To feed travelers’ latest appetite for adventure, one company is thinking small—very small, in fact. The Aqua Expeditions–owned Aqua Blu, a long-range luxury yacht, will have just 15 suites, all facing the sea, when it launches around the Indonesian archipelago in November. It will provide an intimate experience for those seeking outings in lush jungles or snorkeling and diving in pristine coral reefs, but who wouldn’t mind some spa time when they get back on board, thanks very much.
Previously, if you wanted to visit the archipelago by water, you’d charter a phinisi, a traditional two- or three-masted sailboat, that had been modified for leisure. But the Aqua Blu will add a different option: Aqua Expeditions, the company that runs the excellent river-touring Aria Amazon and Aqua Mekong, will apply its boutique sensibility to the first yacht to be permanently based in the area.
The ship has a storied history. Commissioned in 1968, it was one of four Bulldog-class vessels used by the Royal Navy as coastal surveyors. It ended up with Aqua, though, and underwent a luxury upgrade, with a nearly 1-to-1 crew-to-guest ratio, sundeck, lounge and bar, and outdoor Jacuzzi.
The nine itineraries are equally impressive: Komodo National Park, with its 5,000 giant lizards and protected waters; the Raja Ampat archipelago, 27,000 square miles of land and sea in the Coral Triangle; and Ambon and the Spice Islands, where nutmeg plantations lie within view of a volcano. Just pick whichever takes your fancy.
If you’re on the lookout for other intimate itineraries: The Coral Geographer, a 120-passenger ship from Australia-based Coral Expeditions, takes its first trip—from Singapore across the Indian Ocean to the Seychelles—in January 2021. A special overnight excursion to Sri Lanka includes a dusk safari at Yala National Park.
By 2020, the very luxe Ponant Explorers fleet will have added six ships that carry a max of 184 passengers each in 92 cabins. One standout feature, in addition to Hermès toiletries and a 24-hour butler: a lounge with a small bar with windows below the waterline, so you can scuba while staying bone-dry. The ships, all named for French explorers, will travel to the Bissagos Islands, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea and other locales polar and tropical alike.
Up to 12 guests can take Offshore Outpost’s Pacific Provider to the Sea of Cortez or Alaska, where, if you catch a salmon, they’ll prepare it for you on a grill. Life doesn’t get much fresher than that.
The Harmony G from Variety Cruises is a megayacht with 21 cabins to whisk away a max of 44 guests. Choose among six itineraries: one to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Red Sea, or five to Greece, because are you even living if you haven’t seen the sun set over the Acropolis?