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Goldring Travel’s Antarctica Expedition on the Scenic Eclipse (February 2022) – Part I (Enlightenment)

The Scenic Eclipse is a luxury expedition ship that has been on my radar, but until now it was not really of great interest for my clients.  That is until what I consider to be a big change happened this year.  (More on that later!) And it is, in large part, because of that change, I am heading down to Antarctica for my fourth journey to become better “enlightened” about this luxury expedition experience.  (Keep in mind that Scenic Eclipse operates year-round, so there are non-polar expeditions that you should keep in mind when looking to truly get away in luxury.)

One of the bonuses and an exciting aspect of this expedition is that a number of previous Seabourn folks are integrally involved.  They include Tom Goetter – the amazing chef that started and then headed Seabourn’s Thomas Keller Grill – is now Scenic’s Corporate Executive Chef and Vitor Alves  -the former Seabourn Deputy Director of Hotel & New Build Expedition Operations – is now Scenic’s Director of Hotel Operations as well as a number of others including one of my favorite Expedition Team members.  I can’t wait to catch up with everyone, though unfortunately Tom is getting off as I am getting on. 

Explore the Scenic Eclipse - Deckplans & Suites - Scenic

My expedition starts with my flying to Buenos Aires on February 15, 2022, arriving on February 16th (spending a night there) and then early on the morning of February 17th flying with the rest of the guests to Ushuaia.  After sailing to Antarctica it will be seven days there before heading back to Ushuaia and then, on February 28th, flying back to Buenos Aires in time for my flights home.

Be sure to check out:

Part VI: Reflections
Part V: The Culinary Experience
Part IV: The Expedition Experience
Part III: First Impressions
Part III: Aramburu 18 Course
Part II: Getting There

Scenic includes and seamlessly arranges pretty much everything: Your transfers, pre-expedition hotel and flights to/from Ushuaia.  My Itinerary & Voucher Booklet has vouchers (with contact information) for my transfers, my stay at the Alvear Palace (one of the finest hotels in Buenos Aires) and my internal flights. I’m not sure that the vouchers will be needed or if that is just how Scenic operates its tours. There will be a Scenic representatives at the hotel and airport.  

The Welcome Booklet suggests not leaving the hotel to limit exposure to Covid-19, but I’m not sure how being in a hotel with a couple of hundred people is any safer; that is, unless you lock yourself in your room.  Personally, I am going to have another amazing up to 18 course paired tasting dinner at Aramburu, where I dined the last time I was in Buenos Aires; and it is only a 9 minute walk from the hotel.

One of the amazing dishes at Aramburu

Onboard it is a very inclusive product with butlers for all, complimentary beverages, Wi-Fi and specialty dining. Interestingly (thought not terribly important on this expedition) any wine or other beverages purchased off the ship may only be consumed in your suite.  Speaking of suites, I will be staying in a Deluxe Veranda Suite on Deck 7, which is a generous 344 – 365 square feet.  

I will obviously discuss this more once I am onboard. You can, however, read more here:  Scenic Eclipse Luxury Suites & Accommodation

Scenic Eclipse is a modern, purpose-built, luxury expedition ship with only 114 suites and a crew of 176 (190 in polar regions) – almost a 1:1 ratio – that has pretty much all the “bells and whistles” one expects…plus some others…in such a ship:

  • Polar Class 6 – This means the hull and other operations are approved for “Summer/autumn operation in medium first-year ice which may include old ice inclusions”.  As the Scenic Eclipse operates in non-polar waters during the other seasons, it really has no need for PC5 approval, which permits year-round operations in those waters. 
  • Dynamic Positioning – This means the ship can stay in the same position without anchoring through the use of its bow thrusters and azipods.
  • Significantly Larger Stabilizers – This smooths out the ship’s ride during heavier seas
  • Advanced Noise Suppression
  • 100% Fresh Air supplied to all suites and public areas

In addition, Scenic Eclipse carries the Scenic Neptune seven passenger (six guest) Submarine as well as two Airbus H130 Helicopters that are available for use at extra cost.  While I am a big fan of the submarine I have to admit I am not a fan of helicopters – at least in Antarctica; especially if they are flying near nesting or feeding areas. In 2019, before Scenic started operating, I had a lot of questions and concerns. While some of them have been answered, I am really looking forward to learning and, hopefully, being shown that my many of my concerns have been positively addressed.  
Scenic Eclipse helicopter on a helipad, Scenic Excursions

Scenic Eclipse provides what it calls a “multicultural culinary adventure, with up to nine dining venues from casual to fine dining and 24-hour in-suite dining” most with open seating, buy a few requiring reservations.  One venue is a Chef’s Table that is invitation-only.  I will expand upon this once I am onboard; noting the description sounds extremely interesting to me.  

You can read more here:  Scenic Eclipse all-inclusive dining & beverages

Let’s discuss the basic Pre-Expedition Experience; something that you know I believe is critical to the luxury experience.  Scenic, an Australian-based company, that also operates tours and luxury river cruises, provides – as noted above – a seamless product with virtually no add-ons once your international flight lands.  (There are, however, pre and post expedition opportunities.) The inclusiveness of the experience and the documentation clearly shows Scenic’s experience as a tour operator.  As you will see below there are none of the “OK, I get the general plan, but exactly when and where?” trepidations. That is very much appreciated.

As this is an expedition, you don’t just sign up, pay your fare, and receive your documents. You must first complete your online Trip Personaliser (its Australian spelling) which includes your doctor completing an online medical history and confirmation of your ability to participate in the expedition.  (Being online is supposedly to assure confidentiality.)

Once that is done, about 30 days prior to sailing your – now hard to find – high quality Cruise Document Wallet, is delivered along with a seriously high quality Scenic Eclipse Backpack (one of such quality I am considering using it instead of my trusty – and travel-proven – Goldring Travel backpack), including a complete Welcome and Your Itinerary & Vouchers Booklets, baggage tags, a Health Care Questionnaire you turn in upon embarkation and a Confidential Medical Information Form (to be used only in case of an emergency, but since your doctor already completed this online I’m not sure of its utility). (There is also a rather cheap plastic luggage tag that definitely seems more appropriate for a tour than a luxury expedition experience.)

It also sets out that my transfer the next morning at a painful 6:35 AM for the  9:35 AM 3.5 hour flight, arriving in Ushuaia at 1:10 PM.  It leaves sufficient time for everyone to have a Covid Antigen Test prior to the flight.  Upon arrival we head to the ship for embarkation at 2:10 PM.

Oh, yes, what is that Big Change I mentioned at the beginning of this article?  For its first period of operation, Scenic thought of its expedition team as little more than tour guides, prohibiting them from truly socializing or having (on a limited basis) dinner with guests. Jason Flesher, Expeditions Operation Manager, has worked to have this change and, fortunately, he has been successful.

Jason and I had a great Zoom call where we found our ideas as to what makes a great expedition experience for the guests were very much aligned. In short, it is the amazing sunset, experiencing “whale soup”, watching a penguin walk around with a rock for no particular reason, and just “pulling up a rock and letting Antarctica come to you” is what will be remembered; far more than remembering the ship, no matter how wonderful. The Expedition Team is both central and critical to this as they are there to educate, guide, explain and befriend the guests resulting in experiences that will be remembered forever. And, for many – if not most – a desire to return.

As a final initial thought, I will no doubt make some comparisons to my previous three journeys and with them all being on the Seabourn Quest, I will undoubtedly make some comparisons on the hardware, as well as hotel and expedition experiences. But my focus will be on THE Experience that Scenic delivers and has proven it can deliver.

As I head back for my fourth Antarctic journey I have every expectation that it will be unique and amazing.  I can’t want to get on a plane (again)…OK maybe “off” the plane…and head to the ice!

Interested in a Luxury Journey by Cruise, Expedition, or Land?

Contact Goldring Travel For Truly Expert Advice!

Email: eric@goldringtravel.com 

US: (877) 2GO-LUXURY or (530) 562-9232

UK: 020 8133 3450

AUS: (07) 3102 4685

WhatsApp: +1 732-693-8797

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