REVIEW: What to expect aboard the six-star Scenic Eclipse

LATTE gets a taste of next-level luxury on the World's First Discovery Yacht

Port Antonio, Jamaica © Guy Dundas

A number of years back Scenic introduced a new brand positioning, adopting the “nth degree”. Gone was the name Scenic Tours, replaced by Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, placing a greater emphasis on the Australian-owned company’s expanding cruise presence, beyond the rivers of Europe and into Southeast Asia. The “nth degree”, characterised by the degree icon (now used predominantly in Scenic’s branding) are centred around delivering the highest level in product, service, inclusion and value. 

In Scenic’s words, “The Nth degree is all about perceiving our guests’ wishes, even before they know what they need themselves.”

The World’s First Discovery Yacht

Scenic Eclipse, Guanaja Island, Honduras

Enter Scenic Eclipse, Scenic’s first foray into ocean cruising. Ultra-luxury ocean cruising.

I think the Moroney’s would openly admit they’ve faced more than their fair share of choppy seas to bring Scenic Eclipse from concept to fruition. It’s been a seven year voyage from when Scenic Group Founder and Chairman Glen Moroney first conceptualised a cruise ship that offered all the comforts of a private, ultra luxury yacht for predominantly the affluent grey nomad market. Having already established a fleet of luxury river ships, the open water beckoned. An ocean vessel designed for discovery and equipped with not only the finest onboard facilities and among the largest suites at sea, but with a collection of enviable onboard ‘toys’ that guests have likely had on the wish list for years. The nth degree.

In October, LATTE was invited aboard the “World’s First Discovery Yacht” on an itinerary through the Caribbean. Joining a group of Australian and New Zealand travel advisors, we test-drove the six-star ship over a week long itinerary. We board Scenic Eclipse a few days into its scheduled 12-day “Taste of the Caribbean” itinerary in Port Antonio in Jamaica. 

Port Antonio, Jamaica &copy Guy Dundas
Port Antonio, Jamaica

Our shortened cruise visits Montego Bay, Guanaja Island in Honduras, Belize City and Half Moon Caye in Belize, Cozumel in Mexico, intersected by two full days at sea, before culminating in Miami, Florida. As LATTE exclusively revealed in July, it’s an itinerary Scenic needed to whip up after the Trump Administration threw a spanner in the works, blacklisting Americans from travelling to Cuba in June. Scenic chose to reroute its expedition to the island country as the bulk of passengers were American. That being the case, Scenic Eclipse is lucky to be half-filled of to its 228-passenger capacity. 

Public spaces

Stepping onto the luxury yacht on Deck 4, the first thing guests will likely notice is that there’s no opulent atrium with a grand staircase. Instead we are directed to the Scenic Lounge: the hub and primary gathering point where guests mingle. Flanked by reception at one end and an eye-catching marble bar at the other.

With an ice-like backdrop, the mirrored shelving supports a collection of whiskeys (110 at last count, and growing) from around the globe. Glen Moroney boasts that the bar is one of the few features on the ship he designed. Wife, Karen, was the lead on all other interior decor and design elements. Karen is onboard measuring up an art installation in the ship’s main restaurant, Elements, while I’m onboard. Two months into service and on her first voyage of the Caribbean, Scenic Eclipse is continuing to have finishing touches applied and spaces refined. Another example is two sofas appear outside dining venues that weren’t there a few days before.

A Theatre stems off the Scenic Lounge and during our cruise it’s the venue for briefings by the Discovery Team on the day ahead, karaoke and dancing, and movie screenings.

A Boutique offers a range of clothing, including Scenic branded apparel, jewellery, watches, handbags, luggage, sunglasses and more. The store also has some cleverly hidden essentials that aren’t out on display, such as bathroom essentials, reef-safe suncreams, sea-bands, medicines, memory cards, etc.

Like the expanding whiskey selection in the Scenic Bar, the reading material in the Observation Lounge & Library continues to grow, and right about now I suspect the collection of books on Antarctica will be popular as Scenic Eclipse makes her inaugural sailing to the White Continent this week.

There’s seating for around 40 guests here on a mix of armchairs, lounges, stools and table & chairs. Most seats face outwards overlooking the teak deck. An elegant maroon coloured Swarovski telescope takes pride-of-place peering towards the horizon.

If you miss out on a seat, the lounge provides the only entry point to the large Observation Terrace over the bow. (As a side note, the sheer size of the deck does make it somewhat difficult to observe what’s ahead of the ship from the lounge.) The steep pitch of the ship’s hull does however makes it awkward to lean against the edge to observe the water and any marine or aquatic life below. However, as an all-suite balcony ship, guests can peer over the edge to their heart’s content from the confines of their own private space.

Scenic Eclipse Sun Terrace whirlpools

The Sun Terrace on Deck 10 has two heated whirlpools on the port and starboard sides, separated by sun lounges and other seating arrangements. While not offered on my cruise, I’m told guests will soon be able to order drinks and snacks from bar-staff delivered to them as they relax.

Scenic Eclipse’s primary pool is bizarrely located within the Yacht Club on Deck 7, home to the daily breakfast and lunch buffet. Above the pool are louvers, converting the indoor space into an outdoor-like experience. More a plunge pool than a true swimming pool, a strange seating arrangement sees sun lounges positioned alongside dining tables. Remembering this is a casual eating space, even more odd are indoor glass showers on each side of the ship to rinse off. It’s not surprising, I don’t see a single passenger using this pool, or showers, on our voyage. Though, once in arctic waters this facility is likely to be put to better use.

Outside the Yacht Club and at the stern is a Vitality Pool, which is essentially an arced plunge pool.

Immediately beneath the Vitality Pool on Deck 6 is the stupendous Senses Spa. Separate male and female spaces are located on either side of the ship, each featuring a Nordic inspired sauna, steam room, temperature controlled plunge pool, infrared room, relaxation lounge with stunning mosaic embedded tiles and its own outdoor vitality pool, also at the stern.

Spa Suite

Spa Suite #806 is my decedent floating palace for a week. At up to 50-square-metres in size, the living space is sectioned into three compartments, separated by sheer curtains. An enormous walk-in has plenty of hanging space, bench-tops, draws, a safe and handy slide-out shoe shelf. I struggle to fill a third of the space available. A floor-to-ceiling mirror divides the walk-in from the king-sized bed.

Both sides of the Scenic Slumber Bed are individually adjustable in a multitude of settings and firmnesses, and the mattress can be flipped for even more comfort settings. There’s an accompanying pillow menu, and combined with the ultra plush duvet and sheet-set, ensuring a deep sleep on the sea, and living up to the branded name. The base of the bed also has a handy storage compartment for large suitcase.

A sheer curtain that can be easily pulled back separates the bed from the lounge room. On the wall behind a corner lounge is a magnificent original artwork by Byron Bay artist, Mitch Gobel, that reflects the colours and movement of the ocean outside. There’s also a comfy armchair in the corner. In a simple twist, the large round coffee table cleverly adjusts to a suitable working station (from where I’m able to produce two issues of LATTE!). A huge rotatable Samsung TV stands on a pedestal and provides a direct feed to The Theatre and a catalogue of TV networks from around the world and endless movie selection.

My huge balcony has a chaise, arm-chair and side-table. In hindsight I don’t fully utilise this space as much as I could have, and that’s probably due to the humidity in the Caribbean where I’m cruising. I can imagine guests will be perched in this space, perhaps with new friends, ordering champagne and canapes from their butler as they observe penguins frolicking on ice flows in the Arctics.

The living space also features a mini-bar complete with a retro-style iperEspresso coffee machine and mini-bar fridge with soft drinks and juices. But there’s no pre-stocked alcohol. The idea being for guests to head to one of the bars onboard and socialise over beverages.

My expansive marble bathroom is however the drawcard of the Spa Suite. The steam shower is equipped with an oversized head and “light therapy” which slowly transitions between all the colours of the rainbow. A bench seat stretches the width of the shower. It’ll be a handy feature for mature travellers but the drawback is that it pools water, which if not wiped down, drips during the night. There’s a stylish stretched double vanity and plenty of additional shelving space separating it from the pièce de résistance – the double size Philippe Starck bath. The whirlpool bath faces the balcony window and is a sanctuary unto itself to route out the day.

The bathroom and living space are separated by a glass divider which doesn’t quite reach the roof. Using a “electro-chromic” technology, the glass frosts for privacy at the flick of a switch.

A toilet is located in a standalone room next door to the bathroom, and I’m not the only one in the famil who finds the full-length mirror mounted to the back of the door a little peculiar.

Scenic Eclipse has an all-suite balcony design. Each of the 114 suites are located in the front half of the upper five decks of the 10-level yacht. There are 12 Spa Suites on the ship, which are positioned on Decks 8 and 9. If your clients are after something even more extravagant and spacious, try the Panorama Suite (110-square-metres), Grand Panorama Suite (105-square-metres), Owner’s Penthouse Suite (195-square-metres) or the Two-bedroom Penthouse Suite (a whopping 245-square-metres).

The culinary experience

German TV Top Chef runner-up Tom Goetter leads the yacht’s culinary scene. Moroney tasked the 31 year old to create innovative dishes and menus, equipping the gastronomic genius with some of the best gear in the game, the latest innovation being an Urban Cultivator: a self-contained incubator that grows herbs and greens onboard the ship wherever she travels.

Goetter is a passionate and exuberant chef who served his time in a range of high-brow restaurants on the land, perfecting his craft, before finding his home on the sea working with Tui Cruises, before downsizing to Seabourn, and now Scenic Eclipse.

The yacht has five restaurants: Elements, Koko’s, Lumière, Azure Bar & Grill and the Yacht Club. Koko’s however is a three-in-one offering, with an Asian Fusion experience at its core and a sushi bar (Sushi & Koko’s) positioned upon entering the restaurant; and a Teppanyaki grill located in a private room towards the rear. Likewise, Element’s has an easily missed Chef’s Table private dining room. A cooking school, Scenic Epicure, is also classed as on the Scenic Eclipse’s dining experiences, so to is room-service.

Elements (on Deck 4) is the main and largest restaurant on Scenic Eclipse and offers Italian, steak and seafood. While I’m onboard, Karen Moroney is installing a new art gallery, with a collection of around a dozen pieces (more information on this exhibit is yet to be released). The Lasagna Bolognese with black Angus and organic tomatoes is delicious.

Next door to Elements is Koko’s where chef Goetter has his own take on the Japanese bento box at lunch. For dinner I join five members of the group and we are provided share a medley of the main courses, Cantonese Steamed Fish, Chingri Malay Curry, Angus Beef Pad Thai and Pekin Duck – all amazingly presented and tasty. Another night we experience the Teppanyaki Grill, but it’s a civilised affair, with no food throwing.

Upstairs on Deck 5 at the sophisticated fine-dining contemporary French venue, Lumière, guests pick their way through an eight-course menu, which includes ‘Rockerfeller’ oysters (comte bechamel, sauteed spinach, brioche and persillade brioche crumble) and Chateaubriant D’ Angus Noir, Foir Gras et Gratin (350 days grass fed Black Angus on potatoe gratin).

Casual dining options are available at the Yacht Club and Azure Bar & Cafe. And if you don’t care to leave the confines of your suite, In-Suite Dining is offered 24 hours a day. The succulent medium rare Australian lamb cutlets are a winner.

Tucked away is a private dining space where VIPs are invited to dine is the Chef’s Table. Here Goetter’s imagination runs wild, with dishes reminiscent of what you would expect from Heston Blumenthal, such as cigar-shaped burritos resting on dehydrated vegetables that resemble “ash”. Goetter also shares secrets of his craft in the culinary school, Epicure.

 

This review is ongoing, stay tuned, lots more to follow

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