by John Roberts
Scenic Eclipse sailed into New York on September 10, gliding under the Verrazano Bridge and past the Statue of Liberty, guided by the lights of the city’s skyscrapers as the ship arrived at its port berth in Manhattan just before sunrise.
After a long wait for its launch, the ultra-luxury expedition ship completed the journey from Europe to the United States, the last leg carrying almost 200 passengers completing a 14-day voyage that began in Quebec, Canada.
Actress Helen Mirren fulfilled her role as godmother later that day during a ceremony at Pier 88 at Manhattan Cruise Terminal, welcoming the first ocean ship to the Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours portfolio.
The launch of the highly anticipated luxury expedition ship was set back one year because of labor strikes and financial problems involving the shipyard in Croatia. Now, Scenic Eclipse is in service and striving to redefine what an adventure cruise experience can offer. The ship will spend more than half its time plying the waters of the polar regions, taking passengers to explore the Arctic and Antarctica, while also offering itineraries in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
But instead of a rustic rough-and-rugged expedition in the extreme parts of the world, Scenic Eclipse blends in the elegance and comfort of a luxury sailing.
The ship carries up 228 passengers in 114 suites — on what the line calls a “discovery yacht.” Scenic Cruises founder and chairman Glen Moroney said he became motivated years ago to create an experience that gives more people the chance to travel the world on the equivalent of a billionaire-style mega-yacht.
Scenic Eclipse comes with all the toys and extravagances that define this kind of upscale sailing experience, too. The ship measures 168 metres long and has 10 decks. It carries two six-passenger Airbus H130 helicopters and a six-person submarine. Passengers can book rides in these high-tech machines (extra fee) to explore destinations from high above and deep below the water. The sub can reach depths of more than 300 metres.
Onboard, the main gathering spot for socialising and listening to live music is the Discovery Lounge, which features ample seating on large couches and comfy chairs. The large Whiskey Bar offers more than 150 varieties, with the bottles stacked high on decorative shelving and illuminated to serve as a beacon to thirsty cruisers.
Cuisine is a highlight, and Scenic Eclipse features eight restaurant venues, as well as a large 24-hour room service menu and the Scenic Epicure cooking classes.
The Yacht Club is a buffet at the ship’s indoor pool area, and Azure Café offers lighter breakfast and lunch options as well as tapas for dinner. Koko’s is an Asian-fusion restaurant, open for dinner and bento-box lunches. Sushi@Koko’s and a teppanyaki room are two more dinner options offered in Koko’s restaurant.
Elements serves as the ship’s main dining room, with Italian dishes, steak and seafood. A Chef’s Table meal and dinner at the French restaurant Lumiere are multi-course, wine-pairing extravaganzas. It will be quite the juggling act to pull off this many dining options on a small expedition ship, but Scenic is ambitious in its vision.
The ship also offers a large spa with treatment rooms, therapists, saunas, steam rooms, experience showers, thermal lounges and plunge pools. It also has a fitness centre and separate yoga/Pilates studio.
An observation lounge serves as the library and tea room with seats looking out large windows at the front of the ship and with access to a large bow area for wildlife and nature viewing outside.
Standard cabins are spacious by industry standards, at 31 square metres and featuring large separate living areas, walk-in showers and sizeable balconies with large tables good for al fresco meals.
The ship has a team of Discovery guides who lead the expedition activities, which include kayaking, snorkelling and Zodiac rides — all launched from the ship’s Discovery Centre, a sizeable “mud room” that leads to the water platform at the back of the vessel.
The ship has been built with a focus on the environment as well as comfort, Scenic says. It is a Polar Class 6-rated vessel, giving it a strengthened hull good for the ice-filled regions. Custom-built stabilisers are 50 percent larger than those on standard ships, increasing stability in choppy waters. Dynamic GPS positioning means the ship won’t have to drop anchors in sensitive sea areas, and it uses the latest in other environmentally friendly technologies.
Ms Mirren says she wouldn’t want to be associated with a ship that wasn’t adhering to sustainable practices. The godmother also made special note of the beautiful profile of the yacht and how it projects a strong image.
“It’s a very beautiful ship and I am fortunate to be a part of it,” Ms Mirren said in a press conference. “I’ll definitely have to do my ‘Titanic’ moment at the front at some point,” she joked.
Asked what sort of movie character the new ship would represent were she a cinema star, Mirren said “Definitely a queen. A modern queen.”
“If Neptune had a queen, I would think she would be Scenic Eclipse,” Ms Mirren said.