Guiding the Aqua Expeditions team in Peru, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam are our esteemed executives, each one carefully selected for experience, leadership, vision and attention to the highest standards of guest service:
- Francesco Galli Zugaro, Chief Executive Officer
- Fred Brown, Chief Financial Officer
- Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, Executive Chef , Aqua Expeditions Amazon
- Jordi Puig, Architect & Interior Designer, Aqua Expeditions Amazon
- David Thompson, Executive Chef Aqua Mekong
- David Hodkinson, Architect & Interior Design, Aqua Mekong
- Guides & Crew onboard Aqua Expeditions cruiseships
Francesco Galli Zugaro, Chief Executive Officer
Fulfilling a lifelong dream to take travelers to the world’s last great, unexplored regions, company founder and CEO Francesco Galli Zugaro supervised the launch of Aqua Expeditions’ first luxury vessel on the Peruvian Amazon, the Aqua Amazon in 2008, followed by the Aria Amazon three years later. In 2012, upon the completion of a global exploratory search, Galli Zugaro began efforts to launch the company’s newest vessel, the Aqua Mekong on Southeast Asia’s Mekong River between Cambodia and Vietnam.
Prior to establishing Aqua Expeditions in 2007, Mr. Galli Zugaro served as Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Ocean Adventures, a highly esteemed boutique cruise company operating in the Galapagos Islands. He implemented cohesive sales and marketing strategies, increased brand awareness and developed business models. In only two years, Galli Zugaro managed to successfully increase the company’s net sales while increasing occupancy levels by 26%.
He co-founded his first entrepreneurial venture, Lonesome George & Co, in 2006. The branded apparel line inspired by the unique story of Lonesome George, the world’s last surviving Pinta Tortoise who lived in the Galapagos Islands, today operates stores in Ecuador, Aspen and Berlin and sells worldwide online. 10% of every purchase made from Lonesome George & Co. is directly deposited into youth educational programs that teach about the need to prevent wildlife extinction and safeguard wildlife preservation efforts around the world.
Galli Zugaro received his B.A. in Communications from Boston College and an International Baccalaureate Degree from Notre Dame International in Rome. He currently lives in Singapore with his Peruvian wife and three multilingual children.
Fred Brown, Chief Financial Officer
Fred Brown is joint founder & co-owner of Aqua Expeditions. As a British Chartered Accountant, he brings a rare and valuable combination of experience with enterprises of all sizes in areas such as top management, corporate governance, business planning & projections, internal accounting controls & human resources.
His career includes audit, accounting, tax, human resources, business advisory services & general management with Deloitte & Touche in Peru, Ecuador, and the United States. Having retired as Managing Partner for Ecuador and Partner-in-Charge of Consulting Services for the Andean Region, he served as Independent Director and President of the Audit Committee for PRONACA, a leading $1 billion agribusiness.
Brown has brought this international experience & accounting expertise to the financial operations of Aqua Expeditions, from initial planning & start-up through to our current expansion on the Mekong with operations in Singapore, Cambodia & Vietnam.
He currently divides most of his time between Singapore & Peru.
Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, Executive Chef – Amazon Cruises
Recognized by the prestigious of The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino was already a frequent Amazon visitor when he became Executive Chef on the Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon in 2008. After studying at the Culinary Institute of America, completing Master’s level work at the Italian Culinary Institute and cooking at the Michelin three-star Ristorante dal Pescatore, under renowned chef Nadia Santini and at Piero Bertinotti’s celebrated Ristorante Pinocchio, Schiaffino returned home to Lima curious about his country’s indigenous culinary resources. Like Spanish explorers long before him, Schiaffino ventured deep into Amazonia. His palate lead the way, to tasting an array of local delicacies from the juicy camu camu fruit to paiche fish and the more esoteric roast guinea pig. Since 2004, Schiaffino has helmed the kitchen of his Amazonia influenced Malabar restaurant in Lima’s San Isidro neighborhood and in 2013 he opened Amaz to further celebrate the Peruvian rainforest as a trove of edible treasures.
Schiaffino overseas Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon menus and restaurant operations, focusing on fresh, delicious Peruvian fare, paired with fine South American wines. He sources around 70% of all ingredients within Amazonia and credits Aqua Expeditions with helping him to better understand the people and ecosystem of the Amazon. Schiaffino returns often to explore deeper into the Peruvian jungle while also bringing his Amazon cuisine to Singapore, at his first overseas restaurant in 2014.
Jordi Puig, Architect & Interior Designer: Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon
One of Peru’s top interior designers, Jordi Puig has brought his creative eye and skilled hand to the exterior façade, suites and public areas of both Aqua Expeditions Amazon cruisers. Of Catalan descent and raised in Lima, Puig studied architecture and design at Lima’s University Ricardo Palma then at the Instituto Elisava Escola Superior de Disseny in Barcelona. He has designed numerous commercial spaces, shops, and galleries and is responsible for the look of several of Lima’s most exclusive restaurants, bars and lounges. In addition, Puig created the interior design for more than 50 private homes, apartments, and lofts throughout Peru as well as in Spain, and the United States. His design work has been featured in Wallpaper* (UK), Dwell (US) and Casas (Spain) as well as in major design publications throughout Latin America.
David Hodkinson, Architect & Interior Designer: Aqua Mekong
Saigon based David Hodkinson of Noor Design received his Masters in Architecture and Interior Design from the Royal College of Art in London, after achieving a degree in Architecture at Oxford Brookes University. He worked in architectural practice in the United Kingdom for Glenn Howells and Architecture plb then founded the design firm Noor soon after moving to Vietnam in 2000. Currently he leads design for the Noor studio team in Saigon.
Hodkinson brings a wide range of architectural and interior experience to his highly customized work on the Aqua Mekong. He has worked on the Luna building in London, a competition entry for the new national opera in Oslo and the Winchester School of Art. David’s work has been exhibited in London and Ghana, as well as featuring in Wallpaper*, Architects Journal and Building Design. He has also established as a furniture designer; his pieces for RedEdition are currently available internationally.
For the Aqua Mekong, Hodkinson continued his interest of exploring the uses of Southeast Asia’s indigenous and traditional materials, within high-end, modern design that fits contextually into its environment.
David Thompson, Executive Chef: Mekong Cruises
An unexpected detour in his 1986 holiday plans left Sydney native and The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ top ranked Asia chef David Thompson in Bangkok. He had to eat, of course and discovered Thai food by “happy serendipity.” The young chef began to study the language as well as the cuisine, eventually finding his way to recipes in Thai ‘books of the dead’ that became his most valuable resource and inspiration.
Thompson returned home to achieve success in Sydney with the 1992 opening of Darley Street Thai and Sailors Thai three years later. The Australian chef was asked by Singapore lifestyle and hospitality legend Christina Ong to create a Thai restaurant in her Halkin by COMO hotel in London. Nahm opened in London in 2001 and was awarded a Michelin star within six months, the first Michelin ever for a Thai food restaurant. Nine years later, Thompson did what many critics considered the audacious, bringing Nahm to Bangkok where he has developed a loyal following even among Thais, thanks in part to the finest quality Thai ingredients, including many straight from his own farm in Ratchnaburi Province outside the Thai capital.
As Executive Chef of the Aqua Mekong, Thompson expands his adventurous palate more broadly around Southeast Asia, incorporating culinary traditions of Mekong River cultures with the freshest ingredients like Khmer Kampot pepper and for our adventurous guests, grilled Battambang snake.
Guides & Crew
Aqua Expeditions guests unanimously report back to us that their favorite memories of the river journey were made thanks to the talented and experienced team of naturalist guides and professional crew:
That night, we went to see nocturnal creatures, and I expressed regret that it was impossible to photograph the spectacled caiman, a carnivorous reptile closely related to the crocodile. Minutes later, while the captain held his legs, our valiant guide, Víctor Coelhos, cantilevered himself off the front of the skiff, plunged his arms into the muddy waters, and lifted a squirming juvenile into the air, holding it in such a way that we could photograph it and it could not remove his fingers. – Andrew Solomon, Travel & Leisure
On the Amazon, our guides and crews firsthand knowledge of our Aqua Amazon cruise ships, Amazon River animals, plants and birds, as well as the history of this part of Peru make the difference between a group tour of Peru or self-guided experience and an unforgettable, life enriching, educational experience. Highly-trained, interpretive Amazon River guides, who grew up in this region and know all the flora and fauna of the Amazon, take our guests on as many as three off-boat expeditions a day, aboard comfortable motorized skiffs. These English-speaking Amazon guides point out and help teach you about the the details that make Amazonia extraordinary — a sloth hidden high amidst the tree branches, an anaconda slithering along the river bank or a toucan flying overhead.
For our guests exploring the Mekong River, Aqua Expedition’s guides will introduce you to local people and communities they grew up within and know first-hand. Their expert knowledge of the Aqua Mekong cruiseship and the Mekong River itself, from its tides to its history and regional economic importance, allows our guests to travel deeper along tributaries in search of vanishing French colonial vestiges, ancient Khmer ruins, Southeast Asia’s last water birds and remote tropical forests.
Join us on an Amazon or Mekong River cruise and let our experienced Aqua Expeditions team share with you the history, natural treasures and visual beauty of two of the world’s greatest rivers.