During my first full day of scenic eclipse sailing in Antarctica in February, I was amazed, perhaps even amazed, at how many staff members actually knew my name.
Eleven days later, the morning I got off the Eclipse, I was equally moved to learn room service had replaced my favorite pineapple juice on board, when the papaya juice I ordered ran out. It was a nice touch that was done even though it was the only time I asked for room service.
“We want to create a wonder for guests. We’ve surprised people with our attention to detail. It’s that simple,” said Daniel Weddell, manager of the Eclipse Hotel, two days ago.
Scenic offers no bones about its goal of positioning itself at the top of the luxury market in the Antarctic expedition cruise sector, and personalized attention, along with an almost 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio, is just part of how the line makes Cruises an issue. The ship also has luxurious rooms of at least 344 square feet, all with balconies, and an impressive list of amenities that includes two helicopters, a submarine, and seven restaurants, to name a few.
The scenic landscape limits the Eclipse’s ability to sail Antarctica to a modest 199 in order to remain eligible to stop at landing sites prohibited by international regulations on ships carrying 200 or more passengers. And Eclipse offers a healthy 10:1 guest ratio to Expedition Guides.
The ship also comes at a price to match its luxury location, with 12-night itineraries for next season starting at about $19,325 per person.
Luxurious Eclipse Hall. The ship carries a maximum of 199 passengers for sailing in Antarctica. All rooms have balconies and butler service, among other amenities. Image source: TW photo by Robert Silk
When it comes to hitting the fancy notes, Eclipse is the right key, said Tom Baker, president of CruiseCenter, who was on the same Antarctic sailing cruise.
Baker told me one evening, shortly after eating a 10-course meal at the ship’s French restaurant, Lumiere.
“The number of restaurants is a huge plus for people who want variety and more comfort,” Baker continued. “Nobody has this; not even Hurtigruten.”
Baker described the scenic product as ideal for a specific type of Antarctic client: individuals who want to see the stunning beauty of the continent but are equally interested in upscale comfort. In other words, it is not a client of traditional Expeditions.
“They love the idea of soft adventure, and the ship presents that soft adventure in a very relaxing way,” he said. “It doesn’t scare her.”
The Argentine-controlled Primavera Research Station is located in a guarded area above beautiful Cierva Cove Bay. Image source: TW photo by Robert Silk
Stepfanie Waldek, a freelance travel writer who has also been a sailor, embarked on this cruise just two months after visiting Antarctica aboard Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Endurance.
Despite the complementarity of both vessels as well as both general experiences, Waldek also drew sharp differences between the products. She noted that The Endurance has only two restaurants compared to Eclipse’s much wider dining group. And while our scenic cruise provided an interesting mix of educational lectures, it also provided regular musical entertainment.
On several occasions, the lectures were poorly attended, perhaps because they tended to conflict with the main dinner hours.
“Lindblad veers more toward traditional expeditions,” your parents said. “It’s more heavy on education. I think Scenic focuses more on entertainment.”
Baker was echoed in her assessment of Eclipse’s core customer base.
“I think the Scenic Eclipse is for guests who want to go to Antarctica but also need the luxury of a cruise ship, not just an expedition ship,” she said. “People who need a complete entertainment and dining experience on board; they are here for the ship as much as they are for the land.”
A yawning tiger seal enjoys its own patch of sea ice in Port Lockroy on the Antarctic Peninsula. Image source: TW photo by Robert Silk
However, those who focus primarily on the excursion element of an Antarctic cruise will not be disappointed with the Eclipse experience. My sails included two daily scheduled excursions, some by Zodiac only and some which included landings. This is in addition to the options for helicopter and submarine trips (at an additional cost).
I found my experiences off the boat to be exceptional, mostly due to the stunning Antarctic scenery and wildlife but also because the ship’s guides were very knowledgeable and eager to go the extra mile for the passengers.
The complex logistics of arranging the towers, then loading and unloading passengers, was also handled with well-organized efficiency.