Originally due to launch in August 2018, the journey hasn't been an easy one, with issues at the shipyard leading to a number of delays. As we approached the ship, the excitement from the Scenic team, most of whom were also visiting for the first time, was palpable.
At first glance the ship really did look like a huge super yacht, especially with one of the two state-of-the-art helicopters perched on the back. The gentle arch of the decks, tapered at the front and aft, is unlike the more boxy appearance of most cruise ships. The long bow adds to the stylish design, and enhances the ship's stability.
On board a final push was under way to have everything ready for launch day, and it's clear that Scenic are striving to create a cruising experience that doesn't compromise on the level of comfort. More like a contemporary luxury hotel than a ship, the muted grey tones and soft touch walls gave the interior a smart, modern feel.
Scenic Eclipse offers ten dining experiences across seven venues. The largest restaurant, Elements, will serve Italian, steak and seafood for around 120 guests, yet the space feels intimate. Low booths are available for groups and there is a semi-private table, ideal if you're celebrating a milestone on board. Subtle transparent panels offer a glimpse into the galley, and there is a connecting Chef's Table area, where dining is by invitation only.
At Koko's, an Asian fusion restaurant, we saw a British artist completing the striking mural at the entrance, specially commissioned for the ship. The restaurant includes a sushi counter, with a selection of sake in the evening and bento boxes at lunchtime. A raised platform with Asian-style sunken tables is particularly fun, and sits alongside regular tables of varying size. In a separate room the glass-enclosed Teppanyaki grill is sure to be a popular spot.
On the deck above at the aft of the ship are the Azure Bar & Café and Lumière. The former will be open all day for light bites, with al fresco seating available when the weather permits. Just next door, the Scenic Epicure cooking school has six stations for up to twelve guests, complete with micro herb garden. Lumière is a contemporary French dining experience and Champagne bar, with outdoor seating available, although at first glance this felt like it would be a lively evening venue, with the focus inside rather than out.
The final dining venue, the Yacht Club, is a multi-use space. Here the indoor steel step-up pool has views over the ship's wake and sits just below the helipad, with the skylight offering a close up of the choppers' comings and goings. A poolside grill, buffet and bar are within easy reach of the poolside loungers, and the small outside deck has a plunge pool.
Eclipse features a generous spa for a vessel with a maximum capacity of just 228 guests (limited to 200 in the polar regions). Split into mirror image his and hers sections, there are saunas and treatment rooms, each section has a very small indoor plunge pool, and they share an outdoor plunge pool at the rear of the ship. There is also a gym and a yoga and Pilates studio.
The main lounge, home to the excursion desk and reception area, has a wealth of comfortable low seating and a real sense of space. The grand piano in the corner hints that this will be an area to relax in as well as to congregate prior to the included shore excursions, and lectures are held in the theatre next door.
The theatre is the most comfortable I've ever experienced. The individual seats can be electronically reclined, and foot stools raise up to make sure you're supremely comfortable when listening to the lectures from the expert team of naturalists and guides. Daily briefings will be held here to outline the following day's activities and timings, spread over two sessions as the capacity of the theatre doesn't quite match that of the ship.
The other area I was able to see was the Observatory and Library at the front of the ship. This is a small lounge which will offer limited forward views, and the highlight is the Observation Terrace, a huge expanse of deck space which allows access to the very front of the ship's bow, which promises to be pretty spectacular when the reinforced hull is pushing through ice in the polar regions. This looks to be the largest area of the relatively limited deck space available, although there is also the Sun Terrace at the top of the ship, which was out of bounds on my visit.
Unfortunately I was unable to see the suites, but each has a private balcony and is sure to be a stylish as the rest of the ship.
The ship's attention-grabbing headline is the amazing toys for exploration, and it's these that give the yacht its expedition edge. The helicopters will operate scenic sightseeing flights and the submarine will offer varying lengths of dive, from 20 minutes up to an hour (subject to seas conditions), in all destinations except South Georgia. These tours will be the only excursions that come at an additional cost, with the helicopter starting from US$395 per person and the submarine from US$250 per person. Twelve zodiacs (plus a submarine chase boat) will allow for shore landings when sailing in remote areas, operating from mid-ship marina entrances to provide maximum protection in heavier seas.
Captain James Griffiths' career started at Cunard, later captaining Lindblad's National Geographic Explorer and National Geographic Orion, and more recently working at Windstar. He highlighted the technical strength of the ship, with zero speed stabilisers one of the many reasons why this ship will offer guests a comfortable ride.
What is clear from my short time on board is that this ship is more like a designer yacht than an expedition vessel. Aiming to offer the utmost luxury with the ability to visit the world's most remote locations, and with the tools to explore them on board, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in a chic city hotel rather than on a cruise ship.
As the final preparations are made for the inaugural voyage from Reykjavik on the 15th August, we eagerly await the forthcoming announcement of Scenic Eclipse's 2020/22 collection.