Will Expedition Yachts Be the Future of Cruising?

One thing we’ve heard a lot of lately is that small ship cruise lines will have an easier time returning to full operation following the COVID-19 pandemic. Aqua Expeditions seems to be proving this theory correct as they’ve now returned to operation in select parts of the world. The cruise line has offered small ship expedition cruises all over the globe for the past 13 years and counting. Though they had to shut down operation in the spring, the cruise line has restarted operation on select cruises and expects to ramp up quickly thanks to their small ships and unique itineraries to remote destinations. 

Francesco Galli Zugaro, CEO and founder of Aqua Expeditions, joined Porthole Cruise Editor-in-Chief Bill Panoff to discuss the health and safety protocols practiced onboard and what guests can expect when they choose to cruise with Aqua Expeditions. 

One of the biggest advantages of being such a small ship expedition company and focused on a premium high-end guest experience is that our ships are very manageable

Francesco was asked about the cruise line’s latest venture into expedition cruising and the brand new Aqua Blu yacht. He explained that one specific region of the world led to his love of adventure cruising. 

“It is exciting times. When we launched in October,  it was a three year project when we launched into the Raja Ampat season of Indonesia. For those that don’t know, I cut my teeth into expedition cruising in the Galapagos so what better way to fall in love with this industry than an iconic destination like the Galapagos.” 

Aqua Expeditions wasn’t immune to the industry shutdown following the COVID-19 pandemic. Francesco shared some of the onboard changes made by Aqua Expeditions to help promote safe and healthy cruising. 

“One of the biggest advantages of being such a small ship expedition company and focused on a premium high-end guest experience is that our ships are very manageable. We’ve only got 15 cabins, huge space…so we haven’t had to do much as far as the layout of the vessel because we’ve got multiple dining venues. We can create spaces.” 

Aqua Expeditions

An aerial view of Aqua Blu | Photo: Aqua Expeditions

Francesco was then asked how an Aqua Expeditions cruise might compare to other mainstream cruise lines. 

“Our guests are those soft adventure, those affluent explorers, the ones that want to do Antarctica, the ones that want to do the Galapagos, the ones that want to do African safaris. So traditionally, the mainstream cruising guests might be attracted to the ship itself, our main attraction is the destination.” 

Francesco also shared with us his favorite destinations to cruise to. For him, living history gives a destination an appeal like no other. 

“One of the most recent ones that blew my mind was the Spice Islands. We’re the first scheduled explorer yacht to offer set departures into the Spice Islands for October, two months out of the year. I think people have heard of the fabled Spice Islands and the Dutch influence, but many Americans don’t know that the Dutch gave up Manhattan in exchange for an island called Pulau Run in the Spice Islands in 1667 in order to control the trade route for the world for spices, nutmeg and cinnamon.” 

It’s the history of a place that makes it really come alive and that’s what adventure cruising is all about! 

Watch the full interview with Francesco Galli Zugaro below: