The Antarctic and Arctic regions occupy a very special place in the imagination of even the most seasoned traveller. These are lands of extremes, where inky black oceans and glimmering sheets of ice sit beneath endless skies. They have inspired ancient myths, brave explorers and the new final frontier for travellers in search of authentic adventure. However, for all they have in common, Antarctica and the Arctic are very different destinations, that offer their own unforgettable experiences. Before stepping on board Scenic Eclipse, the only choice you need to make is: north or south?
Your Discovery Yacht
When legendary explorer Roald Amundsen completed the first ever crossing of the Arctic’s Northwest Passage in 1905, it took a three-year journey of utter privation with just six crew aboard the tiny Gjoa, a 21m wooden sailing ship. When he clawed his way to the South Pole six years later, he made it back with just 11 of the 52 sled dogs he started out with. A century down the track, you can now travel to these most remote corners of the globe in ultra-luxury, on your Discovery Yacht, Scenic Eclipse. The ship brings the innovation and safety of a Polar Class 6 rating with the comforts of a 6-star floating hotel. You’ll be one of just up to 220 guests (200 in Antarctica) staying in spacious verandah suites with butler service and an almost 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio. Ten dining experiences, nine bars and lounges, Senses Spa, Yoga and Pilates studio, and a state-of-the-art theatre make the on board environment as captivating as the one drifting by your window. A Discovery Team of up to 20 experts will host each voyage, ranging from historians to geologists, who will take you on extraordinary experiences; kayaking between icebergs, cruising on Zodiacs, spotting polar bears in the Arctic or shuffling along behind a waddle of penguins in Antarctica. Step aboard one of the two Airbus H130-T2 helicopters^ to soar over icy landscapes and search for coasting whales, or dive up to 200m in our custom-built submarine^, Scenic Neptune, for a new perspective on these awe-inspiring destinations.
LEFT: Scenic Bar, Scenic Eclipse
Whichever destination you choose, you’re guaranteed spectacular icy and pristine landscapes, breathtaking wildlife encounters and a sense that you have truly ventured to the ends of the earth. Scenic Eclipse cruises to both destinations, offering an unrivalled ultra-luxury expedition experience. So how to decide? These are the three things you need to ask yourself before choosing whether you head north or south on board Scenic Eclipse.
First timer or expedition expert?
If any destination is worthy of your travel wish list, Antarctica is it. If this is your first true expedition cruise, the seventh continent is the easy choice. Nothing can prepare you for its vast, empty grandeur, for the crossing of the infamous Drake Passage, for walking alongside immeasurable colonies of penguins, and for hearing the deafening sound of icebergs cracking in the freezing water. At the other pole, cruising the Arctic presents an opportunity to head off the beaten path, explore untravelled channels and meet the Indigenous locals who live on the edge of this icy world to create an incredibly enriching cultural experience.
Solitude or society?
Aside from millions of penguins, Antarctica is a place that has resisted all but the briefest of conquests, where the only residents are a handful of scientists hunkered down in research posts for a few months at a time. Yet, in the north, around four million people live permanently inside the Arctic Circle. Spread across eight countries, these range from Indigenous Saami and Inuit communities to modern cities home to tens of thousands of people. On an Arctic cruise, you can meet the fascinating people who choose to live in one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
Penguins or polar bears?
In terms of breathtaking wildlife encounters, we’re talking superlatives in either extreme of the two poles.
The polar bear in the Arctic is at the top of the food chain; as the largest terrestrial carnivore, it can weigh over 500kg. While they travel in small groups and can shy away from visitors, the search for rare views of these spectacular animals is a highlight in itself. Paired with roaming Arctic foxes, reindeer grazing on the tundra and walruses, seals, and sea lions lazing about, they complete the fantastic wildlife in this region.
In Antarctica, penguins are the real star of the show, a charming and amusing parade waddling across the ice. They are joined by seals, whales and a cacophony of birds.
Hear from the expedition cruising expert
Jason Flesher, Scenic Eclipse Expedition Operation Director, has been travelling to the Arctic for five years, having also been exploring and leading Antarctica expeditions for the past 13 years. Here, he shares his insights on these fascinating regions.
How do you summarise the main differences between the Arctic and Antarctica?
The Arctic is a frozen ocean surrounded by land, with teeming land and aquatic mammals, birds and other species along with first nations’ people and remote communities. Antarctica is a continent surrounded by ocean – water and frozen landscapes are protagonists, with only aquatic animals and birds.
What surprised you the most in the Arctic?
The survivability of the land mammals in such harsh conditions and how they have adapted to those conditions as well as the people.
Can you share a memorable experience you had in the Arctic?
Every time you spot any wildlife makes it so magical. Interactions with Arctic foxes and watching young Polar Bear cubs frolicking and playing without a care in the world as their mom hunts and protects them is so precious.
And what surprised you the most in Antarctica?
How the wildlife doesn’t fear humans and are just as curious of us as we are of them.
LEFT: Jason Flesher, Scenic Eclipse Expedition Operation Director
What are the highlights of Antarctica?
It’s the most mountainous continent in the world, with an abundance of whales, seals, penguins and sea birds all there to feed on the Krill. The countless interactions with whales that come to the Zodiacs to see who and what we are, spending time with us in such a gentle manner, is simply remarkable.
What are the main differences between the Discovery Team activities in the Arctic and in Antarctica?
The only real difference between the two is visiting communities in the Arctic and the extra precautions we take for Polar Bear protection for our guests.
Do you think there’s a type of traveller that is best suited to the Arctic or to Antarctica?
As long as they have the sense of wonder and discovery, everyone is best suited for both. You’ll have the convenience of a magnificent ultra-luxury Discovery Yacht to launch from and return to after every excursion with the world’s top Discovery Team, who will guide and keep you safe while also enriching your experience with their extraordinary knowledge, both on board and on every landing and excursion.
Which itinerary would you recommend for someone who’s going to the Arctic and Antarctica for the first time?
For the Arctic, any itinerary that goes to Greenland or Svalbard. And if you can afford the extra time, in Antarctica I would suggest the itineraries that include South Georgia.
RIGHT: Zodiak Excursion. Antarctica