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
Experience in international tourism and the global marketplace gave Francesco Galli Zugaro the ability to create Aqua Expeditions, Peru’s first luxury river cruise company, which expanded its operations globally in 2014 with the launch of the Aqua Mekong on the historic Mekong River between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and the bustling metropolis of Saigon, Vietnam.
As CEO, Galli Zugaro personally supervised the launch of Aqua Expeditions’s first two vessels, both on the Peruvian Amazon, the Aqua Amazon in 2008 followed by the Aria Amazon in 2011.
Two years later and on the other side of the world in a Vietnamese shipyard, Galli Zugaro oversaw the construction of the company’s newest ship, the Aqua Mekong, which debuted in October 2014. Early VIP guests included the world’s leading travel journalists from Travel + Leisure, How to Spend It, Conde Nast Traveller, Forbes and Robb Report, among others. This unprecedented acclaim for the Aqua Mekong extends to praise for the ship’s trailblazing style, including prestigious awards from the international design community.
A distinguished speaker, Galli Zugaro is regularly asked to share his insights on innovation, entrepreneurship and market trends at a diverse range of leadership gatherings, from Sydney Lux Experience, Sydney Cruise 360, International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) and Virtuoso Events to Singapore Investment Forums.
Prior to establishing Aqua Expeditions, Galli Zugaro served as the Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Ocean Adventures, a highly respected cruise line in the Galapagos Islands. He was responsible for implementing sales and marketing strategies, increasing brand awareness and equity as well as developing business models.
Half Italian and half American, Galli Zugaro received his B.A. in Communications from Boston College and an International Baccalaureate Degree from Notre Dame International in Rome.
He lives in Singapore with his wife and three children.
Fred Brown, Chief Financial Officer
Fred Brown is Co-founder & Shareholder 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 retired in 2016 as Aqua Expeditions’ Chief Financial Officer.
Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, Executive Chef: Aria Amazon Cruise
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 Aria Amazon in 2011. After studying at the Culinary Institute of America, completing Masters’ 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 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: Amazon Cruises
One of Peru’s top interior designers, Jordi Puig has brought his creative eye and skilled hand to the exterior facade, 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.
Noor Architects & Interior Designers: Mekong Cruises
Saigon based David Hodkinson and Luc Lejeune bring a wide range of architectural and interior experience to their highly customized work on the Aqua Mekong.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Hodkinson 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 co-founded the design firm Noor soon after moving to Vietnam in 2003. Currently, he leads the Noor design studio.
Hodkinson worked on the Luna building in London, a competition entry for the national opera in Oslo and the Winchester School of Art. His work has been exhibited in London and Ghana, as well as featured in Wallpaper*, Architects Journal and Building Design. He has also established himself as a furniture designer; his pieces for RedEdition are available internationally.
Lejeune’s path to interior design is atypical: he earned a Master’s degree in international business law, political science and international relations before moving to Vietnam with the United Nations in 1991. Since co-founding Noor, more than a decade of successful private ventures in Saigon has followed, with Lejeune specializing in furniture manufacturing and export, design and hospitality. He has been associated with some of Vietnam’s most high profile design successes including Temple Club, Warda and Nguyen FrEres. Fluent in Vietnamese, French and English, Lejeune oversees Noor’s business development, client management, project administration and also reviews all final designs. His work has been published in two books, Indochine Style and Vietnam Style, and regularly appears in international magazines.
For the Aqua Mekong, Hodkinson and Lejeune explores creative ways to incorporate Southeast Asia’s indigenous and traditional materials, within high-end, modern design that fits contextually into its environment.
David Thompson, Consulting Chef: Mekong Cruises
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants top-ranked Asia chef, David Thompson arrived at such accolades by an unexpected detour in his 1986 holiday plans that left the Sydney native 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 then 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 restaurant. Nine years later, Thompson did what many critics considered 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 Ratchaburi Province outside the Thai capital.
As Consulting 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 to create indigenous inspired dishes like river prawns with ginger, shallots, tamarind, and palm sugar served on betel leaves, Cambodian green curry of catfish and lemon basil cashew nut pudding with coconut cream.
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, Victor 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 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 cruise ship 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.