If you're sailing Scenic Eclipse, you will have the option of going ashore most days. Itineraries are port-intensive and include excellent shore excursion choices. Depending on where the ship is sailing, shore excursions might border on the more traditional city tour types or move into more challenging territory, like hiking or kayaking. Options are designed to comfortably challenge passengers, if they wish to try more adventurous options. On our sailing along Canada and New England, we enjoyed a well-designed beer tour in Portland, Maine, while others elected to try kayaking. Tours in the polar regions, where the ship is slated to spend more than half the year, are designed to get passengers up close to wildlife.
All adventure excursions are run by the ship's expedition guides, a group comprising specialists in areas like whales or geology. There's a lot of expertise onboard, and it shows both during the daily lectures in the theater and ashore. Even on excursions that aren't expedition focused, one of these guides is likely to join the group, adding color to information the local guide is providing. It's a well-thought-out setup that has passengers feeling connected to the expedition guides. All excursions involve small groups, so you never feel like you are one of the masses in port. It does mean you have to pick your excursion ahead of time so you don't miss out on your top choice.
Excursions generally are of the half-day variety, meaning passengers can expect to be back on the ship for lunch, if they choose. Many excursions require passengers to use the ship's Quietvox audio devices, linked up to the guide's audio box. This eliminates the need to huddle up next to the guide to hear her. Daily programs identify whether passengers will need their audio devices.
* May require additional fees
Of course, Scenic Eclipse is perhaps most notable for its big, expensive toys: two six-passenger helicopters and one six-passenger submarine. The sub and the helicopter both come with extra fees, and tours are either 20 or 40 minutes. Both types of vehicles also are maneuvered by expert pilots, who carefully explain what the experience will be like, and what you're seeing or feeling. The helicopters are equipped with vibration control, air conditioning and roomy leather seats. Weather permitting, helicopters are able to operate in many of the ports visited. The sub, which can reach a depth of nearly 1,000 feet, has swivel seats, so passengers can see in all directions through acrylic spheres. It can make up to eight dives a day, though it's not permitted to operate in U.S. waters.
Most active excursions are not suited to people with mobility issues, though other more casual options generally are available outside of the polar itineraries.
Guides onboard are alert to wildlife as the ship is sailing, and if Scenic Eclipse is passing by a pod of dolphins or a sunfish, you'll hear an announcement so you can move to the best spot for viewing, which occasionally might be your balcony. We found that the bow area off the Observation Lounge regularly offered the best views. Ashore, guides will point out wildlife -- or evidence of wildlife -- and expertly answer questions. They're also keen on making sure passengers and wildlife are safe, so they'll ensure everyone keeps a safe distance from creatures.
Each day -- most-often in the evening -- the expedition guides will hold a recap and briefing, designed to remind people of the highlights from the day and help them understand what to expect the next day. Additionally, there are enrichment lectures designed to teach passengers about the areas they're visiting or provide tips. (One lecture on our sailing focused on using your smartphone to take excellent photos ashore.) All lectures, which take place in the theater, are live-streamed to the in-cabin TVs, so you can watch from the comfort of your suite, if you desire.
In addition to the expedition-style enrichment, Scenic Eclipse offers several hands-on cooking classes per cruise at its Scenic Epicure venue. The space has cooktops and stations to accommodate 16 passengers. The approach Scenic takes is unique, in that it's not designed around recipes. Instead, a chef demonstrates how to make something -- ceviche, for example -- explaining the basic components of the dish. Then, he/she explains how it can be tweaked, altered or completely reinvented before setting passengers loose to try their own take on the dish. There's lots of experimenting and sampling but no recipe cards to follow or take home. Twenty-four classes lasting 45 minutes each are available. There's no charge for the experience, but classes fill up fast -- we heard from several passengers who were disappointed because they couldn't get in. Check with guest services early and often if a class is on your must-do list.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Because Scenic Eclipse is designed to get people ashore, onboard entertainment isn't a big focus. Entertainment is low-key and might include karaoke and dancing or music from a visiting string quartet. You also might catch a movie (with popcorn) on the big screen in the main theater. Passengers on our sailing enjoyed a night of Broadway hits, courtesy of the entertainment director, who also was a singer. Also offered: a rousing round of Liar's Club. Most entertainment takes place in the main theater, after the evening's expedition update. Passengers are treated to a sail-away party on their first night and a Captain's Farewell on their last.
Lobby Lounge (Deck 4): The hub of virtually all drinking and nighttime entertainment activities is the Lobby Lounge, a massive space capable of accommodating every passenger onboard. At the center of Deck 4 is the heartbeat of the space, a whiskey bar that offers more than 150 varieties of scotch and whiskey, along with other spirits, wine, beer and soft drinks. The bar opens early in the morning and stays open late into the night. It features a multitiered lighted column that showcases the bottles of golden whiskey. It's surrounded by a large, square marble bar, with stool seating along the front.
Most passengers will sit on couches, bench seating and cushioned chairs, arranged thoughtfully around long, low marble tables. The space is designed for conversation, and cruisers can hear one another even when evening entertainment is going on -- things like live music or karaoke. The lounge is used throughout the day, with passengers reading books while gazing out at sea during the day and enjoying a cocktail after dinner. A small self-service coffee and tea station is located adjacent to the bar, offering a variety of coffees and Kusmi teas.
On our sailing, the Lobby Lounge was routinely the busiest -- and most fun -- spot onboard. It was bustling, especially after dinner and evening lectures. The only thing missing is a central dance floor. When live music is scheduled, the act sets up tucked away in the corner, and passengers don't really have a spot for dancing -- if they were so inclined -- which doesn't interfere with natural walkways.
Observation Lounge (Deck 5): Located all the way forward on Deck 5, the Observation Lounge is a quiet spot where passengers gather during the day to read, work on crossword puzzles and talk (softly). The space includes a small library with books available for use during the sailing. It also has a self-service coffee and tea bar, slightly bigger than the one in the Lobby Lounge. Passengers can sit in chairs around low tables or at long, high tables. A telescope sits in the corner and is heavily used for wildlife sightings. One nit about the lounge itself: If you're seated, you can't actually see the water or observe anything.
Your best bet for watching wildlife is the outdoor viewing space on the bow located directly in front of the lounge. Passengers can gather here during scenic cruising or to see wildlife. The height of the railing could be a bit of a viewing hindrance for shorter passengers.
Azure Bar & Grill (Deck 5): Ostensibly a restaurant space, Azure Bar & Grill also has a bar. It's used mostly at meal time, though it's worth noting this is where you can get a great cup of coffee any time of day.
The ship's main pool actually isn't outdoors at all -- it's located in the Yacht Club, under glass. The indoor location means it's usable even in cold climates, though it's close proximity to diners could make for some awkward moments. (Glass-paneled showers flank each side of the Yacht Club and are mere feet from tables.) Outside, behind the Yacht Club, is another plunge pool, which is surrounded by lounge chairs. Two hot tubs are located on Deck 10.
Scenic Eclipse has a marina off the back of the ship from which Zodiacs leave to take passengers on excursions. Kayaks also leave from the marina. The ship has a mud room, where passengers can store (and dry) gear used for excursions. The big space is climate controlled, with space for people to wriggle into and out of parkas and snow boots with ease.
The shore excursion and guest services team share a long desk space in the ship's main lounge on Deck 4. A small self-service launderette is located on Deck 3, and a well-stocked library takes up a wall in the Observation Lounge on Deck 5. You'll also find some games here. There is no internet cafe, but Wi-Fi is included, and it's powerful when the ship sales in less-remote regions. (We were able to video chat while sailing off the coast of Eastern Canada.)
The ship has a boutique shop, offering high-end clothing and accessories. It's located on Deck 4 near the Lobby Lounge.
Scenic Eclipse has created wonderful spaces for those focused on fitness and wellness. The spa, located at the back of Deck 6, features serene thermal suites -- one for men, another for women. The suites are virtually mirror images of each other and offer amenities like sensory showers, plunge pools, infrared saunas, steam rooms and heated lounge chairs with Bose headphones. At the back of the facility is a coed outdoor space, complete with a nice-sized plunge pool, surrounded by lounge chairs. It's a peaceful way to spend a day, and there's no additional charge to use the space.
The Senses Spa offers a variety of treatments using ESPA products. Swedish, hot stone and deep-tissue massages are offered, but so are massages that focus on calming and mindfulness, incorporating breathing techniques and crystals. Facials also are offered. A salon is available for hair styling, cuts and treatments, along with waxing, makeup and brow and lash tinting. Pedicures and manicures using Susanne Kaufmann and Zoya products also are offered. Prices for all treatments are about what you'd pay on land. A few 60-minute massages are available, but most run 90 or 120 minutes.
The ship's fitness center is located on Deck 7. The space is small but efficient, providing treadmills, a rowing machine and stationary bikes, along with light dumbbells and a resistance machine. Stretching mats are included, though floor space is limited. The gym is small but large enough for the ship. We did have to wait for equipment in the morning after breakfast and in the afternoon when returning from shore excursions, but the space wasn't crowded.
In addition to a traditional fitness center, Scenic Eclipse has a sizable yoga and Pilates room. Classes, which don't require an extra fee, are offered throughout the day, with options suitable to passengers of all levels. Our favorite: a nighttime stretch, designed to get you ready for bed. It's tempting to show up in your PJs.
Scenic Eclipse doesn't have a jogging track.
The minimum age to sail on Scenic Eclipse is 12. Any passenger younger than 18 must sleep in the same room as an adult. There are no connecting cabins or cabins that accommodate more than two passengers. Scenic Eclipse doesn't offer children's clubs, spaces or programming, and babysitting isn't available onboard.