Scenic has spent nearly 40 years cultivating an unrivaled reputation for premium European river cruises, so it was no surprise when it launched its first purpose-built ocean liner, the Scenic Eclipse, in 2018.
But what took the cruising industry’s collective breath away was how the sheer magnificence of the ultra-luxury Discovery Yacht set new benchmarks in cutting-edge technology and hedonistic comfort for guests who were after adventure.
The six-star boutique-style craft offered its 228 pampered guests the last word in elegance and tasteful refinement, becoming so popular that Scenic commissioned a near identical model, the Scenic Eclipse II.
And I was lucky enough to experience one of its first voyages earlier this year, a five-day sail from Málaga in southern Spain, through the Straits of Gibraltar to the historic Portuguese capital, Lisbon.
My first thought on seeing the vessel’s curved silhouette was that it was more akin to a billionaire’s superyacht than a regular cruise ship, its midnight blue hull giving way to a white cascade of understated decks, sweeping smoothly upwards.
Seven seas of sublime
Its sleek lines belie the inner strength of a reinforced bow and oversized stabilizers, designed to cope with Antarctic ice floes and the heavy southern Atlantic swells. Its itineraries for the next 12 months take in a bewildering range of destinations across all seven continents, including New Zealand, Australia, Borneo, the South Pole, South America and Scandinavia.
Any guests concerned about traversing the frozen wastes of Antarctica needn’t worry if they haven’t packed snow boots, as the Scenic Eclipse II boasts two helicopters for spectacular flightseeing over some of the most dramatic scenery on Earth. And if even that doesn’t sate your quest for adventure, there’s an eight-seater submarine, Scenic Neptune, for a truly immersive opportunity to mingle with the marine life.
"My first thought on seeing the vessel’s curved silhouette was that it was more akin to a billionaire’s superyacht than a regular cruise ship."
My sense of awe didn’t diminish once onboard. By the time I arrived at my cabin, a Grand Deluxe Verandah – the biggest cruise ship accommodation I’ve ever seen – my personal butler George had already hung my clothes in the wardrobe and arranged my toiletries in the spacious marble bathroom.
Espa toiletries, velour bathrobes and a Dyson Supersonic hairdryer all add to the luxury vibe of hotel meets home.
Beyond the electrically-controlled, king-sized double bed was a generous lounge area leading to the private balcony. Scenic Eclipse II is one of the few passenger liners where every single suite has outside seating.
Oasis of tranquility
It was time to explore, and my first port of call was Senses Spa, where I’d booked an aromatherapy facial and massage. As soon as I saw the Scandinavian-style steam rooms and saunas, heated salt therapy lounges and plunge pools, it was clear this wouldn’t be my last visit.
Like the rest of the ship, the spa was designed by Scenic Group’s Co-Founder and owner Karen Moroney and just as in all the public spaces and guest suites, her attention to detail and eye for refined opulence is evident.
After two hours of pampering at the soothing hands of my therapist Melissa, it was time to dress for dinner in Elements, the main restaurant – Italian-themed, with melt-in-the-mouth steaks and fresh seafood. It’s one of 10 all-inclusive dining options, from the casual Azure Bar & Café and Koko’s Asian fusion sake bar to the French sophistication of Lumière and the lavishly appointed Yacht Club.
"As soon as I saw the Scandinavian-style steam rooms and saunas, heated salt therapy lounges and plunge pools, it was clear this wouldn’t be my last visit."
I selflessly made it my mission to experience each of them, and can honestly say the next few days were the most spectacular gastronomic cavalcade of my life, courtesy of the 38 highly-trained chefs who hail from 15 countries. The highlight for me was the exclusive Chef’s Table @ Elements, a divine degustation feast, with 11 courses, each perfectly matched to a carefully-chosen wine.
After lingering over dessert, it didn’t take much to rock me to sleep that night.
The ship was intended to be a carbon copy of Scenic Eclipse, but the design engineers couldn’t resist sneaking in an array of enhancements to elevate the seemingly un-elevatable.
One example is Chef’s Garden @ Epicure, an intimate fine dining masterclass facility for up to 14 guests to learn culinary skills, make chocolate or take part in a whisky tasting. Another is the peaceful Sky Bar with indoor and outdoor seating and six private cabanas by the oval-shaped Vitality Pool, its powerful jets enabling the swimming of laps.
A new feature it’s probably best I didn’t see is the Owner’s Penthouse Suite, with its Jacuzzi, eight-seater dining table, circular bath, outdoor daybed and his and hers walk-in wardrobes. Get me in there and I’m not sure I’d ever want to leave, no matter where we were docked or the array of discovery experiences on offer.
"The superlative service, meticulous attention to detail and technical wizardry make this a ship fit for all seasons, all regions and all cruising connoisseurs."
Time not spent in my own capacious suite was time I could be in the observation lounge, gazing at the Algarve shoreline through one of the Swarovski telescopes, taking a kayak out for some pre-lunch exercise or watching the sun set over my French martini in the poolside cocktail bar. Tough life.
My ocean experience aboard Scenic Eclipse II confirmed that it combines the personalized comfort of a smaller, more intimate vessel with luxury facilities usually only available on much bigger liners. Those with an eye for design will appreciate the finer details that successfully balance high-end technology with pleasing esthetics.
The superlative service, meticulous attention to detail and technical wizardry make this a ship fit for all seasons, all regions and all cruising connoisseurs.