My agent asked me for feedback on Scenic Eclipse. This is what I wrote.
Our thoughts on Scenic Eclipse. Overall it’s a four star hotel in a six star ship where Silversea is a six star hotel in a four star ship!
The huge 6 metre stabilisers and a long sharp bow make for the best ride by far we’ve experienced. We were in a Force 11 gale and Force 12 for an hour or so leaving South Georgia and no one we knew felt seasick. The azipod propulsion system means the ship can stop and manoeuvre extraordinarily quickly - a benefit we discovered when we came amongst a pod of Type D orcas while in a four metre swell. They have been seen very few times but we were able to slow rapidly, turn and stay with them for about twenty minutes, something no older expedition ship could have done.
On the downside the only open deck to view forwards is the bow deck and there is no observation lounge or forward facing viewing area available. This is a major fault in an expedition ship, relieved only by the fact the Captain kept an open bridge nearly all the time. However that could get crowded and it’s not easy to cross from side to side.
Our Grand de Luxe Suite was very spacious and comfortable. Needed hooks to hang wet gear after a landing and a bedside clock and clothes line but otherwise very good. Friends who have travelled very extensively had a Spa Suite which they described as the worst designed suite they had ever had. Poor storage, a TV taking up useable space and a glass topped wall between the bathroom and the bedroom with consequent light issues. Other friends had the basic Verandah Suite which was very small. I think there is an acknowledgment that it is not the 32 sq m advertised though they have not changed the website. Fittings throughout are ultra modern surprisingly with sharp edges and the bathroom sink a joke of form over function. Excellent shower however.
Scenic were, I believe, very fortunate that One Ocean ceased trading late last year as they were then able to get an exceptionally experienced expedition team where they would certainly have struggled otherwise after Kara Weller left them during the long delay. A great help on some of our landings was that the zodiacs are kept in a ‘garage’ on deck 3 so could be launched in winds which would have precluded the other ships winching them down from the top deck. My only observation was that they should limit the numbers to 8 passengers when zodiac cruising.
Where the ship lets itself down is on the hotel side. I’m not sure whether that's a management and training issue or whether they are deliberately aiming down market. The latter seems unlikely when you see the amazing collection of whiskies in the lounge bar! To say they had a butler service was a real joke on both sides of our deck. Tea bags and coffee pods were not replaced, no attempt made to keep the coffee machine full of water. The room boy responsible for cleaning was excellent but the butler had no idea about anticipating requirements. Either he was poorly trained or could not cope with the number of cabins he had to look after. Either way this was not butler service Silversea style.
They make an element of their promotion the number of restaurants but this is more of a negative than a positive. A good buffet lunch is served in the Yacht Club - that’s the one with the hilariously stupid pool placed in the middle - but if everybody was on board at the same time there were not enough seats. The Maitre’d’s were good but struggled at times with what they had available. We were a party of eight from the out set and really only Elements - the basic restaurant - can cope with a party that size. And inevitably as people meet up during the cruise there are more and more larger parties for dinner. The Sushi Bar was consistently good but with ten seats did not take reservations, meaning the queue outside started earlier and earlier as the cruise went on. We had one really good meal in Kokos, the Asian fusion restaurant, but the rest were underwhelming. We also had one good and one very poor experience in the Teppanyaki so I think the best you can say is that dining is patchy, even in the top of the range Lumiere. Service also varied from the almost nonexistent to the superb. And some of the very best dishes - lobster, mussels - were so salty they were almost inedible.
We were the last of four coaches to board at 1200 on departure. Amazingly there was no form of welcome - we were just told to go to deck 7 for lunch. Needless to say there were no tables available. What a shambolic welcome.
And Scenic ground handling showed no sign of responding to customers. They insisted on an 0500 departure for the 45 minute drive to EZE fo an 0900 flight. The hotel said 0630 would be fine. Scenic would not change so I cancelled their transfer and booked my own hotel car for 0615.
One more thing - do not sell the cruise on the fact there is a submarine. What a white elephant. It was unserviceable for the whole of the previous cruise and only did a few dives on this one before they damaged it while docking. And feedback says you won’t see fish or whales - maybe krill - won't go under the ice and in Antarctica there is no colour on the sea bed. So if for any of your clients that is the drawcard - dissuade them. The helicopter flights are really pot luck. We had an OK flight with incompatible passengers as did one other of our group. The other two couples flew on a perfect day and had an amazing experience.
This may all sound a bit negative but the fact is we had a wonderful experience and did and saw things on our third trip on this route we hadn’t done or seen before. That they ever got the ship built at all is a massive tribute to the captain and a small Scenic team who took over part of the shipyard and managed the final process of fit out all by themselves. It is early days - the ship is still less than six months into operation. We have made feedback to Scenic as constructive criticism as to how they can improve their product and particularly the design of future ships.
The ship is massively over-capitalised and their fares are still incredibly low compared to Silversea. I hope the river cruises are profitable enough to sustain their operation.
Sell Scenic to people who are scared of the reputation of the Drake Passage and like modern design. And whisky!!!