Travel beyond COVID-19. What travel will look like during & after COVID-19. A series of interviews with our top Hospitality and Tourism partners from around the world. Updates, Awareness, Wisdom & Education.  

Interview with Francesco Galli Zugaro. Founder and CEO at AQUA Expeditions.
Amazon River Cruise, Peru / Mekong River Cruise & Indonesia Cruise, Asia

To curate, plan and book your next travel experience, contact me directly. info@carlosmelia.com or +1 917 754 5515.

AQUA Blu
East Indonesian Archipelago

AQUA Expeditions

A recognized global leader in luxury small-ship expeditions, Aqua Expeditions explores the world’s most wildlife and culture-rich destinations aboard best-in-class vessels of stylish contemporary design. Venturing into unspoiled sanctuaries to witness the beauty of nature and wildlife, Aqua Expeditions sails to remote destinations with minimized human interaction, secluded from crowds. Expect tailored five-star itineraries, a highly exclusive 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio with personalized service, a cuisine experience crafted by acclaimed chefs, and flexible, expert-guided adventure activities and excursions for all ages, with a maximum of 30-40 guests per ship. Aqua Expeditions currently operates river explorations on the Amazon (Peru), the Mekong (Cambodia and Vietnam), and coastal yacht voyages to Komodo National Park, Ambon & Spice Islands and Raja Ampat (East Indonesia).

Q&A / Travel beyond COVID-19

Q&A Travel beyond COVID-19. Insight shared from out travel partners around the globe. For follow up questions, kindly contact us directly.

When are your Cruises back for tourists ?
We have not yet determined and confirmed a date to resume our operations, since it is subject to the lifting of travel restrictions in all the destinations we operate (Peru, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia). The governments of those destinations are still having ongoing conversations to agree on health regulations with respect to departures and arrivals.

What measures have you taken to reopen post COVID-19 ?
Please address sterilization measures, security, mandates on staff and guests testing, transportation etc.
With our small ships, the focus on this front has always been strong and focused. Most important is the ability to find the right balance of getting a conscious comeback of our travelers where they feel safe onboard and on shore but not hindering the experience they are wanting to have. We have arranged the following measures to ensure that our guests experience the highest standard of safety during their journey onboard the vessels:

Reservation Management Prior to Departure
> Continuing compliance with local authorities and following the advice of the World Health Organization to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
> Conducting health screenings and pre-boarding medical evaluations for all crew and passengers prior to embarkation.

Day of Arrival Embarkation Measures
> Registering all cases of guests with flu-like symptoms to relevant authorities.
>Providing face masks, latex gloves, and hand sanitizer to all guests and crew as needed.
> Increasing disinfection in addition to our regular stringent sanitation protocols.
> Continuing our operational procedure of no crew changes during voyages to reduce the risk of potential outside exposure.
>Enhancing guests’ in-suite amenities to include disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers.

Front House – Staff and guest interaction
> Requirement for best practice staff training in cleaning and sanitization protocols.
> Contactless sanitation stations throughout our ships’ crew areas and public spaces
> Greater flexibility and options for table seating and spacing.
> Appointed Health & Safety Officer whose responsibility is the well-being of the crew and guests, as well as the proper compliance and implementation of WHO and management standards.
> Cleaning and disinfection of all excursion equipment prior and after use, including but not limited to skiffs and tenders, kayaks, bicycles, dive and snorkel gear and life vests.

Menu engineering & cleaning and sanitization procedures
> Our production kitchens around the world are manned by well-equipped and trained staff who utilize best practices in sanitation and quality control methods.
> The benefits of keeping family and shared style of plating far outweigh the negatives.
> Breakfast buffet will be served to guests by staff wearing gloves (no self-service)
> Ready for possible changes in dietary preferences.
> Continue sourcing organic produce where possible.
> Introduce immune-boosting drinks throughout.

How do you plan to enforce these measures and how will you ensure compliance?
We have already set our corporate guidelines for the compliance of these measures on every vessel. We also follow strictly the International Maritime Organization and ISM guidelines for Covid-19 for the safety of our vessels while operating. Additionally, local governments and World Health Organization guidelines are taken into account, and compliance will be ensured by local authorities who will give us permission to restart.

How will these measures affect the overall regular experience ?
We believe that these new measures will have a minimum effect on the overall experience onboard any of our small expeditions.

Booking & Payment Flexibility Terms and Conditions during and after COVID-19 time.
Given the uncertainty of the current evolving global health situation, we have revised our terms and conditions for bookings with the aim of offering flexibility and peace of mind in regard to future travel plans. Our flexible booking conditions allow for rebooking and postponing the trip free of charge in order to experience a truly authentic and memorable Aqua Expeditions journey.

TERMS & CONDITIONS FOR NEW BOOKINGS
> Applicable to all new bookings that shall be made between now and Dec 31st 2020.
> We offer to postpone the booking to any date in the next 12 months from the date of the confirmed reservation in the same destination without any administration fees.
> Possibility to transfer to another vessel with full deposits deducted from final payment. The final payment will be adjusted according to the Aqua vessel chosen, the time of the year and departure selected.

TERMS & CONDITIONS FOR EXISTING DEPOSITS AND FULLY PAID BOOKINGS
> We offer to postpone the booking to any date in the next 12 months from original date of departure in the same destination and on the same vessel without charging any administration fees or penalties.
> We provide the guarantee of “No rate change”, with no additional fees for the postponed trip if choosing the same cruise duration and vessel.
> Guests who have already made full payments will not be charged any additional fee or rates for rebooking.

Will you be offering any special promotions, packages and/or value adds?
Yes, as part of our marketing strategy, we have launched a series of promotions in each destination to meet customers’ demands, which are available through your as our travel partner. Additionally, we also offer special hosted departures with our world-renowned consulting chefs Pedro Miguel Schiaffino (Aria Amazon), David Thompson (Aqua Mekong) and Benjamin Cross (Aqua Blu); and Ian Burnet, an Australian historian expert in the history of the Spice Islands (Aqua Blu). And certainly, we will still be offering our special VIP amenity to our guests, when booking directly with you. 

How will you plan to maintain a level social distancing ?
Our ships range from 15 to 20 cabins maximum. Accommodating a maximum of only 30 to 40 guests onboard, we are able to provide ample personal space and constant safe social distancing among passengers and crew. At the core of our experiences are the small group shore excursions. Capped at five couples per guide, it allows families or groups to find comfort and safety in manageable dynamics.

Tell us about the current quarantine and restrictions affecting Cruises ?
Like the whole tourism industry, it is being affected quite badly. With most country borders closed due to quarantine restrictions, many tourism companies, and the ones related to tourism, are facing a tough time, with some of them even closing. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I believe people will be more eager to travel when all this is over.

I think we’ll be seeing a greater trend towards private buyouts and in which case, our small expeditions vessels are perfectly suited for this. Today much of our business has been for multi-generational family charters. This will only increase as the value is there compared to any other charter boat in the Mediterranean or Caribbean. In the past month, we had three charter requests for Aqua Blu, Aqua Mekong and Aria Amazon, and one confirmed for summer 2021. Many requests we have are for as early as this summer and Q3 2020.

In addition to charters we see lots of family group travel. At the core of our experiences are the small group shore excursions. Maintaining a maximum 10 guests ensures strong interaction among fellow guests and guides, while still providing a personalized educational and engaging experience. Our small ships only visit and navigate into remote destinations, far removed from crowded areas and attractions with a focus on nature and wildlife regions with little to no outside human interaction.

Our travelers are the most intrepid and resilient well-travelled adventures. It’s exactly this demographic of affluent explorers that will come back first as long as we demonstrate that we are ready and prepared to provide comfort to their concerns of a healthy crew and a clean and sterilized explorer vessel.

Please add any additional information you believe would be helpful to raise travelers trust levels in order to visit ?
Since founding and starting Aqua Expeditions thirteen years ago, it has been our mission to create intimate, small ship expeditions to distant parts of the world. Now, more than ever, our company demonstrates yet again the advantages that our small explorer vessels offer families and friends traveling to secluded destinations, with a focus on nature and wildlife regions.
 
Our river and coastal cruisers are at minimal concern compared to transoceanic foreign flagged larger cruise ships. Our small expedition vessels are never more than a few hours from an airport. We have twice daily shore excursions so getting off the ship is never a concern. Last year we even partnered with REDPOINT Solutions for rescue and emergency evacuation insurance included in our rates for all our guests on Aqua Blu. In addition, all our ships are equipped with qualified and trained first responders and the necessary equipment that includes AED and Oxygen and access to a 24/7 team of medical and security professionals.

Now on a lighter and positive note,

Have you taken advantage of this quiet months, to do any renovations or improvements to any of your cruises ? If YES Which ?
During this period we have been working hard on improving procedures, keeping morale up with our crew, updating our CRM, and giving training webinars to educate our trade partners on our product offerings. Our vessels have also undergone their scheduled maintenance, albeit earlier than planned.

What is your favorite feature about your voyages and destination that you wish to share with my clients/readers ?
Our small ships only visit and navigate into remote destinations, far removed from crowded areas and attractions with a focus on nature and wildlife regions with little to no outside human interaction. As such, we are able to offer a high level of immersion and flexibility to our guests within each destination. Every excursion showcases our ability to share all the natural and cultural wonders the destination has to offer, providing our guests with plenty of insight and memories that they will take home and share with their friends and family.

My own Peru and Asia Experiences

Read more on my very own Experiences in Peru ( Blog Posts / Instagram Posts ) and Asia. Enjoy the journey.

Helpful Resources

Some useful resources you might want to keep in mind, for your upcoming travels during and after COVID-19.

IATA Travel Center  
www.iatatravelcentre.com

US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs  
www.travel.state.gov

CDC Center for Disease Control & Prevention
www.cdc.gov

World Health Organization
www.who.int

Homeland Security
www.dhs.gov

Global COVID-19 Flights & Travel Restrictions
app.developer.here.com

World Travel & Tourism Council
www.wttc.org/COVID-19/

World Travel Restrictions UN World Food Programme
www.unwfp.maps.arcgis.com

Observatory on Border Crossings Status due to COVID-19
www.wiki.unece.org

Health travel advice for all Countries
www.travelhealthpro.org.uk

EU Reopen
reopen.europa.eu

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About Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator

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Read more about me and my projects around the world. Travel Curator & Concierge, Blogger and Lifestyle Consultant.