This High-end Expedition Ship Has 2 Helicopters, a Submersible, and Butler Service


The first thing I noticed about the Scenic Eclipse II is just how sleek the dark-hulled ship looked. Think mega yacht. No, think giga-yacht. At 551 feet, this is no small ship — even if, in the world of cruise lines, the Scenic Eclipse II rates as a rather intimate vessel, with a capacity of just 228 passengers.

Operated by the Australian brand that carved out a niche with luxury expedition vessels, this “discovery yacht” cuts the same gorgeous silhouette as its sibling, Scenic Eclipse, which debuted in 2019. Both ships also have all the hardware needed to operate in the polar regions, with an expedition crew to pull off adventures in places such as Antarctica.

But Scenic Eclipse II also represents an evolution: It has been tweaked with an eye to warm-weather destinations, such as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Added on Deck 10 were plunge pools, sun loungers, and an indoor-outdoor Sky Bar. These features, the thinking goes, will be more in demand when the ship is in places like Southern Europe, say, where there’s less hard-core adventure and a more immersive shore-side experience.

To give it a try, I joined the Scenic Eclipse II for its christening journey in June 2023, traveling from Barcelona to Málaga, Spain, with stops along the way in the Balearic Islands. I was eager to compare the experience on this ship, in the bustling ports of Southern Europe, with the feel of the original, on which I had previously traveled to Antarctica.

The experiences were, as it turns out, starkly different. Unlike in the polar regions, where guests spend the lion’s share of their time on the ship, the Europe cruise took me to fascinating places on land: I spent most of my voyage on various city tours, visiting impressive sites like the prehistoric Talayotic villages in Menorca and the Botánico Biotecnológico, a high-tech botanical garden, in Ibiza.

One of the highlights of my particular sailing was the opportunity to chat with NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, who was on board in her capacity as the ship’s godmother. She regaled us — passengers and crew — with tales of her career in space, her voyages on expedition cruises, and her descent into the Challenger Deep, the Pacific Ocean spot that’s more than 35,000 feet below sea level.

“There is one common thread of DNA that combines all these experiences: exploration and learning. That’s has always been what motivates me,” Sullivan said. “It’s just the intense and pervasive curiosity about different places, about this planet. Who lives there? What critters live there? What’s the landscape like?”

Truth be told, that same sense of adventure is what’s motivated me to hop aboard many expedition ships over the years. While this particular voyage through Spain lacked the feel of, say, an icebergs-and-penguins odyssey through Antarctica, I did appreciate being aboard a smaller ship during peak season in Europe. It was also a pleasure to return to the excellent restaurants on board — not to mention my spacious cabin — after a long day of touring on shore.

Here’s a closer look about what to expect when traveling on Scenic Eclipse II and my review of its staterooms, amenities, and more.

Scenic Eclipse II

  • With just 228 passengers — and a maximum of 200 in polar regions — Scenic Eclipse II offers an intimate experience.
  • Despite being small, the ship has 10 dining options, including high-end fine dining and casual spots.
  • All cabins have balconies and come with the services of a butler.
  • The ship has two helicopters and a submersible for heart-pumping adventures when conditions are right.

The Staterooms

A Verandah Suite on Scenic Eclipse II.

Courtesy of Scenic

There are 114 balcony suites, and even entry-level options are attended by butlers. Even the smallest of the bunch, Verandah Suites, feel spacious, starting at 344 square feet. I particularly loved how roomy the bathroom felt — and how snazzy the black-and-white marble looked. All suites have king-size beds (that can be split into two twins) and high-end amenities including Dyson hair dryers.

Other cabin categories include Spa Suites (starting at 495 square feet), Panorama Suites (starting at 1,130 square feet), and Owner’s Penthouse Suites (an astonishing 2,099 square feet). Spa Suites have the addition of a Philippe Starck–designed tub; the two Owner’s Penthouse Suites on board have outdoor spa tubs on their sprawling terraces. 

Inside the Owner’s Penthouse Suite on Scenic Eclipse II.

MISLAV MESEK/Courtesy of Scenic

Bars and Restaurants

Scenic Eclipse II has an incredible array of delightful dining experiences — 10 in all. My favorites included the sushi bar, French restaurant Lumière, the adjacent Champagne bar, and Night Market @ Koko’s, a venue with a rotating menu of regional cuisines, from the Middle East to India. I also loved the casual Azure Café, which serves lighter bites for breakfast and lunch, plus pizzas and pastas for dinner. Room service — which is available 24 hours a day — was also impressive. Finally, it’s worth mentioning the gorgeous Scenic Lounge Bar, behind which is an illuminated display of rare whiskies, all available at no extra charge.

Where Scenic Eclipse II Sails

Where doesn’t this ship sail? With Polar Class 6 rating, Scenic Eclipse II is capable of traveling to the Arctic and Antarctica but also spends time in warm-weather spots including the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia, depending on the season. The ship also travels to familiar cruise destinations, including the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Because of the ship’s relatively small size, it can visit some ports that mega-ships aren’t able to.

Shore Excursions

One of two helicopters on Scenic Eclipse II.

Courtesy of Scenic

On my sailing, included shore excursions were fairly typical: Guests had their choice of city walking tours, along with visits to major attractions, like historic sites and cultural centers. In some destinations, we had the option to tackle more adventurous excursions, such as snorkeling.

When the ship is in “discovery mode,” on expedition in more remote locations, such as the Arctic and Antarctica, excursions are more dynamic — think boarding Zodiacs to make “wet landings” on shore or for scenic trips around icebergs. In many destinations, Scenic Eclipse II offers helicopter and submersible excursions for an additional fee, depending on local regulations and the weather. . 

Amenities and Entertainment

On the Sky Deck of Scenic Eclipse II.

Courtesy of Scenic

The most notable amenity on Scenic Eclipse II is the spa, which spans nearly 6,000 square feet and includes a thermal suite. I also spent plenty of enjoyable time on the sun deck, where there’s a plunge pool and the indoor-outdoor Sky Bar. As far as entertainment goes, you won’t find the over-the-top productions that you might see on mega-ships, but that’s part of being on an intimate expedition-style vessel. There is a small theater, though, and I enjoyed the evening shows put on by the talented singers aboard.

Family-friendly Offerings

Children aged 12 and up are welcome, but my sense was that this isn’t a particularly kid-friendly ship: There’s no kid’s club nor is there any sort of programming aimed specifically at tweens or teens. The right kind of kids might like these trips, but they’ll need to be willing to be, potentially, the only youngsters aboard.


There are no wheelchair-accessible cabins on Scenic Eclipse II, which does have elevator service between all decks. Scenic advises travelers to contact the company before booking to discuss any specific accessibility concerns. Worth a mention was one moment during my trip, when several other guests and I were transported by bus from our pre-embarkation hotel to the port: We were dropped off nowhere near the ship, and there were no Scenic staff on hand to guide us to the terminal’s entrance. A few dozen of us, including some people with limited mobility, found it to be a fairly difficult experience. 


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