Aqua Expeditions knows a thing or two about luxury small-ship cruising. The company practically invented the concept on the Peruvian Amazon when it became one of the first outfitters to launch an uber-upscale vessel there back in 2008.
A decade later, Aqua Expeditions is launching a yacht destined for the coast of Indonesia and a second vessel on the Amazon (the company also operates a luxe ship on Southeast Asia’s Mekong River).
The Aqua Blu will be Aqua Expeditions’ first coastal ship, and its first-ever expedition-class yacht. It’s a refurbished former British Royal Navy vessel, the HMS Beagle, that was originally built in 1968 and was named after the more famous HMS Beagle that carried naturalist Charles Darwin around the world.
But based on the renderings, you won’t be able to tell this is a ship built more than 50 years ago. Aqua Expeditions has fully redesigned the vessel into a yacht featuring 15 sea-facing suites (outfitted with minimalist decor in hushed tones), an outdoor plunge pool, and a spa.
The Aqua Blu will also carry kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and diving and snorkeling gear. Certified dive guides will be on board because the vessel will be sailing to some of the world’s most coveted dive sites off the Indonesian coast (although the itineraries are intended to cater to both divers and nondivers, with nondiving excursion options offered simultaneously with dives).
The Aqua Blu will be sailing three different cruises regularly. There will be a seven-night cruise from Bali to Komodo National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its large lizards, aka “Komodo dragons”). A seven-night Ambon and the Spice Islands cruise will explore the area’s rich coral and marine diversity as well as the region’s colonial past.
And there is a seven-night cruise through the island region of Raja Ampat, among the destinations where British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace studied unique species such as the birds of paradise that ultimately led him to collaborate with Darwin on a theory of evolution — bringing the story comes full circle with the original name of the vessel.
The Aqua Blu will be permanently based in the east Indonesian archipelago after it officially sets sail on November 16; it will also sail 12-night itineraries called Limited Cross-Destination Voyages of which there will be a maximum of four departures per year with each sailing a different route. Rates for Aqua Blu itineraries range from $7,525 to $16,475 per person, based on double occupancy.
The Aqua Blu will be followed by the inauguration of the Aqua Nera, which will begin service on the Peruvian Amazon on August 1, 2020.
The Nera has been designed to carry 40 passengers onboard in 20 suites and will have a restaurant, lounge, spa, river-facing plunge pool, and gym. It will sail the lagoons and tributaries of Peru’s Amazon River and Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.