Millions Witness Century's Longest Solar Eclipse

Other companies offered views from the water. TravelQuest International of Prescott, Ariz., teamed with Sky & Telescope magazine for a two-week cruise in the South Pacific. Starting at $6,995 per room, the cruise promised about three minutes and 26 seconds of totality from the Northern Cook Islands.

According to local reports, the event gave a boost to tourism in the area. Special eclipse breakfast deals sold out in Shanghai hotels, according to ChannelNewsAsia.com. And online vendors saw sales of special solar glasses climb. The glasses allowed skywatchers not in the path of the moon's shadow to look directly at the sun.

An Experience Like No Other

Although there's a growing audience for solar eclipse tours, David Swanson, a contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine, said Tuesday interest is mitigated by the fact that some eclipses happen in hard-to-reach areas or places with poor weather conditions.

And, he said, the experience is unparalleled.

"I don't know anyone who has seen a successful eclipse and wasn't pretty much blown away and wanted to see another one," Swanson said.

He saw his first in Antigua in 1998 and has seen two more since then.

As the moment of totality approaches, he said the sky gradually darkens and starts to take on something similar to the light at twilight.

"All of a sudden, the color starts to drain away. ... The breeze stops. Birds stop chirping. It's a very unusual experience," he said. "It's like being transported to another planet for a few minutes."

Meanwhile, Americans will have to wait until 2017 for their next total solar eclipse. It will run from Oregon across the United States to the Carolinas, for about two and a half minutes of total darkness.

But the wait for another solar eclipse as long as today's will be until 2132.

Margaret Conley contributed to the reporting of this story from Tokyo, as did Clarissa Ward from Beijing. The Associated Press and Reuters also contributed.

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