I'm laying in my bed, blissfully sleeping when the first rays of sunshine slip into my cabin and stir me from another wonderful sleep.
This is my ritual now.
It's the middle of my Sea of Cortez cruise on Scenic Eclipse, and I love being among the first passengers awake each day. I race out to the bow of the ship to assess another glorious vista as we arrive to a new destination for another day of exploring.
The sunrises and sunsets in this part of the world are legendary, and I aim to see them all.
Scenic Eclipse, a luxury ship that carries up to 226 passengers, has proven to be the ideal way to travel in comfort for a person like me who enjoys adventure travel with a side of pampering.
During our week in the Sea of Cortez, cruisers got the chance to get out for hikes, spend time on the beach and take to the waters for a bit of swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding and kayaking. Of course, our expedition guides also zipped us around on tours in Zodiacs to witness up close the stunning landscapes and bird and marine life that calls this place home.
What sets Scenic Eclipse apart from the standard expedition cruise voyage, though, are all the extras that allow you to savor these types of adventures in style.
Here are the things I love about a cruise on the Sea of Cortez with Scenic.
The variety and quality of cuisine on Scenic Eclipse makes this cruise stand out compared with others in the expedition/adventure category.
That's why it's listed here first!
This ship features 10 dining experiences, which is an incredible array for a ship of this size. That means we had options to try something different every day during a weeklong sailing.
The culinary program was designed by Chef Tom Goetter, Scenic's vice president of Hotel Operations, Oceans.
Goetter says that he aims to show that cruise ship dining can be every bit as good as the best fine-dining experiences on land.
In fact, you can see Goetter and other crew members from Scenic Eclipse in action on the new Discover Channel five-part docuseries "Maritime Masters: Expedition Antarctica."
Scenic’s culinary program revolutionizes dining at sea. Scenic Eclipse offers everything from fresh sushi to street food market experiences to micro-herbs grown in gardens onboard.
The gourmet cuisine on Scenic Eclipse means that the ship remains a must-sail option even when it's in between its full-on expedition seasons at the poles in Antarctica and the Arctic.
For many expedition lines, the voyages while transiting between these two destinations can be less appealing to cruisers seeking an immersive expedition experience. Most often, the program is dialed back quite a bit as the ships and guides move through areas where they might have less familiarity compared with the bread-and-butter polar regions.
Scenic Eclipse, though, offers these incredible dining options (and we ate at all of them):
The restaurant Koko's features Asian fusion cuisine, a Night Market @ Koko's experience and Sushi @ Koko's.
Elements is the main dining room with a rotating menu of Mediterranean cuisine and daily fresh pasta and risotto choices and steak, fish and vegetarian options.
Yacht Club is a casual buffet-style eatery serving breakfasts and lunches with panoramic views and indoor/outdoor seating at the aft of the ship.
This is also the spot for a festive Mexican Night dinner that we experienced during our Baja cruise.
Azure Bar & Cafe is the ship's coffee shop and another quaint eatery with seating indoors and outdoors. You can select items at the counter, such as finger sandwiches, salads, fruits, cookies and pastries. (It's the spot to go if you crave a snack at any time of day.)
The staff brews up all kinds of specialty coffees, and you can order meals table side for breakfast (get the pancakes or an omelet), lunch (I loved the juicy burger and spaghetti bolognese) or dinner (try the selection of pizzas).
In both Azure Cafe and Yacht Club, I was impressed with the great mix of regional specialties, comfort foods (pizzas, burger, fries and sandwiches) available alongside a fine array of healthy choices. I had a daily juice and smoothie at breakfast, and there was perfectly ripe and tasty fresh fruit selections each day, as well as healthful fare like chia pots and muesli.
Scenic Eclipse has a French restaurant, too. Lumiere offers a contemporary French fine dining in a cozy and intimate space alongside a delightful Champagne bar. This is another filling multi-course wine-pairing event that you need to work up an appetite to really enjoy to its fullest.
Additionally, Epicure is a fun cooking class offered in a lab-style space. You might learn how to make a tasty paella or risotto. We also saw cruisers enjoying a whiskey-tasting class in this space. You also can have meals in your suite with 24-hour room service. Butlers are available to set you up for a wonderfully intimate meal in your own room.
Several of my friends and I made it an afternoon ritual to enjoy some spa time on Scenic Eclipse. This facility offers the perfect way to unwind after a day of activities and sun and salt-water exposure in the Sea of Cortez.
The Senses Spa features a relaxation room with loungers. This space leads out to the very aft of the ship on Deck 6, where you find the Vitality Pool and soft-cushioned day beds and bamboo chair swings.
Inside, the spa has cold plunge pools, infrared saunas, steam room, traditional sauna and an experience shower. There is a designated male side and female side of the spa, and each offer the same amenities. However, cruisers freely use either side to enjoy the spaces with their partners.
The spa also offers a full range of treatments from massages to pedicures and more.
The Spacious Suites
I really enjoyed the spacious accommodations. Rooms offer big balconies in the suites so that cruisers can step outside and view the scenic landscapes and keep an eye out for whales, dolphins, marine birds and other wildlife.
While the top suites on the ship are over-the-top 2,000-plus square-foot jaw-droppers with jacuzzis, massive balconies and spa bathrooms, most cruisers will find themselves thoroughly pleased with the standard verandah suites that feature about 350 square feet of space, butler service, a big balcony good for breakfasts and other meals and a large bathroom with a walk-in shower.
These suites also have spectacularly comfortable beds. They are adjustable on each side of the mattress, so each sleeper can set the incline just the way they like. You also can choose a variety of softness levels and scents from a pillow menu.
Scenic Eclipse has a design that entices people to get outside to enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and wildlife viewing opportunities in all the places it cruises.
The showcase viewing space is at the very front of Deck 5. When you look at the striking profile of Scenic Eclipse as it sits in port or on the water, you notice the impressive bow area.
The Observation Lounge and Library offers a cozy space indoors just behind the Observation Terrace, a large teak deck space where cruisers can roam to get the best views above the water line and out into any direction while scanning the seas and skies for wildlife.
Shutterbugs were outside early for the impressive sunrises in Baja California Sur, Mexico.
The lounge and library space inside features seats with panoramic window views, a selection of books and travel guides to browse and a huge bar with coffees, teas and other beverages that cruisers are welcome to enjoy self-serve.
At the aft on Deck 5, terrace seating is available for the restaurants Azure Bar & Cafe and Lumiere, and these spaces are good to enjoy anytime during the day for a drink while relaxing and taking in the vistas.
At the very top of the ship is the Panorama Bar and plunge pools. It's a wide-open area used for evening deck parties filled with music and dancing. Or, you can head up there for a refreshing soak and cocktails under open skies any time of day. There are cabanas with day beds lining each side of the ship up there, as well, making perfect spots to escape for a nap.
Scenic Eclipse can give travelers views they never thought that they would have, too.
The ship carries two helicopters and a submarine. These added-fee activities are incredible experiences, allowing you to see the Sea of Cortez while soaring above it like a hawk or from below the surface to peek in on the fishes.
We went up in a chopper and saw huge schools of dolphins in the sea and also weaved between mountain peaks over the stunning desert landscape.
Scenic Eclipse is dubbed a discovery yacht, and the ship aims to find something interesting for its cruisers each day. The often-turbulent waves and wind in the Sea of Cortez rarely cooperate with any plans looking more than one day ahead, so the team on Eclipse finds the best beaches and snorkel spots that keep us tucked in pretty coves and protected from the gusts of El Norte and subsequent churning waters.
Each stop, we are truly discovering a new place to explore, and this region offers endless opportunities.
The itinerary began and ended in Loreto, a beautiful and historic old Mexican town that was founded in 1697 and was the first capital of Baja California.
We would have a chance to explore Loreto with a day there at the end of the expedition, but in between, we descended upon some special extra-remote islands with rocky beaches and stunning Sonoran Desert landscapes.
Scenic Eclipse took us to Isla San Marcos, where we were able to swim and snorkel. And we visited Isla San Esteban for a morning hike and a full beach day with swimming, standup paddleboarding, Zodiac tours and relaxing.
This was the first of a few days during which the expedition team brought the toys and a mobile bar setup to the beach so we could just hang out and enjoy our remote slice of paradise at our leisure.
During our hike at San Marcos, we ventured into a wide arroyo (dry riverbed) and gazed upon the thousands of massive cardon cactuses. We also saw dozens of spiny-tail iguanas perched at the very tops of the cactuses and lazily eating insects.
At Isla Rasa, we had an incredible experience on a boat tour among the the massive colonies of Heermann’s gulls and elegant terns, along with several osprey.
Although the island only about 1 square kilometer, it is home to 95 percent of the world’s elegant terns and Heermann’s gulls and more than a half-million birds in total.
It was quite a spectacle to be surrounded by so many agile creatures who migrate to this tiny spot on our planet.
Other locations we enjoyed in similar fashion, with beach time, kayaking, snorkeling and swimming: Isla Coronado and Isla Danzante.
In Loreto at the end of the week, it was nice to be back among civilization, and we explored the town to see enjoy some fresh margaritas and beers, do a little bit of shopping and have a look at the historic City Hall building and the Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto church, which was constructed in 1697 in the first Spanish settlement in Baja as the first mission. It is still a working parish and stands right along the Camino Real and the edge of the pretty town square.
If you’re looking for a nice mix of adventure and luxury when visiting the Sea of Cortez, this all-inclusive program with Scenic is going to make you one happy traveler.
Thanks for reading,