8 Great Reasons to Sign up for Our “Artistic Legacies of the Mediterranean” Cruise this September

This fall, discover the art, architecture, and landscapes of the Western Mediterranean aboard Sea Cloud II. Here are eight great reasons to sign up for this exceptional cruise.

1.)    Barcelona’s Gaudí architecture

Park GuellBegin in lively Barcelona to view the splendidly restored masterpieces of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Born in Reus, Catalonia in 1852, Gaudí received his architectural degree in Barcelona in 1878. Stunning examples of Gaudí’s works in Barcelona include modernist building Casa Batlló, the massive Sagrada Familia basilica, and garden complex Park Güell.

2.)    Sailing on the glamorous Sea Cloud II

SCII side viewExperience the grace and romance of a bygone era of travel aboard Sea Cloud II , christened in 2001. This elegant sailing yacht travels under 30,000 square feet of billowing sails trimmed by hand. Praised by the world’s most discerning travelers and travel writers, Sea Cloud II receives consistent high rankings from Condé Nast Traveler.

3.)    Marseille’s recently opened Musée des Civilisations d’Europe et de la Méditerranée

MarseilleFacing the sea in the Old Port of Marseille, this superb museum opened in 2013, focusing “primarily on the cultures of the Mediterranean, from a comparative and multi-disciplinary perspective, in which Europe and other continents that border the Med will play a major role.” Visitors to the museum praise its amazing architecture, interesting exhibits, and spectacular views.

4.)    Distinguished lecturers

A group of stellar lecturers includes art historian Olivier Bernier, whose previous lectures at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Spain and France have drawn rave reviews. Also lecturing on board will be a noted architectural historian and landscape designer, Dublin-based Patrick Bowe.

5.)    A special before-hours visit to the Matisse Museum in Nice

View the collections at the Matisse Museum during a private tour before opening hours. Situated on the hill of Cimiez, the museum’s collections include the artist’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, engravings, paper cut-outs, and illustrated books, all donated by Matisse and his heirs.

6.)    Performances by local artists

While Sea Cloud II is in Marseille, guests will gather on Lido Deck for dinner and a specially arranged concert of guitar music. During an al fresco dinner in the Isles d’Hyères, travelers will enjoy a performance by colorful folkloric group L’Arbanenco de Giens.

7.)    A private visit to Villa Noailles

Villa Noailles exterior by Claude ValetteLocated in the hills above Hyères, this château cubiste was designed by Robert Mallet-Stevens in 1924 for art patron Vicomte Charles de Noailles. Now a museum with an unusual garden, the villa has many connections to French artistic and literary circles.

8.)    Porquerolles in the Isles d’Hyères

Porquerolles aerial viewSea Cloud II calls at tiny Porquerolles, one of the world’s most protected environments. Known for its beautiful beaches, Porquerolles also has a charming village and dazzling harbor.

To conserve the island’s lovely landscape, strict rules prohibit smoking outside the village and driving automobiles.

About Us:

Academic Arrangements Abroad, a leader in cultural travel since 1977, designs and operates travel programs for sponsoring institutions that include the nation’s top museums and alumni associations.

For more information on the Barcelona to Nice cruise (September 12 to 20, 2014), please contact Sara Kosyk, (212) 514-8921 or sara@arrangementsabroad.com

Colorful fishing boats


Meet Indra Purmale

Indra Purmale started working as an Assistant Tour Coordinator at Academic Arrangements Abroad in August 2010. She later became Co-Manager of the entire Tour Coordinator department and then advanced to become Manager of Tour Operations and Development.


Riga, Latvia. I actually just got back from a wonderful vacation there with my friends and family.

Indra in LatviaI was also able to attend the famous Song & Dance Festival that occurs there every five years. It has taken place since 1873 and is a way for our small nation to develop and strengthen our identity. UNESCO has recognized this unique event as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity!

City you most recommend to friends:

Barcelona, Spain. However, after my recent trip to Colombia I find myself recommending Medellín more and more!

City you would drop everything to see:

Tokyo, Japan. I’m a very detail-orientated person, and the Japanese are all about the details, from their fashion and interior design to their anime and food creations!

Which AAA programs do you enjoy working on the most?

Indra in tallinnHonestly, I enjoy working on all of them, but I have a special place in my heart for our Baltic programs since I often get to work with our partners in my native Latvia.

I also enjoy all of the South America itineraries I’m currently working on. There always seems to be something new I discover or learn!

Special skills:

My secret Latvian language abilities. I am actively trying to get back to the Spanish fluency I had in college. I’m very involved with the trips we offer to Cuba and other Spanish- speaking destinations, so it is a useful language to have on the job!

Most visited websites:

The New York Times, Facebook, The Sartorialist, Travel + Leisure, Kayak, and Oanda (Currency Converter)

Something about you that surprises people:

I am the Vice President of the American Latvian Youth Association! Or perhaps that’s not so surprising… So I’ll divulge another one: I want to write a book someday.

Three things you can’t travel without:

An iPad mini (movies, magazines, books, news, all in one place!), iPod nano (music is mandatory!), and a comfortable pair of shoes that are also chic (gotta look good while doing lots of sightseeing!).

Number of trips you’ve been on:

Indra in HelsinkiI’ve been a Tour Director on several of our firm’s programs, but have been on countless trips throughout my life.

Growing up, I traveled extensively with my family, which inspired me to continue traveling as I entered college and eventually made my career choice, which landed me here at AAA!

As Susan Sontag said: “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

Who would play you in a movie?:

Ideally one of my best friends because she would be able to portray me best, through her perspective and interpretation of me of course! If asked to choose a celebrity, I would be honored to have Charlize Theron play me in a movie. I think she’s extremely talented AND beautiful!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I love quotes and aphorisms, something I inherited from my late grandmother.  Here’s one of my recent favorites to share with you today:  “I don’t want to be the one who says life is beautiful.  I want to be the one who feels it.”  – Marty Rubin

Congratulations to Our Photo Contest Winners

We’re pleased to announce the winners of Academic Arrangements Abroad’s first Focus on Travel photo contest!

More than 50 people submitted images of everything from lovers embracing in a Barcelona doorway to a playful polar bear gamboling atop a glacier. There were so many wonderful images that it was difficult to choose the very best, but now, after much deliberation, our panel of experts has finally selected the top three photos.

Karenni Women from BurmaFirst prize—a brand-new iPad mini—goes to this image of two Karenni women from Burma. With its unique composition and casual feel, this photo “speaks to the universal quiet moments in life,” noted one of our judges. It shows respect for these women’s culture “yet doesn’t exoticize their dress or adornments.”

Paris Winter SceneA wintry scene of Paris took second prize, a NiteCore Tiny Monster flashlight. This picture of boats along the Seine, with Notre Dame in the background, has an Impressionist quality. With its subdued palette and haunting light, it offers a fresh take on one of the most photographed cities in the world.

Monk with fanThis shot of a Buddhist monk took our third prize, a micro luggage scale. Captured at noon in a temple in Yangon (Rangoon), the impassive cleric simultaneously attracts and resists the viewer’s gaze as he peers out from under his ceremonial fan.

London EyeFinally, with 41 votes, our People’s Choice Award goes to this shot of the London Eye, a 400-foot-high Ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames. Its winner will also receive a micro luggage scale.

Several other entrants also received honorable mentions. Congratulations to all!

Meet Sarah Viera

Sarah WhortonAlso a professional translator and editor, Sarah joined the staff of Academic Arrangements Abroad in 2008. She became a manager at the firm before opting to lead tours.

“I’m always excited to explore new destinations, which is one of the reasons this job is so worthwhile,” she says. Originally from Oklahoma City, Sarah frequently directs tours in Cuba and has visited more than 50 countries.

Hometown: Oklahoma City

City I would recommend: I love Barcelona.  It has it all – art, architecture, good food and great weather!

SphinxCity I would drop everything to see: Any city in Egypt!  I’ve never been and have wanted to go since I got a hieroglyphics set when I was 8.

Tour you were on recently:  A Cuba trip with MIT alumni.  It was a terrific, very enthusiastic group and a great itinerary.  The week flew by!

Something that surprises people: I grew up playing poker at family gatherings, so I’m a bit of a card shark.

Three things I can’t travel without:  I received a grid-it as a Christmas present and use it to keep all my jewelry and cords together.  I also love my Tumi suitcase, which has a tracker on it in case it ever gets lost.  And I never leave home without my iPad to entertain me on all the long flights.

Number of trips:  I’m not sure how many trips I’ve been on, but I’ve been to more than 50 countries, and counting.

Hotels for Art Lovers

By Ingrid Ahlgren

Lotte Hotel GalleryThis coming spring, travelers on our Korea and Japan program will spend a night at Seoul’s Lotte Hotel, which has its own art gallery. Located on the site of Bando Gallery, the country’s first commercial art gallery, which opened in 1956, The Lotte Hotel Gallery aims to promote Korean culture and history with exhibits of sculpture, photography and other art by upcoming and famous artists.

The Lotte Hotel is just one of a growing number of hotels that have notable collections of art. For example, Dublin’s historic Merrion Hotel houses “a spectacular collection of 19th– and 20th-century art which is widely considered to be one of the most important private collections in Ireland.” Artists whose works hang on the hotel’s walls include Martin Mooney, Jack B. Yeats and Pauline Bewick.  The Merrion can even arrange for guests to tour the hotel’s art collection with a guide from the National Gallery, which is located nearby.

In Paris, the Hôtel Atmospheres claims to be “the first art-gallery hotel in Paris” and describes itself as “mid-way between a boutique design hotel and a contemporary photography gallery.”  Located in St. Germain, an area known for art galleries and antique shops, the hotel is decorated with prints by photographer Thierry des Ouches.

In the United States, travelers can also enjoy fine art at hotels large and small. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas is currently showcasing paintings by Impressionist Claude Monet. New York City’s Gramercy Park Hotel has a collection of art, including works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In Los Angeles’ Sunset Marquis, an upscale boutique hotel, guests can visit the Maximillian Gallery, which connects collectors to creations by emerging street artists.

Hotel GaudiSome hotels, designed by famous architects, are works of art in and of themselves. These include the Hotel Marqués de Riscal by Frank Gehry in Elciego, Spain; the Le Meridien Lingotto by Renzo Piano in Turin, Italy; the Hotel Gaudí by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain; and the Four Seasons by I.M. Pei in New York City.

Do you have a favorite hotel that has great art or amazing architecture? Please share your experiences and suggestions.