aqua blu blog design History hms beagle indonesia luxury yacht refitting Titan

Is the Aqua Blu the Most Unique Cruise Ship Ever?

Initially built as a British Royal Navy explorer, the Aqua Blu has come an extended method to turn out to be a world-class luxurious cruise yacht. This is her uncommon story

If you see the gleaming, streamlined hull of the Aqua Blu cruising on the seas of East Indonesia later this yr, you’d be forgiven for considering that this can be a spanking new superyacht.

In truth, the Aqua Blu’s glossy type and aesthetic has much more depth and story than her trendy appearance would first recommend.

Part of the intrigue of the Aqua Blu, and certainly why we fell in love with this unique cruise ship enough to make it a part of our Aqua Expeditions family, is her exceptional heritage as the former British Royal Navy Explorer HMS Beagle.

In the 1960s, the British Royal Navy sanctioned the development of a fleet of 4 ocean survey vessels. Amongst them was HMS Beagle, named in honor of the unique ship that carried Charles Darwin as he circumnavigated the globe. Constructed by Brooke Marine and designed with a service provider hull, the 198-foot (60.4m) long vessel was formally commissioned in 1968 ⁠— the yr Richard Nixon gained the White House ⁠— together with three different survey ships in the Bulldog-class.

HMS Beagle in Royal Naval service

Function-built for Hydrographic Surveying, HMS Beagle was initially designed to hold a SWB Land Rover on the focsle (the deck of the ship near the hull), to be lifted on and off with the forward crane which also plumbed the forward survey hold. As an alternative it was decided the focsle ought to carry launch boats; the HMS Beagle was extensively modernized throughout her life with the unique 28 ft survey launch being changed with a 31 ft survey launch “FitzRoy” and the unique 18 ft survey launch changed with a Sea Rider RIB and related davit.

Quick forward 61 years later and the HMS Beagle, which happened to be the final of picket deck ships to be constructed by the British Navy, continues to be proudly displaying off its naval pedigree and seafaring prowess as a very unique cruise ship.

Just how did a naval survey vessel evolve into a world-class expedition cruise yacht?


Carrying a crew of 45, the HMS Beagle of the British Royal Navy began life in impressive trend, traversing the globe from the Indian Ocean to the West Indies and Scotland to South Africa while gathering invaluable underwater knowledge.

Initially designed to work in pairs, the HMS Beagle began operating alone someday in the 1980s. A half-life refit in 1990 outfitted the vessel with the trendy Surveying Info Processing System (SIPS), as she was redeployed to navigate around UK shores, surveying areas not coated by side-scan sonars.

Used for amassing very important knowledge on hydrographic and oceanographic surveys for planning and operational purposes, the SIPS at the time revolutionized how sheets have been drawn and underwater surveys have been carried out.

Whilst a army vessel, HMS Beagle had a status of being a particularly snug setting for the Royal Naval personnel on board. For leisure, the Wardroom, simply to starboard, the Senior Rates Mess simply aft and the Junior Scores mess forward, are all easily accessed.

All accommodation, except the Captain’s, was on 3 deck, which is now referred to as the Forecastle Deck. The Junior Scores had a 28-berth mess deck forward, the Senior Charges lived in double cabins and the Officers had a mix of two double-berth and two single-berth cabins. All accommodation areas have been air conditioned and, coupled with good sea-keeping qualities, the occupants had nothing however praise for the consolation ranges on the HMS Beagle, in comparison with other naval battleships.

The crew on board the HMS Beagle have been additionally, by most accounts, very well-fed and nourished on their missions. The well-equipped galley, located on 2 deck amidships (now the Primary Deck), fed the entire ship’s firm to a really high normal.

HMS Beagle in Bordeaux

HMS Beagle in Bordeaux, France, in 1992

For almost 34 years, the HMS Beagle assumed the position of a flexible asset for the British Royal Navy, continuing to bear frequent refits and upgrades as army and naval know-how progressed.

Lastly, after greater than three many years of devoted service, the Royal Navy decommissioned the HMS Beagle on 7 February 2002 and bought the vessel in March that yr. A veteran of the seas was poised for a rebirth… as a luxury constitution yacht.


Just as the HMS Beagle was about to name time on her naval tour of obligation, an English couple had discovered of the availability of the soon-to-be-decommissioned vessel. Peter and Pauline Bull had eight years of expertise in operating the 173-foot Benetti constitution yacht Galu once they chanced upon the HMS Beagle.

The duo turned savvy to the ship’s potential virtually immediately. In contrast to many army vessels, the HMS Beagle was broad-beamed (or ‘beamy’ in maritime slang). This was because as a survey ship, she didn’t have to maneuver or flip as fast as a battleship. With ample deck room coupled with the ship’s obvious seafaring pedigree and stellar maintenance over the years, the Bulls pictured the HMS Beagle as a five-star charter yacht.

To realize their imaginative and prescient, Peter and Pauline set about converting HMS Beagle after buying her from the Royal Navy for 750,000 British pounds in March 2002. Over three years and stationed in a facility in Poole in Southern England, a dramatic transformation happened without the ship being handed to a shipyard, as was normally the case for a enterprise as massive as this.

As an alternative, the Bulls employed and oversaw 50 particular person craftsmen, designers and naval architects as the HMS Beagle was chiseled, refitted and reworked into a four-deck vessel. Given a new look and a new life as a luxurious constitution yacht, the former naval vessel was rechristened Titan and unveiled in 2005.

HMS Beagle conversion

HMS Beagle undergoes a dramatic conversion.

Put into service on the European constitution routes, the Titan wasted no time in gaining a strong status with the exceptional extent of its refit and crew service. The SOLAS-classed vessel accommodated 22 constitution friends at the time, compared to the traditional 12 that was generally the most allowed on board most constitution yachts (of any measurement).


As a 11-cabin luxury charter yacht, the former HMS Beagle persistently noticed excessive demand. Quickly, nevertheless, Peter Bull, was recognized with cancer and ultimately misplaced the battle, leaving Pauline Bull solely in command of the charter enterprise.

In line with Yachtworld, Pauline “did not want to run Titan herself” after his husband’s passing, and so determined to sell the yacht. The subsequent proprietor was an Italian aristocratic family, who had bought the Titan for their personal enjoyment.

Beneath their care, the Titan noticed its requirements of luxury elevated even additional. Upon purchase in 2008, the first thing the new house owners did was to take the ship to Italy’s famend Benetti shipyard, the place she underwent a number of refits that included new stairs, a new sundeck, a new Jacuzzi, a new galley, better crew quarters and the set up of exquisite hardwood flooring in the higher salon.

The Titan

M/Y Titan

At the similar time, vital technical improvements have been additionally made to the vessel, including the installation of Quantum Zero Velocity Stabilizers that afforded friends and house owners of the boat most comfort whereas navigating or at relaxation, regardless of the sea state. The main refurbishment was accomplished in 2009, and the ship was as soon as again able to set sail.

Over the next decade, the house owners spared no expense in maintaining the Titan in prime type as it sailed each the Mediterranean and the Caribbean seas. Titan was made out there for charter again from 2014, internet hosting repeat shoppers from Spain, Sweden, in addition to royalty from the Middle East.

Titan cruise yacht in the evening

The Titan sailed the Mediterranean and the Caribbean as the personal yacht of an Italian aristocratic family.


In 2018, after more than a decade of operating efficiently the small-ship river cruise line Aqua Expeditions, Founder and CEO Francesco Galli Zugaro sought the subsequent step in the company’s international enlargement, with a specific focus in providing coastal cruising to discerning prosperous travellers with an urge for food for journey.

It was then Francesco got here throughout the former HMS Beagle. “I came across her at a yacht show and I immediately fell in love with her,” he fondly recollects.

“I saw the opportunity to buy her from the owners and after tremendous negotiation managed to come to a deal in the October of 2018,” Francesco elaborates. “We’re naming her the Aqua Blu, and she’ll be sailing three beautiful destinations in Indonesia’s Coral Triangle come end of 2019.”

To take the ship to a good greater degree of refinement and class, Francesco has roped in famend yacht designer Cor D. Rover to supervise a refurbishment course of presently underway in Singapore. Meanwhile, certain parts corresponding to the ship’s teak interiors will probably be lovingly given a brand new shine and mix seamlessly and stylishly with a contemporary brass-and-ivory themed interior.


Artist’s impression of the refurbished salon on the Aqua Blu

And identical to Aqua Expeditions’ other vessels, decorations and paintings can be personally handpicked by Francesco’s personal staff: his spouse Birgit Galli Zugaro and David Cole. When complete, the Aqua Blu will function 15 individually-designed cabins complemented with a near 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio, experienced guides and five-star eating characteristic of the Aqua Expeditions experience.


More considerably, Aqua Blu will supply visitors unprecendented access to the heart of the Coral Triangle in East Indonesia. Not solely is the vessel the first ship of its class to function primarily in the region, it’s also the first to promote particular person cabins as an alternative of solely charters. The Aqua Blu will cruise Komodo Nationwide Park, Ambon & Spice Islands as well as Raja Ampat on principally 7-night itineraries, with the occasional 12-night limited cross-destination voyage.

Aqua Blu exterior

The Aqua Blu will sail three locations in East Indonesia

Replete with two 16-seater Alson launch boats for shore excursions and a set of non-motorized watersport gear, the RINA-classed Aqua Blu is about to usher an thrilling new chapter in the life of a storied vessel, taking friends on a once-in-a-lifetime expeditions in the world’s most pristine and wildlife-rich destinations.

In comparison with the conventional picket phinisi vessels that function in the East Indonesia area, Aqua Blu’s superior velocity (as much as 16 knots) and range of 6,000 nautical miles ⁠— proudly inherited from its naval origins and its superbly maintained Lister Blackstone engines ⁠— will enable avid explorers to see, do and discover extra in the spectacular Coral Triangle that some other itinerary.

For us, the privilege of being a custodian of a treasured piece of maritime heritage fills us with delight and joy. To the many before who’ve had the pleasure of crusing together with her, this is more than just a unique cruise ship; Aqua Blu is arguably the quintessential icon of recent yachting and seafaring evolution, and we’d love to know what she’ll imply to our visitors in time to return.

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