HMS Beagle – a one-time Royal Navy survey ship with a crew of 45 – will soon be sailing well-heeled travellers on £12,000 tropical cruises after she was converted into a high-end luxury superyacht named Aqua Blu.
The former British naval Bulldog-class survey vessel might have once put her crew hard to work as she scaled the seas for oceanographic data, but now she’s helping to relax and pamper exclusive holidaymakers who can afford the £5,700 to £12,650 ($7,525 to $16,475) price tag for a seven to 12-night Southeast Asian coastal cruise.
HMS Beagle, which was named in honour of the ship that carried Charles Darwin as he circumnavigated the globe to survey the coast of South America, has undergone a refit and restyling to transform her warship looks into a sleek commercial yacht that boasts 15 individually-designed, sea-facing suites, a sun deck, lounge and bar and outdoor jacuzzi.
She also comes equipped with watersport gear for diving, kayaking and paddleboarding and her kitchen will serve up the finest foods with cuisine curated by renowned consulting chefs.
The Aqua Blu is also equipped with two high-powered tenders for sea excursions including trips to cater for divers and snorkelers.
As HMS Beagle, one of several ships to bear the name since Darwin, she was the last Royal Navy vessel to be fitted with wooden decks and housed a Surveying Information Processing System (SIPS), collecting vital data on hydrographic and oceanographic surveys for planning and operational purposes.
She was was built in 1968 by Brooke Marine – one of a small fleet of Bulldog-class survey vessels designed with merchant hulls that also included other hydrographic survey ships HMS Bulldog, HMS Fawn and HMS Fox.
The name HMS Beagle has affiliations to Newton Abbot in Devon but relating to an earlier incarnation of the title in Royal Navy history when it was the name of a B-Class destroyer which was adopted by the South West town during a Second World War British National Savings fundraising campaign named Warship Week.
The aim of the campaign was for towns and cities to help raise funds to build or restore Royal Navy vessels to do their bit for the war effort.
The then HMS Beagle was adopted by Newton Abbot as part of the funding campaign in 1941. That affiliation was formed after the ship had to be taken for repairs at nearby Devonport in Plymouth following a bombing raid by German dive bombers over the English Channel off the coast of Dover.
As anyone who sails the seas knows, there are many superstitions that come with sailing and changing the name of a ship is often considered unlucky. Many sailors often conduct a renaming ritual that includes removing any trace of the vessel’s former name before performing a ceremony that calls on Poseidon, or Neptune, to “expunge” any recollection of the ship’s old title in a bid to protect her from bad luck.
The later vessel to take on the name – the 60.4 metre survey ship HMS Beagle - served the Royal Navy until she was decommissioned in 2002 when she was sold to private buyers for three quarters of a million pounds and transformed into a four deck superyacht before being renamed Titan.
After the refit, she could sleep 22 guests who were looked after by a crew of 20.
She is now operated by luxury cruise line Aqua Expeditions, under her new name Aqua Blu, which is offering exclusive cruises to three coastal destinations in East Indonesia including exotic locations such as the archipelagos of The Forgotten Islands – with year-round departures launching in November 2019.
Itineraries include seven-night coastal cruises to Raja Ampat, Bali-Komodo National Park and to the Ambon & Spice Islands.
Aqua Expeditions operates a range of luxury cruises with its fleet, including cruises to the Peruvian Amazon and on the Mekong river in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Aqua Blu’s luxurious design and interiors are a far cry from her days as a Royal Navy workhorse when she was classed as a warship under a White Ensign and worked the shores of the world from the Indian Ocean to UK waters to the seas off South Africa.
Now she has been completely refurbished in a partnership with Dutch yacht design studio Cor D. Rover, which specialises in the styling of superyachts to create timelessly beautiful lines with an exclusive appearance.
Her latest owners say that luxury on board offers tailored five-star itineraries, an exclusive 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio with personalised service, a cuisine experience crafted by acclaimed chefs, and expert-guided adventure activities and excursions.
Guests aboard one of the cruise company’s travel ventures can expect to enjoy the high life as they gaze across Southeast Asian sea views and landscapes from the comfort of one of the ship’s impressive suites, which look like the interior of a five-star hotel, as they cruise around a region of the world drenched in tropical sunshine, amid jungle-covered islands, fine white-sandy beaches, hidden blue lagoons and crystal-clear turquoise waters.