Captain Erwan Le Rouzic has been at the helm of luxury expedition ships for 17 years, driven by his passion for sharing the wonders of the world with guests. As a Captain of Scenic Eclipse, he is proud to be in charge of the most innovative Discovery Yacht on the water. From planning epic Discovery Excursions with the Discovery Leader to making minute-by-minute changes to optimise the itinerary and meeting guests on the wheelhouse, every day is different for this dedicated maritime master.
Have you always been a passionate sailor? And why did you want to become a Captain?
It was a slow evolution. I come from the Atlantic coast in France, so I was always sailing with my parents and my grandparents. The connection with the ocean comes naturally to me and I like travelling. As I learned about this job, I loved the fact that you have responsibilities very quickly. When I was 20 and a first officer, I was already in charge of a ship for a few hours. The one thing that was missing was getting to share this passion with others and that’s what I like about expedition cruising; you are sharing this experience with the guests.
How did you come to be one of the Scenic Eclipse Captains?
Almost 10 years ago, I was the Captain of an expedition ship that Scenic chartered to Antarctica. It was the first time I ever sailed south of the Antarctic Circle and it was also the first time for the company. It was one of the best journeys ever for me because I love the way Scenic operates, and I love the guests they have. When Scenic Eclipse launched, I knew it would be a fantastic challenge to be part of this completely new and unique Discovery Yacht. So, I put my name forward and made sure I would be where I am now.
LEFT: Captain Erwan Le Rouzic and team
What's involved in preparing for a new Scenic Eclipse season?
The first step is taken very far ahead; proper planning starts almost two years in advance. We plan itineraries very precisely. It's important that we are able to use all the capabilities of the Discovery Yacht and also provide all the activities, helicopters, submarine, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Then we usually review the itinerary with the whole team on board about two days ahead of departure. In between these two years and two days, we have been in contact with all the agents and the local authorities, preparing where we're going to refuel and get fresh water or provisions.
What is a typical day on board Scenic Eclipse like for you?
It starts before the ship arrives anywhere. I'm on the bridge at least an hour before and we’ll plan the arrival. Then throughout the day, it's about working with my navigational team and the Scenic Eclipse crew. On the expedition side, I’m coordinating with the Discovery Leader and the helicopter and submarine pilots on their activities. I can also be working with Alex, our Executive Chef, Josh, the Cruise Director, or anyone that is involved in activities on board. The day flows very quickly until we depart, and then we review the plan for the next day.
RIGHT: Scenic Eclipse and zodiac
You’ve been sailing for a long time and have experienced many ships. Why do you feel Scenic Eclipse sets the benchmark in ultra-luxury discovery?
The revolutionary idea of Scenic Eclipse is that it's a yacht, like any other private ultra-luxury yacht, but with the state-of-the-art design equipment so we can go further and safer than any other yacht. On board, you have incredible technology that you don't find on any other ship and there’s the unique support of all the elements coming together, the fantastic ice strength, the dynamic positioning, the revolutionary stabilisers. It offers much more flexibility and is a really versatile yacht.
What do you do as Captain to ensure that guests can go out on as many discovery excursions as possible?
The first thing is always to try and anticipate problems. In case we can’t go to a place that was on the program, we find a plan B. Though in many cases for us, it's just another plan A, another great solution. In rare cases when the weather is not on our side and there are no other options, guests have lots of activities on board, including lectures and entertainment. Sometimes, it’s a chance for us to look at the next few days and completely change the whole plan.
LEFT: Captain Erwan
Can you tell us more about your team and your relationship with them?
That's one of the things I like about Scenic Eclipse – we have been able to build a real family. I speak every day with each of the department leaders; like the Discover Leader Boris, Staff Captain Maya and Manfred or Daniel, the Hotel Director. I really try to stay connected with everyone on board. My goal is that at the end of their contract, each crew member feels like they have improved, they've provided great service and they're proud of themselves and the yacht. I want them to be proud of what we are achieving together.
How did it feel to be part of the Maritime Masters project?
I was excited to be able to show how it works on The World's First Discovery YachtTM. It's still very mysterious for many people, how we operate an expedition yacht and the complexity of what's happening on board at all stages. So, the show takes them in the galley, in the garage for the machinery, on the bridge and inside all the operations. I'm happy that this series has enabled us to showcase all these complex elements.
RIGHT: Captain Erwan and team on the bridge, Scenic Eclipse
Were there any special moments for you while filming Maritime Masters?
We weren’t originally scheduled to go to Deception Island in Antarctica, but because of a storm we had to adjust our program. Deception Island is incredible – it’s a caldera and you sail through the narrow entrance so you are right inside it. The TV crew was there, and they filmed the whole entrance, which is a tricky navigation, and they captured the cooperation that we had on the bridge at that time. Knowing that a team who has been on so many ships before was impressed by what we did there in Deception, that will be a great memory for sure.
When you're not on the bridge, where is the spot on Scenic Eclipse that you like to be?
I like to go to the gym. While guests are having dinner, usually around seven or eight o'clock, I go to the gym. Running on the treadmill helps me to schedule the next day and structure the challenges that we can expect; the weather, the planning, etc. But after that, for sure, any of the dining venues is fantastic. Lumière, the French restaurant, is just exceptional.
LEFT: POWER: Gym, Scenic Eclipse
What's next for Scenic Eclipse?
Scenic Eclipse is going to go to Japan for the first time this summer and then cross the Canadian Arctic to reach Europe. This is a great new itinerary for us with Japan and then Norway and all these new destinations. Another exciting element is that we are launching the second Discovery Yacht, Scenic Eclipse II. I will be her Captain for the inaugural season and I'm always excited to discover a new yacht. Outside of the polar regions, Scenic Eclipse II will focus a lot on the Pacific region, Australia, and Indonesia, amazingly beautiful places. I'm excited to go back to Australia particularly, and some of these remote places in Fiji and Polynesia.
Why is sustainability important when it comes to cruise ships and how is Scenic Eclipse addressing the issue?
It's part of the philosophy of the company that, right from the start, the yacht has been built to have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the whole industry. There’s extremely advanced recycling equipment and treatment of exhaust gas. We use only diesel oil, not fuel oil. The hull is extremely fine, so we have exceptional fuel consumption compared to many other yachts, even relatively modern ones of the same size. All the Discovery Team share their respect for the planet and their knowledge of the environment with the guests. There’s a bit of education, but we also like to have fun by really living it and experiencing the beauty of the planet.
RIGHT: Scenic Eclipse, St Matthew Island, Arctic
Do you have a personal motto you live by?
My motto is to "always be on the sunshine side of life". I make sure that, even when the weather is not great, I can find the positive element of the day. What is so important on Scenic Eclipse is providing happiness to the guests and happiness to the crew also. I want to make sure our guests experience unforgettable voyages with us and I want the crew to be proud and happy with what they're offering to the guests on board.
How would you describe a Scenic Eclipse voyage?
It's curiosity, it's a sense of wonder in all aspects. It can be looking at what the planet has to offer that particular day, but also curiosity about the exceptional culinary experiences that we offer on board, about meeting new guests and why not, even meeting the crew on board. At last, I would also say ultra-luxury, of course, and uniqueness. Nobody does what we do. I have 17 years of experience in this business, so I can tell you we are the only ones doing what we do.
LEFT: Scenic Eclipse guests, South Georgia