The Scenic Eclipse II and one of its Airbus H130-T2 helicopters. Photography: courtesy of Scenic Eclipse II

NOT THAT LONG AGO, luxury cruising and adventure travel were two very separate worlds. While boarding a cruise ship meant signing yourself up for weeks of luxury and indulgence, booking a tour to a hard-to-reach, far flung destination involved preparing yourself for some more intrepid experiences. 

Then, Scenic Eclipse arrived. Making its first voyage in 2019, the 228-guest ship from Australian travel company Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours combined a high-end cruising experience with routes to all four corners of the world, earning it the title of the ‘world’s first discovery yacht’. Travelling from the polar regions to the Mediterranean, the boat pioneered a new genre of cruising, with an in-house team of naturalists, marine biologists and glaciologists giving those on board the opportunity to learn and engage more closely with the world beyond the ship.

Pushing this concept of a luxury discovery yacht even further, in April 2023, Scenic Eclipse II was unveiled. And right now, for the first time since it set sail, it’s cruising in Australian waters. 

The spa bath inside the Owner’s Penthouse. Photography: courtesy of Scenic Eclipse II

At the time of writing, Scenic Eclipse II is travelling across the north rim of Western Australia, as it prepares to enter the mouth of King George River, on its route from Darwin to Broome. According to, the temperature at its current location is hovering around 29 degrees celsius and the water is calm — not that bigger swell is an issue for the ship, which is equipped with extra-large custom-built stabilisers, which provide state-of-the-art stability for navigating choppier waters. 

But a little over a month ago, the yacht docked in Sydney, welcoming passengers on board for its first journey around the motherland. Having heard whispers about the ship’s arrival, we jumped at the opportunity to stay one night on board, as it cruised from Sydney to Newcastle. Admittedly, the industrial hub seemed like an unusual stop for such a luxury cruiser, but we soon discovered the sentimental reason behind docking there: Newcastle is the owner of Scenic Eclipse’s hometown.

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and once we’d checked cleared the passport checkpoint (a mandatory exercise for anyone leaving an international cruising, we’re told) we sipped mimosas, explored the bridge (the boat has an open bridge policy) and, like kids let loose in a mansion, gave the equipment in the yacht’s gym a quick test run before circumnavigating the boat’s top deck. We were looking forward to reclining in our luxury suite, which was fitted with a generous balcony for drinking in the views. But, admittedly, it was the world-class, high-tech exploration vehicles — the helicopters, submersible and zodiac boats — that were were most excited to examine.

After all, it’s this highly impressive gear that sets Scenic Eclipse II apart from every other luxury yacht in the sea. 

A live performance of ‘I still call Australia home’ on the helipad as the boat departs Sydney Harbour. Photography: Alex Walker
One of the ship’s Airbus H130-T2 helicopters. Photography: Alex Walker

When the boat started moving, Expedition Operations Director Jason Flesher — who you might recognise from the TV series Maritime Masters (more on that shortly) — showed us to the yacht’s helipad. A shiny black Airbus H130-T2 helicopter, otherwise known as the quietest aircraft in the skies, is perched in the middle of the touch-down lift-off area. Fletcher explains that while the smaller size of the ship can reach into remote areas most bigger cruisers can’t, it’s from the cabin of the helicopter that passengers get the most expansive views of the destinations they’re exploring. Also, riding in the H130-T2 isn’t a loud experience. Not only is it the quietest helicopter in the sky (important, so as to not to frighten wildlife when hovering above land), it’s also equipped with Bose noise cancelling headsets. And there’s not just one helicopter on board. Scenic Eclipse II is home to two choppers, so as one load of passengers takes off, another can land, re-plane and head off again.

The chopper takes off from the helipad to fly above The Kimberley in Western Australia. Photography: courtesy of Scenic Eclipse II

Viewing destinations like Antarctica and The Kimberley by air — the latter of which those on board are currently doing — is one thing. Climbing into the boat’s submersible to explore beneath the sea is another type of thrill entirely. 

Bright bumblebee yellow with 360-degree panoramic views, next up, we check out the custom-designed Scenic Neptune II. An otherworldly piece of machinery — it wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a Bond film — its bubble-like glass window is made from three inch-thick glass, while it has the capability to travel 100 metres below the water’s surface; it’s as close as you’ll come to feeling at one with the underwater world. According to Flesher, the submersible cost $6 million USD (approximately $9 million AUD) to build. You can rest assured its safety standards match the price tag. 

The Scenic Neptune II submersible on an underwater voyage. Photography: courtesy of Scenic Eclipse II

Scenic Eclipse II’s fleet of zodiacs — the black military-spec boats which take passengers between the ship and land — also allow you to get up close and personal with the environment around you, whether that be ice sheets in the polar regions or island life in the Spice Islands, where the boat is headed next. While our one night stay didn’t allow for a zodiac joyride, we’re told that skimming across the ocean’s surface in one feels pretty good.

So pioneering is the technology, equipment and quality of offerings on the Scenic Eclipse II — there’s also no fewer than 10 dining experiences on board, including ‘Night Market’, a private dining experience over a teppanyaki grill — that the ship has its own TV show. Made in partnership with Warner Brothers, Maritime Masters gives viewers “unparalleled access” into all areas of the yacht’s operation, from the kitchen to the bridge to the engine room. And (almost) nothing is off limits. Think the action and insight of Below Deck — if it had a more sophisticated, adventure-oriented cousin — meets the naturalist expertise of David Attenborough. It’s well worth a watch. 

The bar inside the Scenic Lounge, where over 130 whiskies are poured. Photography: Alex Walker

Of course, you could just hitch yourself to the main bar, where over 130 whiskies from all over the world are being poured by equally worldly bartenders — we met a mixologist from Serbia, who also owned his own vodka bar in Belgrade. Chef Strawberry, who is a bit of an on-board celebrity, is from the Philippines — the degustation she prepared for us over the teppanyaki grill was inspired by the street food of Manila — while we also met team members from South Africa, Ireland and Croatia. According to the Serbian bartender, at any given time, there’s close to 60 nationalities on board.

If you’ve actively avoided cruising because of the fear things will begin feeling like groundhog day, we can assure you: this is absolutely not the case on Scenic Eclipse II. You can wake up to a yoga or pilates class, or, of course, a session in the gym. Fancy a sauna? There’s one of those too. A spa treatment? You name it. A dip in the pool, following by a tanning session on the sundeck? Knock yourself out and order a cocktail while you’re at it.

A dish is prepared inside Koko’s, one of 10 on board dining experiences. Photography: courtesy of Scenic Eclipse II
The Pure Yoga studio is located across from the yacht’s gymnasium. Photography: courtesy of Scenic Eclipse II

By now, you may be asking the question: how do I get on board? It’s a great question, but one you don’t want to sit on for too long, as the boat’s high demand means its Aussie voyages are being booked fast. After it travels to Broome, it will be heading to the Spice Islands and Raja Ampat, before returning for an expedition through the ‘Jewels of Australia’s Top End’. It will exit Australian waters and head to Japan in March 2025, roughly one year after entering them. 

Every voyage promises to be just as luxurious and action-packed as the last. If this speaks to your holiday persona, we recommend booking yourself a suite.

Drinking in the view from the Grand Panorama suite. Photography: courtesy of Scenic Eclipse II

For the fill list of Scenic Eclipse II departures, head here


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