A Stunning, Different Approach to Cruising in Antarctica

by Judy Koutsky on April 20, 2022 in Travels,

The Scenic Eclipse combines luxury with adventure and the result is an unforgettable experience in the white continent.

Scenic Eclipse, a luxury expedition yacht, is one of the latest ships to explore Antarctica. The vessel has plenty of bells and whistles, making it the shiny new kid on the block.

The Scenic Eclipse is one of the few ships in Antarctica to offer guests a helicopter tour. Courtesy photo

The ship takes a maximum of 200 guests to Antarctica and the guest to staff ratio is 200 passengers to 192 crew. So service is pretty top notch. Plus, the Scenic Eclipse has the highest guest-to-space ratio of any expedition ship, so there’s plenty of room to spread out.

This luxury line is fully inclusive of all flights, transfers, tips, meals, drinks, butler service and educational programs. The helicopter, submarine and spa services are additional. Each room is a suite and has either a private terrace. The ten dining experiences—an impressive array for a vessel this size—means guests won’t be dining on the standard cruise fare.

Here’s what you need to know about this extraordinary vessel.

Guests will see many penguins, as well as other wildlife, during their cruise. Photo courtesy Scenic Eclipse

Submarine and Helicopter

The Scenic Eclipse is the first Antarctic vessels to carry a submarine. The submarine—the Scenic Neptune—can carry up to six passengers per dive and it’s possible to see a variety of marine life up close under water. The sub can go as far down as 1,000 feet. It’s a unique way to really see the active sea life on the white continent. The Scenic Neptune’s windows—the acrylic spheres—are constructed in such a way that they almost seem to disappear, giving the feeling that travelers are right next to the wildlife, without a barrier. The submarine is climate-controlled, has a surround-sound audio system, has ample legroom and headroom (so tall people feel comfortable) and the custom chairs are mounted on a swiveling platform allowing for a 270-degree view.

The intimate size of the Scenic Eclipse—only 200 passengers maximum—means it can travel to places other ships cannot. Courtesy photo

The Scenic Eclipse also has a helicopter—which can take up to six travelers and it affords one of the most memorable flights over the white continent. The state-of-the-art Airbus H130 is one of the quietest helicopters in the skies—its low sound level is seven decibels below the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirement. These helicopters are used in order to minimize any disturbance to wildlife.

And while the sub and helicopter are certainly big attractions, there are so many other activities: kayaking, SUP (one of the few ships in Antarctica to offer SUP), hiking on land, and zodiac cruises. Onboard, guests can take advantage of the full-service spa (with highly-trained massage therapists), and multiple hot tubs on the ship.

Scenic Neptune is the first submersible in Antarctica. Photo courtesy Scenic Eclipse

A Variety of Dining

The Scenic Eclipse is the only ship in Antarctica with 10 dining options. It has eight restaurants, room service (which is available 24 hours a day), and a cooking kitchen. The exclusive Chef’s Table, which is by invitation only, allows guests to sit in a private dining room with windows that look into the kitchen, so foodies can watch the preparation. Elements has a variety of Italian dishes, including pastas and tasty desserts. The Azure Bar and Café is great for a quick burger, pizza or sandwich. Lumiere focuses on French cuisine; The Night Market is an intimate dining experience with a constantly-changing menu; the Sushi Bar is also a fan favorite and requires a reservation; and Koko’s Asian cuisine offers a variety of dishes.

On board, there are ten dining options, including the popular sushi venue. Photo courtesy Scenic Eclipse

Whiskey Bar at Sea

If whiskey is your thing, you’re in luck—the Scenic Eclipse has 110 varieties to choose from (it’s part of the all-inclusive pricing, so sample as many as you’d like). The floor-to-ceiling display includes single malts such as a 25-year-old Glendullan; a 30-year-old Jura The Loch and a 16-year-old Lagavulin. There are a variety of blended whiskies as well including Ireland’s Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel; Canada’s Crown Royal Deluxe; and whiskeys from around the world including Australia, Japan, Taiwan, France, India, USA, South Africa and Sweden.

The whiskey bar has an extensive menu of spirits to suit even the keenest connoisseur. Photo courtesy Scenic Eclipse

Intimate Wildlife Encounters

Since Scenic Eclipse is small and maneuverable, it’s able to dock in areas where wildlife is abundant. (Ships that carry more than 200 passengers are restricted to where they can land. Plus, they are also restricted by how many guests can go ashore at a time). Spending time on land and exploring remote places to see animals is one of the main reasons to go to Antarctica and the Scenic Eclipse does not disappoint.

Travelers can pick an itinerary that just focuses on Antarctica or also includes the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Depending on which islands you visit, travelers may see a variety of penguins including Adélie, emperor, chinstrap, king, rockhopper, gentoo and macaroni.  Colonies of hundreds may greet visitors. Plus, a variety of seals including leopard, crabeater, Weddell, and southern elephant varieties can be seen throughout this region.

Itineraries that include the Falkland Island offer a chance to the see the magnificent king penguins. Photo courtesy Scenic Eclipse

Whales are also everywhere, and travelers might see killer whales, humpback, fin, and the blue whales. On the remote and sparsely populated Falkland Islands the chance to be among hundreds of emperor penguins might be a highlight of the trip. Don’t be surprised if South Georgia is your favorite destination. It’s one of the most remote places on the planet and is compared to the Galapagos in terms of wildlife diversity. Mountains, glaciers, craggy coastlines and millions of seals, whales, penguins and seabirds are present here.

From kayaking around ice bergs, to taking zodiac rides to seals up close, to snow shoeing to see penguin colonies, there’s a reason Antarctica is on most people’s bucket list. Enjoying the continent on a small luxury expedition yacht, makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

Cover photo courtesy Scenic Eclipse

Judy Koutsky writes often about luxury, adventure, spa, and family travel. Her work has appeared in over 30 publications, including Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. She has traveled to all seven continents. You can see her work at JudyKoutsky.com