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Years ago, Glen Moroney, founder of luxury cruise line Scenic, was looking out over Sydney Harbour in his home country of Australia, when he spotted the mega-yacht of late billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
It sparked an idea in Moroney: Make the mega-yacht experience more accessible to the masses.
The seed was planted, and the idea ultimately grew into Scenic Eclipse, a ship that the company calls the “world’s first discovery yacht.”
Eclipse pairs the luxury cruise experience with a full-fledged expedition vessel. The ship will sail more than half the year in polar regions and is specially outfitted for the conditions of these areas. Its profile is striking, capturing the look of an elegant yacht. The leading edge of the ship features a great teak-deck expanse for passengers to gather outside and view wildlife.
The ship also carries a Polar Class 6 rating, making it capable of safely navigating through the icy waters of the Arctic and Antarctica. Its stabilizers — 50% larger than standard — offer a smoother ride in turbulent waters. Eclipse even carries its own helicopters (two black, six-passenger Airbus H130 choppers) and a six-passenger submarine that can dive more than 300 feet below the surface.
The all-inclusive ship was highly anticipated but suffered a series of shipyard problems that ultimately delayed its launch by a year. It set sail on its inaugural voyage from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Quebec before heading to New York, where it was christened Sept. 10 at Manhattan Cruise Terminal’s Pier 88. Actress Helen Mirren serves as its godmother: She toured the 228-passenger ship and said she was impressed by its design.
"If Neptune had a queen, it would be Scenic Eclipse,” she said.
I sailed on Eclipse from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to New York to get an early look at this innovative vessel. According to Scenic, the ship is ideal for cruisers who are used to a luxury travel experience but want to challenge themselves in a safe and comfortable environment. Seamlessly executing a hybrid of these experiences is certainly ambitious, but Eclipse aims high: The ship features eight restaurants, as well as 24-hour room service and the Epicure studio for cooking classes.
And the onboard cuisine is a true highlight. It’s overseen by charismatic executive chef Tom Goetter, a former chef for Seabourn Cruise Line and a runner-up on the latest season of Germany’s “Top Chef.” Scenic’s eateries include a main dining room offering Italian dishes, steaks and seafood; a French restaurant; and an Asian-fusion eatery with a teppanyaki room and a sushi bar (for which all fish is flown in from Japan).
The Chef’s Table experience is available every other night by invitation only, and the 11- to 14-course meal is a spectacular culinary journey. The ship also offers a tapas-style and buffet eatery.
Eclipse’s public spaces and suites are spacious and elegant, employing modern designs that feature grays, blacks and blues. Cabins have walk-in showers and comfortable beds with controls on each side to incline the head or elevate the feet.
Passengers on our sailing pointed out a few design quirks, including televisions that are integrated into a floor-to-ceiling mirror that is located in front of the couch in the separate living area instead of in front of the bed. The ship’s Observation Lounge is the gateway for the large outdoor space at the bow on Deck 5. It serves as a quiet place to relax, but ocean views from the seats are mostly obscured by the expansive deck.
Eclipse’s Discovery team of expert guides lead kayaking, snorkeling and Zodiac tours, all launched from the Discovery Theatre “mud room” that connects to the water platform at the back of the ship. A large theater is the spot for enrichment talks and movies.
After adventures onshore, cruisers can indulge with a treatment or relax at the large thermal spa, or they can try one of the more than 150 varieties of whiskey at the Whiskey Bar. The ship also features an indoor pool, several outdoor hot tubs, a fitness center and a yoga and Pilates studio.
The DetailsScenic www.scenicusa.com