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Would you like ice with that?

I’m a food & drink expert and this luxury Antarctica cruise is polar paradise

Antarctica luxury cruises are a bucket-list way of exploring this far-flung land – Sailawaze headed there onboard Scenic Eclipse II to uncover how good food and drink can be so far from home.

Words by Brad Japhe

It wasn’t long ago that Antarctica seemed entirely inaccessible to even the most intrepid of world travelers. Unless you happened to hold multiple science degrees and didn’t mind holing up in a remote research lab for months on end, touching down on this continent simply wasn’t in the cards. Now, thanks to technological advancements in ice-faring cruise capabilities — along with a post-Covid explosion in adventure travel — opportunities to explore the bottom edge of the earth are suddenly robust.

Each season (which coincides with the austral summer from late October through March) sees hundreds of vessels set sail. Antarctica cruises encompass dozens of voyages on ships small and supersized, with itineraries running from under two weeks to upwards of two months. If you’re planning a trip here, you owe it to yourself to seek out an operation whose priorities are in line with yours. If elevated dining and drinking experiences are at the top of that list, Scenic is undoubtedly the option for you.

I speak from the experience of someone who writes about high-end food and beverage for a living. And who has had the good fortune to travel to Antarctica on multiple occasions. Most recently the journey involved a balconied suite aboard the Scenic Eclipse II, the brand’s newest Polar Class vessel. The 228-passenger luxury “yacht” was purpose-built in 2023 to provide maximum comfort when crossing notoriously treacherous stretches of water such as the Drake Passage, separating the tip of South America from the Antarctic Peninsula.


– READ MORE: Meet the ballsy penguins of Antarctica

How many bars and restaurants on Scenic Eclipse II?

It accomplishes all of this in style. Across its 10 decks, Scenic Eclipse II flaunts sleek design flourishes. Not to mention 10 separate dining experiences and nine bars, including the Scenic Lounge, which carries the largest collection of whiskey anywhere on the open seas—135 bottles in total.

Thanks to the ship’s customized stabilizers (around 50 percent larger than other ships its size) and an electronic Azipod propulsion system, I sipped my way through much of it without seeing so much as one drop of scotch fall by the wayside.

Once we made landfall on the Antarctic continent, beauty of immeasurable scale was on constant display: a ceaseless parade of wildlife — humpbacks, penguins, seals — backdropped by glacier-swaddled peaks, serrated seacliffs and icebergs. I was treated to it all for nearly two full weeks. And during each of those days, I’d also enjoy food and beverage experiences befitting of the scenes outside. Here are the highlights from the unforgettable journey, which begins at $18,685 per person.

Scenic Eclipse II Drink

What bars are on Scenic Eclipse II?

Scenic Eclipse II scatters its watering holes across several decks and settings, and even breaks them down based upon the style of liquid being served. For example, Lumiére [below, left] is a dedicated champagne bar, boasting a wide range of French bubbles. The Sky Bar is a poolside destination that specialises in tropical arrangements for its guests, presenting Mai Tais and coladas to guests seated outside in private cabanas.

What whiskies are on Scenic Eclipse II?

As something of a whisky aficionado myself, it was forever a challenge to step away from the Scenic Lounge. Behind a wide, wraparound marble bar, six levels of brown spirit were stacked to the high ceiling.

On my Scenic Antarctica cruise I was able to piece together global flights: Hakashu single malt from the Japanese Alps with age-statement scotches from The Dalmore, Mortlach and Springbank. Celebrated Irish expressions from Redbreast and Green Spot could form my area of focus on one evening. On the next, allocated American whiskies such as WhistlePig rye and Eagle Rare bourbon.

I even was afforded the opportunity to explore esoteric pours from Sweden, India and Taiwan. It was always served neat — except for the days when “on the rocks” meant 10,000-year-old glacial ice. And there was never a tab to worry about, as this is truly an all-inclusive experience.


– READ MORE: 8 small cruise lines for when you hate big cruises

Scenic Eclipse II Food

What restaurants are on Scenic Eclipse II?

Among the gems of this culinary landscape are a sushi bar, a Southeast Asian-inspired night market [below, right], and a Michelin-caliber, invite-only chef’s table [main image]. In order to keep things fresh across the many concepts, the ship employs a culinary team comprised of 38 chefs from 15 countries.

I had where just about every other dinner at Sushi @ Koko’s [below, left], on my Scenic Antarctica cruise. At their fish counter I was presented an ever-changing array of nigiri and speciality rolls, which somehow arrived fresh even two weeks into the journey. Behind me, portholes revealed the ever-shifting scenery of Antarctic ice.

Night Market needed to be secured by advanced reservation, but I was able to be seated there on three separate occasions during my journey. Each time, I would get a front-row view of creative Thai and Vietnamese preparations arranged by the chef over an outsized grill. Sake and soju flowed freely.

Is there room service on Scenic Eclipse II?

On the few afternoons or evenings where I preferred to remain in my room during mealtimes, I never tired of the straightforward selection of salads, club sandwiches and vegetable-forward soups that were on offer. It was also a good way to enforce portion control when I needed a break from the tantalizing breadth of buffet options at the Yacht Club.

Does Scenic Eclipse II cater for dietary requirements?

Any and all dietary requirements can be catered to on Scenic Eclipse II, without sacrificing anything to overall flavor. I don’t consume dairy or red meat but found my restrictions catered to whenever I was treated to pre-arranged menus, such as the one at Elements. When my fellow diners enjoyed seared wagyu, my plate was topped with a succulent filet of salmon; during a glazed pork preparation, I had crisped duck. But the presentation was never any less elaborate. Chef’s Table is a theatrical treat unfolding over a dozen courses and several hours. It is undoubtedly the most high-minded meal I’ve ever encountered on the high seas.


– READ MORE: What’s it like working on an expedition cruise ship?

Scenic Eclipse II Antarctica cruises: Experiences

What is there to do on Scenic Antarctica cruises?

In addition to the aforementioned invite-only Chef’s Table, there were a handful of other food and drink-fuelled experiences highlighting my Antarctic sojourn. During the long two days traversing the Drake Passage, ennui is combated by way of wine and spirits tastings. For the former, the ship’s sommelier will walk you through half a dozen styles of juice, explaining to you the primary differences in varieties, terroir and provenance. It’s a tasty lesson that unfolds over an hour-long session. Equally informative, and no less intoxicating, is the whisky master class. During mine, I sipped through four examples of the category, pulled from four separate regions of major production.

Champagne worked its way into several adventures on my itinerary. There was the day when our daily zodiac tour started with a surprise pitstop for flutes filled with Moet. We sipped from them during an hourlong journey through steep canyons, crowded with icebergs.

On Deck 8 of the ship, there are two helicopters hidden in lofted garages. On days of low wind, they would emerge onto the adjoining helipad and 30-minute rides would be offered to anyone willing to fork over $800 for the thrill. Another Moet was par for the course, as I opted to soar over some of the world’s most remote terrain on a cloudless afternoon. Money well spent, and champagne well sipped.

Of course, as with any ship sailing south of the Antarctic Circle, you can’t find yourself here for too long without being given an opportunity to plunge into the frigid waters that surround. The maritime tradition always comes with much pageantry, including an obligatory pour of spirit to warm up after you submerge. It typically involves cheap vodka. Not here, of course. I climbed back aboard, post-Southern Ocean soak, to a generous pour of Lagavulin 16. It immediately warmed my brumal bones. And on the well-appointed Scenic Eclipse II, I relished it from atop a turf-lined party deck on the stern of the ship — complete with a live DJ. Just another day in polar paradise.


– READ MORE: What’s the best polar activity for you?

Published 06.10.24