Francesco Galli Zugaro – CEO and Founder, Aqua Expeditions

Leveraging his expertise in international tourism and experience in the world-renowned cruise destination of Galapagos Islands, Francesco Galli Zugaro launched Aqua Expeditions in 2007 in Peru as the pioneer luxury small ship river cruise operator in South America with global ambitions.

As CEO, Galli Zugaro has personally supervised every Aqua Expeditions vessel launch since 2008, completely changing the landscape of boutique cruising on the Peruvian Amazon. After the launch of Aria Amazon in 2011, and on the other side of the world in a Vietnamese shipyard, Galli Zugaro oversaw the construction of the Aqua Mekong, which debuted in October 2014. 

Aqua Mekong Sunset
Unprecedented acclaim followed the ship’s trailblazing style, including prestigious awards from the international design community including the Gold Award in the Architecture/New Build category in the 2015 Asia Hotel Design Awards for the Aqua Mekong, Fodor Travel Awards 2019, Best-of-the-Best Luxury Cruise Awards 2019, and Departures Legends Awards 2020. The company also counts fans from the world’s leading travel media including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Forbes, and Robb Report. 


Not content with resting on his laurels, Galli Zugaro brought Aqua Expeditions into its first ocean foray in November 2019 with a former British Navy ship, overhauled in a sleek modern style with the help of Dutch yacht designer Cor D. Rover. Aqua Blu offers a variety of 7- and 12-night itineraries to some of the world’s most pristine regions: Komodo National Park, the Spice Islands, and Raja Ampat. In the short time that Aqua Blu has been operating, it has already garnered rave reviews from Virtuoso Life, Financial Times, Departures, The Times, The Australian and more amongst its accolades. 


While 2020 has brought many challenges, the company looks forward to the introduction of Aqua Nera on the Amazon at the end of the year. This latest addition to the Aqua Expeditions fleet will once again push boundaries and set new standards in boutique cruise design, luxury, and guest experiences.


Throughout the process, Galli Zugaro has cultivated a brand that exemplifies his attention to detail and desire to personalize an immersive luxury cruise experience by pairing iconic boutique five-star vessels with ‘soft adventures’ in the world’s most ecologically and culturally significant locales. The result is highly refined, immersive itineraries which revolve around tailored activities with expert-guided small-group excursions, exceptional service with a 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio, immaculate contemporary design as well as world-class cuisine by renowned chefs. 


A distinguished speaker, Galli Zugaro is regularly asked to share his insights on innovation, sustainability, entrepreneurship and market trends at a diverse range of leadership gatherings, from Sydney Lux Experience, Cruise 360, and International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) to Virtuoso Events and Singapore Investment Forums. His focus also lies in driving sustainable development through travel, prioritizing the social and environmental impacts and solutions of operating in culturally rich and unspoiled natural destinations. 
Watch this interview with Galli Zugaro as he speaks with Virtuoso’s Founder and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch about the future of Aqua Expeditions and its exciting destinations.

Aqua Expeditions | Exclusive Interview with Virtuoso Founder and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch

Half Italian and half American, Galli Zugaro received his B.A. in Communications from Boston College. 


He lives in Singapore with his wife and three children.