Two helicopters sit in large hangars overlooking a helipad at the aft of the ship. A submarine is stowed in a secure room on a lower deck. Passengers sip expensive wines and whiskeys at the bar as the massive yacht cuts through the wake on a southward course in the Atlantic Ocean, making its way toward an island destination.
No, this isn’t a scene from a ship of the supervillain in the latest James Bond movie. This is Scenic Eclipse, the world’s first all-inclusive luxury expedition cruise ship.
Cruise Fever joined for a special media preview sailing as Scenic Eclipse sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to New York city ahead of the ship’s christening event in early September. While cruising, we got to learn about the ship and its groundbreaking features, like those helicopters and the submarine.
Scenic Eclipse is built to cruise in the polar regions for more than half of each year, so it has technology and features that allow it to sail in icy and choppy waters in safe and environmentally conscious ways. It also carries all the equipment that travelers will need to explore exotic destinations on an expedition.
Expedition guides, called Discovery Leaders, operate excursions and lead enrichment talks, highlighting wildlife and natural wonders that you see while sailing in places like Antarctica, the Arctic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Alaska and South America.
All of these places are ripe for adventure, and a cruise on Scenic Eclipse allows you to go out and explore on a Zodiac tour or while paddling in one of the ship’s two-person kayaks.
The voyage is unique, though, because the experience is equal parts luxury cruise and expedition.
The cruise ship features eight restaurants, including a pool grill buffet, an Asian-fusion eatery, sushi bar, teppanyaki room, French restaurant and multi-course Chef’s Table extravaganza. It also offers 24-hour room service and butler service for all 114 suites on the 228-passenger ship.
Take a Video Tour of Scenic Eclipse
Passengers gather in the main Discovery Lounge to relax during the day or sing and dance along with the ship’s duet at night. The Whiskey Bar is the centerpiece of this large gathering place, with more than 150 varieties available, as well as a selection of fine wine, cocktails and regional craft beers.
The posh Vitality Spa features a menu of massages and other treatments as well as separate thermal lounges, saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools and experience showers for men and women.
But the game-changers for Scenic Eclipse are the fancy toys. Two six-passenger helicopters are used to take passengers on 20- or 40-minute flights to explore the views from on high. We went out for a 20-minute flightseeing excursion during our port visit to Martha’s Vineyard.
The scenery over the island was amazing, especially because we enjoyed a perfectly sunny morning to view the mansions that are secreted away amid the lush forested parts of the island, as well as the landscape of the coastlines, including the beaches, marina area and crescent-shaped sandbars. The takeoff from and the return landing on the cruise ship helicopter deck is a thrill in its own right.
Helicopter rides must be booked in advance, and they sold out quickly during our cruise – even with the steep price tag of $500 for the 20-minute flight.
The submarine also carries up to six passengers and is a hot ticket ($250). The sub is operated by a captain who can take you as far as nearly 1,000 feet below the surface. The submarine excursion offers fascinating views of underwater life, including reefs and shipwrecks.
The ship also carries a fleet of Zodiacs and kayaks. Expedition leaders organize daily excursions off the ship with the goal of creating experiences that allow cruisers to challenge themselves in any way they choose and at their own pace and level of comfort. Scenic Eclipse has an open bridge, and guides called out frequently telling passengers that they can come up for a view of wildlife spotted while we sailed in the waters of the North Atlantic.
Whales, dolphins, sea birds and ocean sunfish were among the creatures that were seen on our voyage.
Scenic Eclipse is the ideal luxury expedition yacht for cruisers who would like their adventures served up while they sail in opulence.
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.