Though we normally only cover river cruising on River Cruise Advisor, Scenic is introducing a new expedition vessel that will draw a portion of its initial guests from Scenic’s past river cruise passenger base. In effect, Scenic is doing what Viking River Cruises has done with Viking Sea and Viking Star: bringing the best of the river cruise experience to the oceans.
Hats off to Glen Moroney and his team for conceiving what appears to be the world’s most cleverly thought-through expedition vessel. Scheduled to begin operations in August of 2018, Scenic Eclipse hits on all cylinders thanks to a number of factors currently not seen in today’s expedition space.
In fact, during lunch this past Friday in Boca Raton, Florida, the Australian entrepreneur told me and others at my table that he prefers the term “discovery” over “expedition,” primarily because of the ships long-associated with expedition cruising. His remark was not meant to be disparaging of the existing fleet of luxury vessels operating in the expedition space but rather of the image people may have of old rusting Russian vessels with spartan accommodations.
This month, the Scenic team traveled around the United States presenting the company’s new “Discovery Yacht” to top travel sellers and press. At The Addison in Boca Raton yesterday, a dozen or more cruise sellers applauded the design components of Scenic Eclipse and were eager to begin selling it. Some were surprised to learn that even with more than two years from its first sailing, “the first departure is already half sold,” Moroney said.
Moroney appears to have taken inspiration from Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2 (arguably the most beautiful ship afloat) and other vessels within the luxury space. He and his team have incorporated some of the best features in expedition cruising and married those to an exceptionally beautiful and spacious vessel. From the renderings that Moroney presented to attendees, Scenic Eclipse will be as beautiful as it is functional.
Scenic Eclipse: Four Differentiating Factors
There are four components that will make Scenic Eclipse stand out:
- Safety. Scenic Eclipse will have an ice-rated double hull (Ice Class A1 Super) and along with that, built-in redundancy. There will be two engine rooms in separate fire rooms (the ship can sail at full capacity with only one engine operational). There will be a backup wheelhouse, electrical generators as well as food preparation and storage in different areas of the ship. Scenic has duplicated all critical ship’s systems. Scenic Eclipse will also be equipped with two helicopters. Another safety and comfort feature: The “zero-speed” stabilizers should allow easier access to the Zodiacs by mitigating the motion caused by swells, particularly in regions such as South Georgia. The custom-built stabilizers are more than 50 percent larger than what you’d find on ships of this size, Moroney said. Also, the ship’s azipod propellers will function as icebreakers to some degree, providing another measure of safety.
- Two helicopters and a submarine. Scenic Eclipse will allow guests to explore far beyond the shoreline (and water’s surface) via its two onboard six-guest helicopters and a submarine that can carry up to seven guests. Moroney said these will be among the only “optional excursions,” where guests will pay for the experience. Plans are to keep the prices for these activities reasonable. Moroney suggested a price that was less than half of Crystal Cruises’ submersible experience (around US$600 for 30 minutes) on Crystal Esprit.
- Plush accommodations along with multiple dining and lounge venues. Scenic Eclipse’s staterooms will range from 345-square-foot Verandah Suites to over-the-top two-bedroom Penthouse Suites. The latter will provide you with 1,775-square-feet of interior space and 730-square-feet of outdoor terrace, a true home away from home. The ship will feature five dining venues, six counting room service, and multiple lounges. “The idea with this ship is to try and replicate the best of river cruising, offering far more amenities, more choices, having completely separate restaurants, etc.,” Moroney said. The entire main deck is comprised of public space, spanning more than 20,000 square feet. The Lobby Lounge will feature 3-meter ceilings (about 10 feet).
- The size of the vessel. Scenic Eclipse will measure 168 meters and carry 228 guests, except when in the polar regions, where it will carry 200, in order to comply with regulations that allow ships to disembark passengers ashore on landings. “We think 200 to 300 passengers with the amenities and the space and good-size cabins will provide an optimal experience,” Moroney said to applause. “It’s totally focused on the guest. I can be very honest with you, the economics [of operating a ship this size] are really tough. That’s why people aren’t building 200-passenger ships anymore.”
Scenic Eclipse is poised to change expedition cruising as we know it. We will be updating our Scenic Eclipse review page as more details become available.