This is a difficult review to write, as some parts of the cruise were excellent and others extremely disappointing. My bottom line is that Scenic ultimately failed to deliver the “6-star” experience they promoted. I am limiting the review to those aspects of the trip specific to Scenic and the Scenic Eclipse. The destinations themselves, the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula, will be enjoyed by anyone who likes wildlife or unique scenery, but there are many ships that offer this itinerary.
On the positive side, the ship’s staff was excellent. Everyone in housekeeping, food and beverage, customer relations, and the expedition team (called the Discovery team by Scenic) was friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. This was consistent with our previous river cruise on Scenic and one of the reasons we chose Scenic for this voyage. On our cruise, there were actually more staff members than passengers. The expedition team deserves special commendation. Its members were knowledgeable in oceanography, marine biology, glaciology, geology, and ornithology. They were careful to protect passenger safety and the safety of the environment. Another positive feature was the open bridge, where the ship’s officers were willing to talk about the ship or simply let you stay there to observe the surroundings.
The cabins were a mixture of good and bad. Shortly before our voyage we received word through our travel agent that the cabin we had booked (along with a number of others) was not as big as advertised. While Scenic offered to reimburse the premium paid for a larger cabin, we had deliberately chosen a large cabin for a cruise of this length and were quite disappointed. A better solution would have been to move us to a cabin of the size we had booked, but they did not offer this. It is also disturbing that we were told of this only shortly before the cruise, after final payment had been made. They claimed that they had only learned of the size discrepancy recently and, in fact, the next season catalog we had just received showed the cabin as larger than it is. But the failure to meet the cabin specifications should have been noted during quality inspections when the ship was built and probably reflects on all of the construction issues faced by the Scenic Eclipse. Our cabin was very noisy with loud creaking whenever the ship moved. Maintenance tried to fix this but couldn’t, and we were led to understand that the problem related to the various ceiling and wall panels not being properly joined or separated, when necessary, by gaskets, again reflecting on ship construction. On the good side, the bed was very comfortable. Negatives, many mentioned in other reviews, were minimal storage space for clothing, absence of shelf space in the bathroom with a sink that looked great but was not very functional, and a TV behind a reflective surface so it was difficult to see.
Food service ranged from just okay to very good. Lumiere was most consistently good, but we also had some enjoyable meals at Elements and at the sushi bar. There was lack of coordination between the expedition team and food service, so if you had an early zodiac departure the main restaurants were not open early enough and you were limited to a continental breakfast, where there was limited seating and often a line for service. The wines offered at meals were generally good but not exceptional, with limited choices so good pairing was not always possible.
The most unique features of the Scenic Eclipse are undoubtedly the onboard helicopters and submarine, and these were the main reasons we waited an extra year for the Eclipse after our initial voyage was cancelled because the ship was not ready. It turned out that the submarine was not functional and not used during our trip, allegedly because of a software incompatibility with some of the parts. I find it disturbing that, knowing they were operating in isolated areas without ready service facilities, they did not carry spare parts that had already been tested. The helicopters worked well and, due to good weather, everyone had a chance to get a helicopter trip and more than one if they wanted. It is important to know that helicopter and submarine rides are not guaranteed, so you should know this in advance if this is your reason for choosing the Eclipse. Although it was never explicitly stated, it appeared that your best chance of getting these excursions was to book one of the most expensive suites or have top standing in the Scenic loyalty program.
Entertainment was minimal. A very good singer-piano duo entertained during the pre-dinner cocktail hour, where hors d’oeuvres and cocktails were provided. The theater was not designed with good sight lines, due to not all rows being tiered. Seating was quite comfortable, however. The theater was not big enough to hold all passengers at once.
The ship itself appeared quite seaworthy. We were fortunate in that we never had extreme weather. There was a slight roll in moderate waves, but it was never necessary to curtail activities. The ship’s ice hull and maneuverability allowed us to get well into fjords and bays. The interior design was striking but failed to follow the principle of “form follows function.” The lobby bench seating had overly deep couches, so you were unable to lean back or, if you were not tall, sit with your feet on the floor. Restaurant seating was also on the uncomfortable side.
Finally, Scenic did not seem to have their logistics under control. The polar parkas that were promised had not arrived when we departed, and they eventually had to make do by getting a variety of jackets resembling ski parkas We like to arrive a day early just in case of travel issues and so booked the “optional” extra night in the beginning, which turned out not to be so optional as we were asked to depart the Buenos Aires hotel at 4:00 AM so there was really no way to make this if you arrived on the day of departure. On the way home we were told not to book flights before 8:00 PM, but they had us back to the Buenos Aires airport around noon, well before you could check in for flights. By way of apology for this they did offer a local city tour, but most of us had already seen Buenos Aires so this was just a time filler.
A time filler as they got us to the airport way to early for flights.