A sneak peek at the brand-new Aqua Blu with Francesco Galli Zugaro
This blog article was contributed by Felicia Poh. The author was invited for an exclusive trade preview of the Aqua Blu when it was docked in Singapore.
It’s a balmy Wednesday as we arrive at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. As we make our way out onto the pier, we spot the Aqua leaf logo from afar and note from one of the staff members, “It’s the largest ship here – you can’t miss it”.
Aqua Expeditions’ newest vessel, the Aqua Blu, is a grand sight. The long-range yacht, a beautifully refurbished naval explorer, will primarily serve three destinations on 7-12-night coastal cruise itineraries: Raja Ampat, Bali-Komodo National Park, Ambon and Spice Islands.
We were greeted by the friendly staff members – all 17 of them – and whisked into the lounge for a welcome drink to kick off the tour. The team has curated the most special excursions to the excursions and things to see and do. We learn that in addition to unrivaled diving and snorkeling in superb, biodiverse sites, there are nutmeg plantations, ancient Dutch forts, and hidden lagoons and karst limestone islets to explore. On the itinerary is also volcano trekking and jungle safaris to spot rare wildlife like the bird of paradise. Meanwhile, underwater you’ll encounter unblemished coral reefs and species native to the region like the pygmy seahorse and Asian manatee, said to inspire the legend of the mermaid. Exciting stuff.
The voyages to these far-flung, romantic destinations in the East Indonesia archipelago take place in supreme luxury and comfort on this five-deck ship, tastefully outfitted in soothing brass and ivory color palettes. With 15 cabins that are all uniquely designed, boasting different sizes and configurations, families traveling together have the option of booking adjourning suites, although only children aged 7 and above are permitted onboard.
You can expect all the usual luxury trappings and mod cons like mobile charging pads on both sides of the bed, and walk-in wardrobes in some suites. Exploring the first cabin, we find out that a button warms the shower to the perfect temperature before you hop in, so there’s no fiddling to get it right. Clever. There is one suite that has a bathtub, although, with the scenic shores and cerulean waters of the Coral Triangle awaiting, we’ll probably spend our team soaking in the sea instead of a tub.
The modern, contemporary minimalist interiors are elegantly adorned with tasteful heritage artworks throughout the entire craft, including images of the original vessel, the HMS Beagle, Thai sculptures and black and white sketches, all personally sourced by Founder and CEO Francesco.
Stepping out onto the main deck, Francesco shares that open-air meditation sessions are available to guests during sunset on the main deck – we could certainly find our zen here. This spacious area is also home to a private jacuzzi and spa, as well as gym equipment for al fresco sweat sessions. Relaxation and peace is the name of the game.
We were thrilled to hear that there are no single-use plastics on board; every passenger gets their own metal tumbler to use while on expeditions and all soaps in the bathroom come in refillable bottles. The culinary offering onboard is courtesy of Executive Chef Benjamin Cross, who favors sustainable ingredients like ethically sourced fish and seafood. The Aqua Blu features a refined menu that honors the cuisines of various cultures — from Asian to Middle Eastern — that have traversed Indonesia’s fabled 16th and 17th-century spice trade routes.
As we wrap up the tour on the Aqua Blu, Francesco turns to us and says, “Have you seen our library?” He opens a small door on the main deck right next to the bar, unveiling the coziest looking library with a comfortable L-shaped sofa beckoning us to sink into it. Rows of books line the front shelves, and as we take a closer look, he says, “We can also transform this space into a karaoke room.” As our singing skills are limited to the solo shower variety (preferably without an audience) this is one amenity we might skip, although our more sultry-voiced companions disagree…
The Aqua Blu is getting ready for its inaugural voyage – leaving the dock on 16 November from Bali. We hope to be on board.