bridges. We always double check our navigational routes with local authorities.
“Also, the ship’s draft has an impact on some of the routes that we can take.”
“But customers should not be concerned. We never take risks and we always make sure there are very significant safety margins in all measurements.”
“We focus on zero impact to the environment, and health and safety is an area where we do not sail close to the wind.”
Tradewind Voyages product director Oliver Hammerer has created an environment whereby customers can experience many emotions whilst they travel on the world’s largest square-rigged sailing ship, Golden Horizon.
“I want our guests to feel happy, to feel relaxed, to explore, to be well, feel well, sleep well, eat well, feel content, connect with the elements and enjoy themselves!” he says.
Hammerer has an extensive background working for luxury cruise lines and joined Tradewind Voyages as the man tasked with making the on-board experience luxurious and as enjoyable as possible.
“We include coffee, soft drinks, wine and beer at dinner. WIFI will also be included.”
The ship will offer sustainable voyages, following the wind and using sails for propulsion whenever possible. Hammerer feels it is vital to carry this through in the on-board experience.
“We won’t have plastic straws or bottles of water. Shampoo bottles will be biodegradable. It’s easy to slip up there and you have to practice what you preach.”
Tradewind Voyages will offer excellent service, while retaining a casual and relaxed atmosphere on board.
“Onboard the service will be very friendly, but not over-familiar. Dress at dinner will be smart casual, we won’t have black tie dinners.”
Hiring the right personnel on board is vital to achieving the right atmosphere.
“You hire the right people and treat them in a way that makes them feel proud of what they do. Crew recruitment and crew treatment is vital. Make them feel great and an integral part of the team. A happy crew makes for happy customers.”
The ship will have 272 guests and 159 crew but Hammerer says the guests to crew ratio will feel smaller than the 1.7-1 figure.
“We won’t have casino staff or photographer, for example. So there’s a high number of people looking after guests – it will feel very attentive without being intrusive.”
A key part of any voyage will be the food and drinks served. Under the mantra ‘Eat Well, Be Well’, Golden Horizon will offer a high standard of traditional and local dishes.
The main restaurant will have food laid out in the style of a buffet, but guests will be served. There will also be pasta and sushi stations, along with an a la carte menu.
“I’m delighted we’ve found the right Executive Chef because it’s a crucial cog in the wheel. The dinner is the highlight of each day. It’s so important that even the chief executive was involved in the selection process for the chef!
“We want people to eat well and be well, but pampering is also important. We can also serve some indulgent foods if they are done in style and in moderation.
“We’ll have a fantastic mixology programme offering cocktails with fresh and local ingredients. It’s important – a liquid food! We’ll also offer a price that makes people think ‘that’s a good deal and I’ll have another one if I want’, rather than ‘that’s a bit steep’. It’s all part of the philosophy of making people feel relaxed without having to worry too much about cost.”
Spa treatments, a wellbeing programme that includes Pilates and Thai Chi instruction on the open deck and beaches around the world, live entertainment in the form of a pianist and singing duo, and quizzes, movies and educational talks will all be on the menu.
Hammerer still has plenty of work to do before the first sailings, but is extremely excited about a product that he feels will be popular when the world starts opening up again and holidaymakers are able to travel.
“Sustainability is going to be increasingly important in the future,” he said. “People will also want fresh air and space and we have a huge amount of deck space and three pools, which is quite something for a ship of our size.
“Of course, it’s currently a difficult time for everyone but it’s an exciting time for us, creating something that we’re sure our customers will love.”
By John Grenville-Goble, Head of Marine at Tradewind Voyages
For the past few months, I’ve been pouring over routing charts as we plan our itineraries at Tradewind Voyages.
These charts have been plotting prevailing winds around the world for the past 150 years. The charts are re-issued every 15-20 years, but there are only ever very small changes, so we can be pretty confident they are accurate.
They are crucial for us as our philosophy is built on using the wind and currents to follow the sun, allowing us to sail as much as possible when we head east in August 2021.
We want Golden Horizon, the world’s largest square rigged sailing ship, to offer the most sustainable voyages at sea and this is what makes us different from other companies.
We aim to sail, without using engines, for an average of 70% of our voyages. It’s a huge task to get the right balance of wind, current and climate, so that passengers have a wonderful holiday.
We are taking people to see the world but, for us, the ship is also the destination and we will go where the wind takes us. If, for example, the wind is not going to Rio, then we’re not going to Rio because we plan the itineraries based on the wind patterns.
In the Far East, the winds dictate that we sail through the Japanese island chain via Okinawa and then on to Nagasaki. Others are more likely to take the inshore route via Shanghai and Vietnam.
Following the winds and the sun also means that we will visit some fascinating destinations that are off the beaten track, such as remote ports in India and Indonesia.
Our adventure will start in May next year, when we bring the ship to the UK for a series of itineraries from Glasgow and Harwich.
Even on these trips, we are using the elements wherever possible. On our ‘Wonders of Iceland’ voyage, we’ll sail clockwise around Iceland and proceed to Reykjavik and the Faroe Islands before heading to Scotland – if we take that route the winds should be in our favour.
We’re confident our philosophy will appeal to adults who have a love of the sea as well as travel.
On our ship you’ll be lower down than many modern ships, as there is just six metres from the water line to the deck. You’ll sometimes feel the splash of the sea!
That shouldn’t be any cause for concern to anyone thinking about a voyage, though! At 162 meters long and 18.5 meters wide, she will ride the waves and with 35 sails on five masts is built to cut though the water smoothly.