Artists We Love: Maria Cienfuegos

Travelers on our people-to-people Cuba programs sometimes visit the Miramar home of visual artist Maria Cienfuegos, where she showcases her work as well as that of other young artists.  Her artist-run cooperative, dubbed Studio 7 y 60 (or Septima Y Sesenta), has existed since 2010, when Maria and three collaborators decided to use her family’s apartment as a venue to present their creations directly to the public.

maria-cienfuegosMuch of Maria’s art explores the concept of memory. On her website, Maria, who has a background in biology as well as art, writes: “I approach my work from the hybrid sensitivity that arises from the mutual influence of art and science. My photographs emerge from the counterbalance between these two forms of operation, which I regard as complementary. Within this dynamic I am interested in the social/anthropological processes which traverse the categories of thought and image. It is my personal quest to go inside spaces of remembrance and forgetfulness. Photography is my way of not only adding and revealing layers to the process of reminiscence; but also of participating in this cryptic accumulation.”

On a recent journey to Havana, we captured these images of the artist and her studio space. Find out more about her artist-run space, Studio 7 y 60, here.You can also read an article about the studio on Cuban Art News.

To find out more about Academic Arrangements Abroad, one of the pioneers in offering legal travel to Cuba, visit our website. Since 1999, we have helped thousands of Americans discover the rich history and culture of this once-inaccessible nation.

Our president, Jim Friedlander, who has traveled to Cuba more than 50 times, has also created the Havana Heritage Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting and preserving the architecture and culture of Havana.  For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, click here.

Our Last Book Club Pick of 2016

Feedback was good on our last book, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie — A Tale of Love and Fallout. For the end of 2016, we’re looking at more nonfiction with Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity  by Katherine Boo.
Publisher Random House says about the book: “In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.”

News from Abroad: Our travelers tell all

Why explore the world with Arrangements Abroad? Just ask our travelers! This month, some of our recent guests share their praise for our exceptional service, remarkable lecturers, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Old classic car on street of Havana with ocean and lighthouse in

Cuba from Ports of Call

“Inés Powell was a lovely, classy and informative lady who did an outstanding job,” says traveler David Sweetwood about the beloved lecturer from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Powell is about to lead another Arrangements Abroad visit to Cuba: a first-ever cruise along the island’s less-developed southern shore. Admire rugged landscapes, pristine beaches, and well-preserved colonial towns, and step ashore for studio tours, private performances, and other exclusive events. Variety Voyager is among the first ships with U.S. travelers to visit these ports since the Revolution.

Cuba by Sea: Cienfuegos to Santiago
Aboard Variety Voyager
February 11 – 18, 2017

With Inés Powell, Educator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other distinguished lecturers

Click to download brochure

seacloud_ii_ship_16-1Sailing on a Cloud

We often refer to Sea Cloud II as “everyone’s favorite sailing ship,” and this letter from a traveler illustrates why: “I just celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary aboard Sea Cloud II,” she writes. “The ship is beautiful, our cabin was luxurious, the food was delicious, the crew superb, and the excursions both varied and fascinating.”This elegant ship embarks on a new voyage in early 2017 to the Southern Caribbean. Unspoiled islands, UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the beautiful city of Cartagena, and national parks teeming with biodiversity await you on this wintertime sojourn from Curaçao to Colón.

With the Trade Winds
Curaçao to Colón Aboard Sea Cloud II
February 13 – 21, 2017

With William Crow, Managing Museum Educator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Click to download brochure

macaw-corcovado-yiannis77A Perfect Panamanian Pair

Writes Diane Wilkie about the Panama Canal cruise she took in 2015: “Thank you! We had a wonderful time–the food, accommodation, and company were outstanding.” In 2017, sail aboard Sea Cloud II through spectacular archipelagos, swim at exquisite hidden beaches, and experience a rare guaranteed daytime transit of the Panama Canal. After 100 years, it is still an impressive feat of engineering. You might even consider doing what another couple just did and sign up for both this program and the new Southern Caribbean voyage described above, for two exciting and distinct back-to-back cruises!

Sailing the Panama Canal
Colón to Puntarenas Aboard Sea Cloud II
February 20 – March 3, 2017

With Ronda Kasl, Curator of Latin American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other distinguished lecturers

Click to download brochure

Tulips & Masterpieces

“There will be other trips for sure, but this one was the Star Trip!” says one guest about our best-selling “Dutch & Flemish Landscapes” river cruise. “I have been talking about this trip to everyone, and it is a fact that it was exceptional.” Join us in 2017 for this springtime voyage through the Netherlands and Belgium, to see magnificent public and private collections, miles of tulips in bloom during their peak season, and charming towns perfect for exploring on your own should you choose.

Dutch & Flemish Landscapes
Aboard AmaPrima
April 19 – 27, 2017
With Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other distinguished lecturers

Click to download brochure

The Rhine, River of Culture

A traveler on a recent river cruise on the Rhône reserved her highest praise for Met lecturer Olivier Bernier: “We were unusually privileged and our experiences all the more enhanced by Olivier’s erudite and informative commentaries and delightful presence.” Is it any wonder this witty author and art historian has developed such a loyal following over the years? Next summer, Mr. Bernier will share his love and knowledge of the country where he was raised and other favorite places during a Rhine River cruise from Amsterdam to Basel. Highlights include a visit to Art Basel, one of the world’s largest contemporary art shows.

The Majestic Rhine
Twenty Centuries of Civilization
Amsterdam to Basel Aboard AmaKristina
June 9 – 17, 2017

With Olivier Bernier, art historian and Met lecturer

Click to download brochure

ship_140138027867Incas, Alpacas & Iguanas

“The trip was a wonderful success and I know that all our participants thoroughly enjoyed it,” writes Met educator William Crow about a journey he led for the Museum to Ecuador and the Galápagos. “The trip truly unfolded seamlessly and I continuously heard from the participants that they were amazed at your abilities to orchestrate so many activities and travelers.” Join Travel with The Met next summer for a family-friendly discovery of the cultural and natural wonders of this unique destination, led by an expert in pre-Columbian art and top naturalist guides.

Art, Empire & Nature
Exploring Ecuador & the Galápagos
July 7 – 15, 2017

With James Doyle, Assistant Curator for the Art of the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum
of Art

Click for more information

Get a sneak peek at upcoming trips in our October 2016 Cultural Calendar, a quarterly preview of our educational programs created in collaboration with leading nonprofit organizations.




Spotlight on Panama


Centennial Bridge, Panama, Photograph by Adrian Turner

Though it feels like summer is still here, the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts that the Midwest and Northeast will experience an unusually cold and snowy winter this year. This February, escape the chill during one of our cruises aboard Sea Cloud II and discover fascinating Panama. Here are six great reasons to visit this Central American nation.

  1. Casco Viejo: Founded in 1519 by conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila, Panama was the first European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Panama City’s historic center, known as the Casco Viejo (“Old Town”), became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. During a walking tour, discover the quarter’s architecture, a blend of French, Spanish, and Early American styles.
  2. Guna Yala: On these more than 350 picture-perfect islands, formerly known as San Blas, the indigenous Guna people maintain their distinctive culture. They are famous for their bright molas, a textile art form that many Guna women wear.
  3. The Panama Canal: Completed in 1914, the American-built Panama Canal stretches 48 miles between the Atlantic and the Pacific. In June 2016, after nearly a decade of construction and more than $5 billion, Panama opened the expansion of this engineering marvel, which more than doubled the canal’s capacity.
  4. The Museum of Biodiversity: The brightly colored structure, which is noted architect Frank Gehry’s first design in Latin America, opened in 2014 after 10 years of construction. The building’s eight exhibition halls delve into the origin of the Panamanian isthmus as well as its impact on the planet’s biodiversity.
  5. Coiba National Park: The isolated islands of this park were once an offshore penal colony, but today they’re home to fish, sea turtles, and sharks, as well as terrestrial animals such as the agouti and howler monkey. Experience Panama’s biodiversity up close at this marine reserve, the country’s largest and accessible only by boat.
  6. All that Jazz: Although you might not associate Central America with jazz, Panama-born composer and pianist Danilo Pérez is aiming to make the country a center for this lively music genre. Travelers on our Panama Canal cruise will enjoy an onboard Latin jazz concert by talented musicians and students from the Danilo Pérez Foundation. You can read more about Pérez in the New York Times.

2017 Cruises Calling in Panama:

With the Trade Winds: Curacao to Colón Aboard Sea Cloud II
February 13 to 21, 2017

With William B. Crow
Managing Museum Educator
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Click to download brochure
Sailing the Panama Canal: Colón to Puntarenas Aboard Sea Cloud II
February 20 to March 3, 2017

With Ronda Kasl
Curator of Latin American Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Click to download brochure

Other 2017 Cruises:

Cuba by Sea: Cienfuegos to Santiago Aboard Variety Voyager
February 11 to 18, 2017

With Inés Powell, Educator
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Click to download brochure
Dutch & Flemish Landscapes
Aboard AmaPrima
April 19 to 27, 2017

With Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Curator
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Click to download brochure
Waterways of the Tsars: Moscow to St. Petersburg Aboard Volga Dream
June 8 to 17, 2017

With Adam Eaker, Assistant Curator
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Click for more information
The Majestic Rhine & Art Basel: Amsterdam to Basel Aboard AmaKristina
June 9 to 17, 2017

With Olivier Bernier, art historian,
author, and lecturer
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Click to download brochure
Art, Empire & Nature: Exploring Ecuador & the Galápagos Aboard Isabela II
July 7 to 15, 2017

With James Doyle, Assistant Curator
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Click for more information
Sailing the Baltic’s Amber Coast
Aboard Sea Cloud II
July 19 to 30, 2017

With Ted Hunter, Conservator
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Click for more information

Academic Arrangements Abroad offers privileged access to extraordinary places in more than 50 countries. For additional information about upcoming trips, please contact us by email at or by phone at 1-800-221-1944 or 212-514-8921.

Richard Serra’s Afangar

Is this Lewis, Shetland, or Orkney? Nope: It’s the island of Videy, near Reykjavik. And these are not millennia-old monoliths but sculptures erected in 1990 by Richard Serra.

Called Afangar (“Standing Stones”), this is a site-specific installation of nine pairs of basalt columns ranging from nine to 13 feet tall.

Serra was asked to create a public work for Reykjavik but found inspiration in the wild and rugged terrain outside the city. Extracted from a nearby quarry, the stones are carefully positioned in an area of this small (.7 square mile) island, spread out to elicit wandering and viewing from different perspectives in a landscape that includes water, a working harbor, plentiful bird life, tiny beaches, a great expanse of sky, and windswept grass.

Afangar3Scoreand More

Uninhabited since 1943, this island had a population that peaked in 1930 with 138 residents.  With archaeological evidence of settlement dating to circa 900 A.D., Videy has witnessed many changes. Over the years it has housed a monastery, wool mill, printing press, dairy farm, and fish factory. In addition to Afangar, now visitors find one of Iceland’s oldest stone houses (now a café-museum), its second-oldest stone church, and an installation by Yoko Ono called Imagine Peace Tower, a circular monument from which a beam of light sometimes projects into the sky.

Travelers on September’s “Fire & Ice: Iceland Natura” program will visit the tiny, pristine island of Videy. Led by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Pari Stave, an Icelandic art expert, visitors will discover Serra’s largest landscape project, meet local artists, and marvel at the aurora borealis.

Photo courtesy of 3scoreandmore

The Hippest Spot in Havana


History is on the move and Cuba’s capital is no longer a prisoner of the past. A recent New York Times feature on Cuba noted that El Cocinero restaurant, where our January travelers to Havana will enjoy dinner, “makes Brooklyn look as cool as a suburban Ikea.” After sampling the empanadas and hot crab dip at this cooking-oil-factory-turned-hipster-haven, you can wander next door to the Fábrica de Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory), which the Times called “a mix of CBGB, Art Basel Miami, a community center, a coffee shop, a bar (or two or three), and a bomb shelter.” Who could resist?

The Art & Architecture of Havana
January 14 – 21, 2017

With Stephanie Herdrich, Assistant Research Curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art





The Least Stuffy Speaker You’ll Ever Hear


Sandra Jackson-Dumont

Don’t miss the chance to travel to Cuba this fall with Sandra Jackson-Dumont of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sandra, who leads The Met’s education programs, is known for her refreshingly non-academic lectures, which use pop culture elements like music and movement to engage non-traditional audiences. (Her signature “Teens Take The Met” events consistently draw thousands of young people — with no eye-rolling.) Even if you’ve been to Cuba with us before, Sandra’s approach will open a new window onto this intriguing Caribbean island. Watch her talk about Soul Train and impostor syndrome and learn more about the trip.

Travel with The Met . . . and Arrangements Abroad!


Venice, Grand Canal

This week, we had a big request from our flagship client, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Web copy and images for 9 upcoming Travel with the Met programs to Venice (pictured above), Berlin, Iran, Cuba (2 programs by land, 1 by sea), Portugal & Spain, Burma & Indonesia, and Morocco.

Thanks to a coordinated effort between our Operations, Sales, and Communications teams, we managed to meet The Met’s tight deadline. Now that it’s done and we can relax a bit, we thought a photo-driven blog post might be nice for a Friday afternoon. Here are some places we’ll be taking travelers in 2017 on the aforementioned trips:

Bagan temples

Bagan pagodas

Bagan, Burma (Myanmar) is known as “the city of a thousand pagodas.” But those are just the ones that are left–there used to be thousands more!


Fishermen in Cienfuegos. Photo by Alistair Kitchen.

We’ve been taking groups to Cuba by land since 1999, and now we’re offering a unique cruise of the country’s less-developed southern coast, from Cienfuegos to Santiago. Think rugged mountains, pristine beaches, picture-perfect colonial architecture … and all the pleasures of an intimate luxury yacht. For more on this exciting program, click here.

Merida_Spain_by_Juan Antonio F. Segal

Merida, Spain. Photo by Juan Antonio F. Segal.

Maybe you’ve been to Portugal or Spain, but have you ever been to Alentejo (pronounced “A-len-TAY-zho”)? Or Extremadura (“Es-tray-ma-DOO-ra”)? These off-the-beaten-path regions of Portugal and Spain, which border each other, offer cultural influences from Celtic to Roman to Moorish to French. Mérida, former capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, is just one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited on this program.

Vakil mosque, Shiraz, Iran

Vakil mosque, Shiraz, Iran

Like Cuba, Iran is a favorite destination for Met travelers, but next year we’re doing something new: “Undiscovered Iran,” led by The Met’s head curator for the Department of Islamic Art. The program begins in northeastern Iran at Mashad, the country’s holiest city, and goes to Nishan (to see the tomb of Omar “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou” Khayyam), Kashan, Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Pasargadae, and Persepolis.

For more information about any of these trips, contact us at or 800-221-1944. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Meet Our Talented Team: Frank Dabell


The son of a French mother and British father, Frank is a distinguished scholar of Italian art who lives in Rome, where he teaches art history for Philadelphia’s Temple University program. His expertise in the Italian Renaissance will greatly enhance our Jewels of the Western Mediterranean cruise, sailing May 11. In September, Frank will take landlubbers off the beaten path to lesser-visited, historically rich towns in Lombardy and Piedmont.