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The dramatic rise of expedition travel throughout the 2010s placed luxury cruise operators at a crossroads. One path was doubling down on the kind of ultra-luxe experience on which they’d built their brand; the other was branching out into a bold new avenue of travel still finding its feet and already dominated by experts.
Any decision made at this junction is make or break. That’s why Scenic chose a third path: do both, and do them better than anyone else.
Flash forward to 2023, and Expedition Operations Director Jason Flesher is helping Scenic to do exactly that. From kayaking in Antarctica to hiking up volcanoes in Guatemala, the adventurer and former United States Navy sailor is dedicated to ensuring his Discovery Team delivers the experience of a lifetime for every guest aboard Scenic’s Discovery Yachts.
His workplace? Scenic Eclipse I and II, the most innovative ultra-luxury Discovery Yachts in the world, with two helicopters, a submarine and an endless supply of water toys at his team’s disposal.
Add to that arresting, far-flung destinations including Antarctica, the Arctic, the Pacific Islands and the Americas, and you have arguably the world’s most desirable job. It’s no wonder, then, that Flesher’s an industry veteran.
“I’ve been in outdoor education and guiding all over the world for 40 years,” Flesher says. “My specialties were rock climbing and mountaineering, backpacking, survival skills, all that good stuff.”
In 2010, Flesher was given the opportunity to visit Antarctica as a lead expedition guide for a not-for-profit. “I jumped at it,” he says. “Since then, I’ve done nearly 100 voyages down there and in the Arctic.”
When Scenic began to form its Discovery Team, charged with creating unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime voyages, memories and experiences for its guests, Flesher was an obvious choice.
“I was approached when Scenic Eclipse was still in the shipyard,” he says. “They knew I’d been an expedition leader in the past, so they asked if I’d take over for Scenic Eclipse’s maiden voyages,” he says. “I said, ‘Of course’.”
Since then, Flesher’s role has grown to oversee and manage not only the Discovery Team but the entire Discovery program, which includes finding specialists from around the world as well as itinerary planning that creates Discovery experiences in remote locations.
“We hire the best of the best expedition guides from all over the world,” Flesher says. “Our specialists, lecturers and naturalists have PhDs or master’s degrees in their fields. That means we’re not only providing that enriching experience for our guests, but we’re protecting the wildlife and the land of the pristine regions in which we operate.”
Such care and consideration takes a serious amount of time. “I’m already working on our new 2024 and 2025 program and our new destinations, the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, for when Scenic Eclipse II is based in Australia, Asia and the South Pacific region.”
The debut of Scenic Eclipse II that season marks a major advancement in Scenic’s Expedition offerings. “It has a brand new, state-of-the-art, custom-built Triton submarine, Scenic Neptune II,” Flesher says. “It’s going to be amazing, and the itineraries that we’ve developed over the next several years are very, very conducive to discovering and exploring the world as we know it.”
But thanks in no small part to Scenic’s work in the field, discovery no longer means roughing it. Ultra-luxury is in the details, so every element of Scenic’s Discovery Yachts have been designed and built to be the ultimate way to discover a world of wonder surrounded by world-class amenities, dining options, wellness offerings and crew. For Flesher, that means working even harder to stay ahead of the game.
“It’s something I truly strive for every day,” he says. “My mantra is, ‘we’re on the cutting edge, we’re pioneers in polar exploration’. No other ship provides everything we do; these are unrivaled experiences. We were the pioneers with helicopters and submersibles, and now other lines are trying to replicate our success.”
Matching Scenic’s pace is about to become even harder. The ultra-luxury cruise company has partnered with Warner Bros. Discovery for a new five episode docuseries set to debut from mid-May. Maritime Masters goes behind the scenes on life aboard Scenic Eclipse as its crew deliver six-star ultra-luxury experiences on a voyage from San Diego, Baja Mexico and Costa Rica to the pristine fjords of Chile and the ultimate destination, Antarctica.
One of its first subjects is Flesher, who found the experience humbling. “The TV crews made it so easy and relaxing,” he says. “Many reality shows are scripted and staged, but with this project it’s true reality. They just let us organically do our thing and let things unfold.”
While the series gives the public a taste of what’s possible on Scenic Eclipse, Flesher says guests shouldn’t be afraid to go all in. “There’s a phrase we use in our initial briefing on any voyage: FOMO, the fear of missing out,” he says. “We tell guests, ‘Don’t fear you’re going to miss something, just be totally immersed in where you are and become your story. Stay open-minded, and always remember to be a kid.’ We’ll take care of the fun.”
Seeing Scenic Eclipse’s guests create stories for life remains one of the many highlights of Flesher’s job. “Experiencing adventure through the guests’ eyes, that’s where the magic is,” he says. “It’s why I’ve been doing this for over 40 years.”
Watch Maritime Masters from Sunday May 14 for five weeks on Discovery Channel, Foxtel and Foxtel Now or stream via Foxtel Go and BINGE. Alternatively, head to Scenic’s YouTube channel youtube.com/@ScenicLuxuryCruises to watch exclusive content from the docuseries.