Italian-American Francesco Galli Zugaro grew up in a variety of countries, and was always fascinated with traveling. After graduating from college in Boston, he went to work in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. When he reached the level of Vice President of Sales and Marketing for a Galapagos cruise company, he set out to explore Latin America in hopes of finding another remote destination to start his own cruise line.
The Peruvian stretch of the Amazon River is what he settled on, and it was there that Zugaro launched Aqua Expeditions with their first ship – Aqua Amazon – in 2008. It only had twelve cabins, and demand for the line’s Peruvian cruises almost immediately exceeded the small vessel’s capacity, so the 16-cabin Aria Amazon was introduced and replaced Aqua Amazon. After that launch, Zugaro set out to find another remote destination to grow his brand and landed on the Mekong River in Asia. So, in 2014, the 20-suite Aqua Mekong debuted and has been sailing in Vietnam and Cambodia ever since.
How Many Passengers: 32 and 40 passengers
Personality: The onboard atmosphere is friendly and laid-back. Guests tend to get to know each other quickly because the ships are so small. The cruise line advises travelers to wear lightweight, comfortable clothing during the day, and many passengers dress up a bit for dinner.
Fellow Passengers: Most guests are well-traveled and retired, looking for a unique adventure. The line is also very welcoming to families; each ship has several interconnecting cabins for larger families and guides are sure to engage children on excursions.
Cabins: From 250 to 320 square feet. All cabins are suites with the bed(s) facing panoramic windows, and some also have balconies. They offer seating areas, ample storage, and bathrooms with rainfall showers including organic amenities. Neutral colors, wood flooring, and local fabrics lend a peaceful feel that melds well with the views just outside the window.
Dining: Master chefs created the menus for dining on Aqua Expeditions, and the flavors from breakfast to dinner are all reminiscent of the regions each ship travels. Ingredients are locally-sourced whenever possible. The regions the ships sail are even reflected in the dinnerware and the dining room’s décor.
Amenities: Onboard you’ll find both indoor and outdoor lounges with a bar, workout facilities, a pool (Aqua Mekong) or jacuzzi (Aria Amazon), onboard shop, library, and spa services. There are also four resident English-speaking river guides that lead guests on excursions, who grew up in the region and know it like the back of their hand. Excursions are included in the price of the cruise.
Best For: Travelers looking for an intimate river cruising experience, those looking for an authentic, local-driven adventure, families with children who are at least seven years old
Included Alcohol: Select beer and wine with dinner
Where They Go: Peru and the Amazon River; and Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Mekong River