Cruise ship review: Scenic Eclipse
Does Scenic Eclipse, the world’s first discovery yacht, live up to its six-star hype?
The world’s first all-inclusive discovery yacht, the six-star Scenic Eclipse – which was created by Scenic’s founder, Glen Moroney after he saw Microsoft co-founder-turned billionaire investor Paul Allen glide into Sydney Harbour on his own super yacht – made her UK debut earlier this month.
Eclipse, who counts Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren as godmother, is Australian-owned Scenic Cruises’ first foray into ocean cruising.
Carrying only 228 passengers at any one time (200 in the Arctic and Antarctica), meaning she’s nimble enough to navigate small ports and harbours, Eclipse has been making waves in the cruise industry with its helicopters, butlers, and a submarine.
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Inspired by the sleek contours of a sailing yacht, the 551-foot Scenic Eclipse is certainly eye-catching with her sleek, curved silhouette, jet-black hull, and James Bond-style toys: expect not one but two Airbus H130 helicopters, a six-seat submarine capable of diving eight times a day to depths of 300m, and an array of electric bikes and kayaks all neatly stowed away.
However, Eclipse isn’t all style and no substance: the ship’s green credentials are second to none. Eclipse has been fitted with a state-of-the-art water treatment system that discharges only clean water and uses the lightest marine fuel, as well as a GPS dynamic positioning system that allows the ship to dock without dropping anchor onto sensitive sea beds.
The eco-commitment extends inside too. Passengers won’t find any mini-sized bottles of posh hand wash in the bathrooms: instead expect bulk dispensers that are topped up with lush ESPA products every day. Elsewhere, on shore excursions, plastic water bottles have been banned and replaced with refillable containers.
One hundred and fourteen sizeable suites have been tastefully furnished in taupes and slate greys – with accents of colour added by bespoke artwork courtesy of Byron Bay artist Mitch Gobel.
All come with a living room, balcony, butler service, remote-controlled electric-adjustable mattress (just press a button to alter your position), an HDTV entertainment system embedded in a glass wall, and Dyson supersonic hair dryers with £300 price tags –another sign that Scenic has spared no expense with regards to its first ocean ship. Electronic black-out blinds guarantee a great night’s sleep.
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WOC stayed in an ‘entry-level’ Verandah Suite which, at 32sqm, still managed to be significantly larger than our London flat – and came with a polished marble bathroom kitted out with lush ESPA products.
However, if you’ve got the cash to splash, after two years of being landlocked, the two-bedroom 247 sqm Owner’s Penthouse could be the way to go.
Elsewhere, the 110 sqm Panorama suites have a generous terrace and walk-through bathroom while Spa Suites boast Philippe Starck-designed jacuzzis and steam showers.
There are 10 restaurants onboard, all overseen by executive chef, Tom Goetter, who seems to understand that food is no longer just something you enjoy on a cruise – it's now a reason to set sail.
The hottest restaurants on board are the Night Market, a private dining experience for up to eight guests with an open grill that takes its inspiration from the night markets you’ll find all around Asia, India, and the Middle East, and the French-inspired Lumière.
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Here guests are greeted at the entrance by a life-sized dress made of 5,400 spoons by Francois Bertrand and a flute of fizz – before tucking into a seven-course menu paired with fine wines.
Other standouts include Koko’s Fusion (try the bibimbap), Koko’s Sushi (pleasingly vegetarians are not after-thought), and Elements, an upmarket a la carte Italian, steak, and seafood restaurant.
For something a little more low-key, look to Azure for casual cafe dining and the Yacht Club, a poolside grill and buffet on the seventh deck that transforms into a lively dance floor by night.
Service and facilities
Despite its intimate size, Eclipse doesn’t disappoint on the facilities front. Highlights include the 5,920-sq ft Senses Spa, with its ESPA treatments and temperature-controlled plunge pools, crystal quartz back-lit whiskey bar – home to more than 100 of the finest bottles – and the zen-like Observation lounge and library replete with a bookcase, self-serve coffee and tea bar, and Insta-worthy ocean views.
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WOC also loved Eclipse’s open bridge policy affording passengers the chance to visit the captain and crew and learn a little more about the ship, and its expensive toys: the two shiny black state-of-the-art Airbus H130 helicopters are a first for an expedition cruise ship, a six-passenger submarine, a fleet of Zodiac boats for adventuring, kayaks, paddle-boards, and electric bikes help set the ship apart from the competition.
Meanwhile service is friendly and efficient, without being overly formal.
Excursions and entertainment
Enrichment is a big part of the Eclipse experience and regular lectures, delivered by experts, take place in the built-in theatre, that’s decked out in chic yet muted greys, beiges, and blacks.
Occasional concerts – on our sailing, cruise director Beth Wilson-Knight brilliantly performed some of the best-loved show-tunes – are also held in the theatre replete with reclining leather loungers. However, if you’re looking for full-scale show productions every night, Eclipse isn’t the ship for you.
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What really gives Eclipse the edge is its excursions, all of which (like almost everything onboard) are included in the price. Expert-guided walking tours, wine tasting experiences, and kayaking adventures down the Minho river were all on offer during our sailing.
Value for money
There’s no getting away from the fact that a cruise on Eclipse doesn’t come cheap with lead-in prices for a 12-day Mediterranean sailing next spring starting at £6,758pp.
That said you are unlikely to have to fork out for anything else on board (flights, meals, drinks, excursions, and even tips are included) and, if you’re looking to return to the high seas in style, Eclipse certainly delivers. And then some.
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