Candidate Profile

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Food & Nutrition
History - Art & Culture
History - General
Travel & Destinations
An award-winning writer, Sharon Hudgins has had a wide-ranging career as a university professor, public speaker, author, editor, journalist, filmmaker, and photographer.

A seasoned traveler with a sense of adventure, Sharon has lived in 10 countries on 3 continents and journeyed through more than 50 countries across the globe. Her previous residences have ranged from Munich, Athens, Paris, London, Madrid, and Tokyo, to a shepherd's cottage in the Scottish Highlands, a German winery on the Mosel River, a mountain village in southern Spain, and a high-rise apartment building in Siberia. An avid rail rider, she has also logged more than 40,000 miles on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

As a popular speaker on historical, cultural, and culinary topics, she has traveled the world with National Geographic Expeditions, Smithsonian Journeys, Lindblad, Viking, Silversea, Oceania, Zegrahm, and Road Scholar, working on cruise ships from Europe to Northeast Asia to Alaska. Her presentations are highly illustrated with historical and contemporary images—and enlivened by insights from her own experiences of living, working, and traveling in the countries featured on the cruise itineraries.

Sharon is the author of five books on history, travel, and food, including an award-winning travel memoir, The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East, and a new book about the foods of the Asian side of Russia. Her book on Spain: The Cuisine, The Land, The People received a literary award from the German Academy of Gastronomy. She has also contributed to books and academic journals in the United States and Britain, including several Oxford encyclopedias, and has presented 10 papers on food history and culture at the Oxford Symposium on Food. As a journalist, she has published more than 900 articles in magazines, newspapers, and on the Web, including National Geographic Traveler, Saveur, Gastronomica, European Traveler, German Life, Russian Life, and Travel Squire.

Before embarking on her career as a cruise speaker in 2006, Sharon was a professor for the University of Maryland's programs in Germany, Spain, Greece, Japan, Korea, and Russia. She has also taught at the University of Michigan and University of Texas, and in Germany at the University of Munich, University of Augsburg, and European University.

Click here to visit Sharon's website >>

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Sharon brings first-hand experience to all of her enrichment lectures, which are also fully illustrated with historical and contemporary images. Her geographical areas of expertise include the countries where she has lived, worked, or traveled extensively.

See specific lecture topics for Baltic & Scandinavia – British Isles – Atlantic (Europe) – Mediterranean – Black Sea – Russia – Alaska.


1. Germany: Land of Laptops & Lederhosen
After an overview of Germany within the context of Europe, this lecture focuses on a cultural tour through Germany's scenic regions from the Baltic to the Alps, from Berlin to the Rhine—a surprising variety of landscapes, architecture, foods, dialects, and regional traditions. Sharon includes her own observations and insights from the perspective of an American who lived in Germany for 15 years.

2. From Log Cabins to Highrises: A Century of Urban Life in Russia
How the urban landscape on Russia has changed during the past 100 years, from villages to megacities; the role of dachas; demographic changes; and daily life in urban Russia today. Illustrated with many of Sharon's photos and enhanced by her own stories of living in two Russian cities herself.

3. A Year of Celebrations: Russian Festivals & Holidays, Traditional & Modern
How, why, and when the Russians celebrate secular festivals and religious holidays; the special foods and customs associated with holidays throughout the year; and why Russia has 2 calendars, dated 13 days apart, with separate holidays on each. An illustrated lecture highlighted by Sharon's stories of participating in many of these festivals herself.

4. Baltic Bites: Coastal Cuisines from Medieval to Modern
From seafood to sauerkraut, mushrooms to marzipan, aquavit to vodka, the diverse cuisines of the Baltic countries offer plenty to satisfy the most discrimination palate. An introduction to the culinary delights of the Baltic coast, from traditional holiday fare to New Nordic Cuisine. Illustrated with mouthwatering photos of Baltic foods.

5. Feasts, Festivals, & Folklore of Norway
A visual 2,000-mile road trip from Oslo to Bergen and up the entire fjord coastal road to North Cape above the Arctic Circle. The colorful traditions, crafts, folk costumes, holidays, and festivals of Norway, from Stavanger fiddles in the south to Sami reindeer in the north.

6. Baltic Amber: The Gold of the North
Over the centuries, amber has figured in art, politics, love, and intrigue, including the mysterious disappearance of the famous Amber Room in Russia. An illustrated lecture about the natural, cultural, economic, and social history of Baltic amber, with tips on purchasing amber and how to detect fakes.

7. Dining at the Hanseatic Table
A different perspective on the Hanseatic League, Europe's powerful trading partnership that extended from England across the Baltic Sea to Russia. If you lived in one of the Hanseatic cities between the 12th and 17th centuries, what did you eat—and why? How Hanseatic trade influenced the food products, cookware, tableware, and culinary fads of those Hanseatic cities and beyond.

8. Gilded Gingerbreads & Royal Gifts
The surprising cultural history of spice cookies in northern Europe, from the exotic ingredients obtained through trade, to the control of production by medieval craft guilds, to the use of these "picture cookies" in politics and education. Illustrated with historical and contemporary photos of intricately carved wooden gingerbread molds from throughout northern Europe.

9. Magnificent Marzipan!
How this almond-paste confection originally from the Middle East became such an important (and beloved) product in northern Europe, particularly in the cities of Lübeck and Königsberg. Learn how marzipan morphed from a medieval medicine to today's confection formed into hundreds of different shapes, including modern sculpture.


1. Croft & Manor: Daily Life in the Scottish Highlands
How life has changed for the inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands, from the Stone Age to the present, including effects of the Highland Clearances on emigration to North America in the 19th century. Sharon also recounts her own experiences of living in a crofter's cottage in a tiny village on Scotland's far northwest coast before recent modernization began to change that remote part of the Highlands.

2. From Sheep to Tartan: The Rise & Fall of the British Wool Industry
British woolen tartans, tweeds, and jumpers (sweaters) are known around the world. Learn about the importance of the British wool industry from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution to today, including how technology, trade, and fashion have affected the production of woolens in Britain.

3. From Pancake Races to Punkie Night: Holidays & Festivals of the British Isles
The traditional (and sometimes quirky) holidays celebrated locally, regionally, and nationally in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, from ancient times to the present. Their origins, rituals, and special foods. Illustrated with colorful images of these festivals.

4. From Gilded Peacocks to Clootie Dumplings: Traditional & Modern Cooking of the British Isles
The history of British cuisine encompasses royal feasts, farmhouse cooking, wartime rations, and today's world-renowned restaurants. Learn about the differences among traditional regional cuisines, the foreign influences on British cooking, and why British food is much better than its reputation abroad. Illustrated with historical and contemporary photos from around the British Isles.

5. Feasts, Festivals, & Folklore of Norway [for British Isle cruises that begin or end in Norway]
A visual 2,000-mile road trip from Oslo to Bergen and up the entire fjord coastal road to North Cape above the Arctic Circle. The colorful traditions, crafts, folk costumes, holidays, and festivals of Norway, from Stavanger fiddles in the south to Sami reindeer in the north.


1. To the Edge of the World: Spain, Portugal, & the Age of Exploration
How the search for spices in the 15th and 16th centuries changed the world—from the maps we use, to the foods we eat, to the languages spoken on different parts of the planet. Why this "Age of Exploration" is considered the beginning of the modern era, and how it transformed the lives of millions of people around the globe.

2. "Green Spain": People, Customs, & Cuisines from Galicia to the Basque Land
With its lush green landscape, the northwest region of Spain is a different world from the olive groves and sunny beaches of the south. An overview of the land, people, customs, and traditions of España Verde ("Green Spain"), with a special emphasis on its coastal and inland cuisines, from farmhouse cooking to some of Spain's finest restaurants today.

3. Crustaceans, Cream, and Kouign-Amann: The Foods of Normandy & Brittany
From fresh oysters to buckwheat crêpes, Camembert cheese to sparkling cider, the regional cuisines of this northern part of France are considered some of the finest in the country. Learn how and why the cooking of Normandy & Brittany differ from other parts of France.

4. Wine with Your Fish? History of Trade along the Atlantic Coast of Europe
An overview of the history and importance of two major food products—fish and wines—traded with the rest of the world from the Atlantic ports of Portugal, Spain, and France. Learn how Europe's blighted vineyards were saved by grapevines from America in the 19th century, making it possible for you to enjoy a glass of sherry, Madeira, Port, or Bordeaux wine today.

5. Bon Appétit! The Life & Times of Julia Child
An especially popular lecture about America's beloved "French Chef," who worked for the CIA's precursor during World War II, began her culinary career in France, made classic French cuisine accessible to American home cooks, and became famous through books, television, and film. An entertaining lecture for audiences of all nationalities.


1. Worth Its Weight in Gold: History of the Spice Trade in the Mediterranean
How Europe's pursuit of exotic spices from ancient times to the Middle Ages made them more expensive than gold; reasons why spices were so desired in the Middle Ages; surprising ways they were used outside the kitchen; and reasons for the decline of the medieval spice trade.

2. Mangiare! From Mortadella to Mozzarella: Italian Meats & Cheeses
An introduction to the surprising variety of Italian sausages, hams, and cheeses, from prosciutto to Parmigiano (and many lesser known types)—where they come from, how they're made, and where you'll find them in an Italian meal.

3. Celebrate! The Foods & Festivals of Sicily
This illustrated lecture provides an introduction to the geography, history, and religions that have shaped both the foods eaten in Sicily and the colorful holidays celebrated there today. Learn about the special foods associated with Sicily's religious and secular holidays, how they are prepared, and what they symbolize.

4. From Phoenicians to Falcons: History, Traditions, & Foods of Malta
From ancient Phoenicians to medieval Arabs to 19th-century British, a long line of invaders, colonizers, and rulers have left their mark on the architecture, customs, and cuisine of this small, but strategic, island archipelago. Learn how Maltese culture, including its language, differs from those of other Mediterranean countries.

5. From Retsina to Revani: Culinary Customs of the Greek Isles
Greece's many inhabited islands boast a variety of culinary customs and cuisines. Learn about the Turkish, Arabic, Persian, French, Italian, and Balkan influences on Greek island cooking; the special ingredients found on certain islands; and how the Greek Orthodox Church has been so important in the fasting and feasting traditions of the Greek Isles.

6. The Scent of Herbs: The Cuisine of Crete, Ancient & Modern
From the ancient Minoans to modern times, Greece's largest island has been well known for its profusion of wild herbs and its excellent olive oil. Centuries of control by the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks left an imprint on Cretan cuisine, too. Sharon spices this lecture with stories of her own culinary experiences while living on Crete and eating her way around the island.

7. Land of the South Slavs
An overview of the geography and history of former Yugoslavia, including its ethnic groups, languages, and religions, with a focus on the various regions and the influences that have made them so different. Sharon includes insights from her own road trips in this "land of the south Slavs" before and after Yugoslavia split into separate countries in the 1990s.

8. From Pinchos to Paella: An Introduction to the Regional Cuisines of Spain
As the author of a book about Spanish regional cuisines, Sharon brings to this lecture a deep knowledge of the subject, as well as her experience of living in Spain and traveling in all the provinces on the Spanish mainland. Learn how important geography and history have been in shaping the regional cuisines of Spain, and why the cooking of Spain differs so much from north to south, and from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

9. Catalan Cuisine: Layers of Flavors from Medieval to Modern
Catalan cooking has long been considered some of the finest in Spain. Learn about the foreign influences on the history of Catalan cuisine; the surprising flavor combinations found in many dishes; and the creative Catalan chefs on the cutting edge of "modernist cuisine."

10. The Foods & Wines of Andalucia, from Moorish to Modern
Introduction to the cuisine of this largest region in southern Spain; how 700 years of Moorish influence is still tasted in dishes eaten there today; how sherry and jamon serrano are made in Andalucia; and why the region has so many kinds of gazpacho. As the author of a cookbook about Spanish regional cuisines, Sharon has eaten her way around the entire region of Andalucia, from remote mountain villages, to the cities of Granada, Cordoba, and Sevilla, to the sunny seacoast.


1. The Black Sea as a Culinary Crossroads
Using food as a window into a region's culture, this overview of the geography, history, people, and religions of the Black Sea shows how the sea has been a bridge between cultures and how this is reflected in the cuisines of the people living around the Black Sea today.

2. Turkish Cooking: From Stuffed Vegetables to Sticky Sweets
The history of Turkish cuisine from ancient times to the present; how the many conquerors of this land brought new ingredients and cooking techniques to the region; and the historical importance of agriculture and Black Sea trade in shaping how Turks eat today.

3. Feasts, Festivals, & Folklore of Bulgaria & Romania
An ethnographic lecture on the traditional holidays, festivals, folk arts, and folk costumes of these two countries bordering on the Black Sea, and how some of these traditions are unique to this region. Illustrated with many historical and contemporary photographs from both countries.

4. Urban Life in Russia & Ukraine
History of urban development in the Soviet Union during the 20th century and how it has changed in both Russia and Ukraine in the post-Soviet era; why Sochi, Sevastapol, and Odessa look different from cities in the interior of Russia and Ukraine; and the role of dachas in Russian and Ukrainian life. Includes Sharon's own experiences of living in two Russian cities herself.

5. Celebrate! A Year of Holidays in Russia & Ukraine
How Russians and Ukrainians celebrate religious and secular holidays throughout the year; the different calendars used historically in both countries to determine the dates of holidays; and the similarities and differences between Russian and Ukrainian holidays today.

RUSSIA – GENERAL (see also Russia – Siberia & Russian Far East):

1. From Log Cabins to Highrises: A Century of Urban Life in Russia
How the urban landscape of Russia changed during the past 100 years, from villages to megacities; the role of dachas; demographic changes; and daily life in urban Russia today. Illustrated with many of Sharon's photos and enhanced by her own stories of living in two Russian cities herself.

2. Native Peoples of Russia's North
From the Barents Sea in the west to the Bering Sea in the east, the original inhabitants of northern Russia predate the Europeans there by many thousands of years. A focus on the different native groups living in northern Russia—their habitats, clothing, customs, foods, religious practices, and adaptations to the modern world.

3. Beyond Caviar & Vodka: An Introduction to Russian Cuisine
As the author of a book about Russian cuisine, Sharon shows how Russian cooking reflects influences from East and West, from Europe, Asia, and beyond; how these factors have shaped Russian cooking today; the similarities and differences among Russian regional foods; and how modern Russian chefs are reviving historical recipes and using local ingredients as a form of national expression.

4. A Year of Celebrations: Russian Festivals & Holidays, Traditional & Modern
How, why, and when the Russians celebrate secular festivals and religious holidays; the special foods and customs associated with holidays throughout the year; and why Russia has 2 calendars, dated 13 days apart, with separate holidays on each. An illustrated lecture highlighted by Sharon's stories of participating in many of these festivals herself.

5. From "Butter Week" to Butter Lambs: Russian Carnival & Orthodox Easter
See how Russians celebrate their colorful "Butter Week" before Lent, and how they observe Easter, the most important religious holiday of the year; how the moveable date of Easter is determined; and the special foods associated with both holidays. An illustrated lecture highlighted by Sharon's stories of participating in many of these festivals herself.

RUSSIA – SIBERIA & RUSSIAN FAR EAST (see also Russia – General):

1. Eastward Ho! The Russian Exploration, Conquest, & Settlement of Siberia
History of the Russian discovery, exploration, and annexation of Siberia, from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean; the economic and political impetus for Russian conquest; the indigenous people and animals they discovered there; and the ultimate European settlement of this Asian side of Russia.

2. All Aboard! History of the Trans-Siberian Railroad
Travel through 125 years of this famous railroad's history, from its initial construction in the Russian Far East to the heyday of luxury travel on the world's longest railway line; its role in opening up Siberia to settlement; its importance during both world wars; and why travelers still consider it the railway journey of a lifetime. A lecture enhanced by Sharon's experience of traveling extensively on the Trans-Siberian railroad, logging more than 40,000 miles on that route.

3. Land of Fire & Ice: An Introduction to Russia's Far East
Often depicted on medieval maps in Europe as a terra incognita inhabited by strange beasts and sea monsters, the Russian Far East is a huge region two-thirds the size of the United States, but one of the least populated places on Earth. Discover this land of contrasts from polar bears in the icy north to Siberian tigers in the steamy south, from active volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula to lush green forests near the Chinese border. Sharon brings a personal perspective to this presentation, having lived and worked in this vast region herself.

4. From Tundra to Taiga: Native People of Siberia & the Russian Far East
Indigenous people first encountered by the Russians during the explorations of northeast Asia; culture and customs of those native people; effects of European settlement in Asian Russia; and challenges that native people face today.

5. From Shamans to Saints: Religious Beliefs of Siberia's Native People
From ancient animism to shamanism and more recent Buddhism and Christianity, Siberia's native people have a rich, and widely varied, set of religious beliefs and practices. Learn how native Siberians have practiced their religions for thousands of years; their reactions to Christianity; and how they view themselves within the natural and spiritual worlds.

6. Pelmeni: The National Dish of Siberia
An entertaining presentation about the disputed origins and long history of these iconic Siberian dumplings, popular throughout Russia today; Siberian village traditions associated with making, storing, cooking, and serving the many varieties of pelmeni; commercial production; and the depiction of pelmeni in advertising and the arts.

7. From Frozen Fish to Raw Reindeer: The Foods of Siberia's Native People
Discover the differences among the foods of seal hunters in the north, coastal fishermen in the south, bear hunters in the interior, and reindeer herders in the Arctic. Learn about ancient cooking methods; effects of European settlement on natives' diets; and the combination of traditional and modern dishes they eat today.


1. Russian America: The Russian Discovery, Exploration, & Settlement of North America
History of Russian expansion into North America in the 18th and 19th centuries; the Russian-American Company and Russian settlement from Alaska to California; the decline of Russian influence along the North American Pacific Rim; and the remnants of Russian culture there today.

2. Alaska's Native People
Where they came from, how they got there, and how they survived for thousands of years in one of the northernmost parts of the planet; their traditional culture, customs, and crafts; the effects of European settlement in this region; and the challenges faced by Alaskan natives today.

3. From Shamans to Saints: Alaskan Native Religions & Rituals
Religious beliefs and practices of Alaska's indigenous people, from ancient times to the present; native religious art and artifacts; influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and modern-day Protestantism; and how native Alaskans have merged a variety of religious beliefs into a harmonious whole.

5. Native Alaskan Cuisines: From Frozen Seals to Fermented Stink Heads
An entertaining introduction to the foods of Alaska's native people; the hunting and processing of animals; foraged foods; ancient cooking utensils and techniques still in use; types of food preservation; and modern-day meals.

6. A Thousand Miles of History: Alaska's Aleutian Islands
Introduction to the history of the Aleutian Islands from ancient times to the present; Aleutian native people and Russian influence since the 18th century; role of the Aleutian Islands in World War II; the Japanese occupation of the Aleutians and interment of native islanders; and the military use of the islands during the Cold War.
Speaker for National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions, Smithsonian Journeys, Viking Cruises, Zegrahm Expeditions, Silversea, Oceania, Road Scholar, and university tours. Total of 26 cruises/expeditions since 2006. Geographical areas: Baltic, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Black Sea, North Pacific (Arctic, Alaska, and Russian Far East).
Currently hold a 3-year multiple-entry visa for Russia (July 2018 - July 2021).
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Viking Sky SK180609 Viking Homelands 14 Stockholm Saturday, June 9, 2018
Viking Sky SK170812 Viking Homelands 14 Bergen Saturday, August 12, 2017