Candidate Profile

Anthropology & Cultural Studies
History - Art & Culture
History - General
Travel & Destinations
An internationally known professor and scholar, Dr. Adriana Méndez has enjoyed teaching Latin American and Comparative literature at two major universities for nearly 40 years. A Phd from Cornell University, she is currently emerita professor at the University of Iowa and the University of Missouri. A native of Cuba, Dr. Adriana Méndez is widely knowledgeable about the Iberian world. Her love of travel sparked numerous books and articles about travelers far and wide, from Enlightenment explorers to Victorian women adventurers.

Dr. Méndez’s writings resurrected the lives of nineteenth-century European women travelers to Latin America and the Caribbean. On their trail, Dr. Méndez has enjoyed research residences in Madrid, London, and Uppsala, Sweden, where she was Fulbright Distinguished Professor. A year-long residence in Paris as a grantee of the National Endowment for the Humanities greatly improved her French and savoir faire. A summer teaching in San Sebastián/Donostia left fond memories of the Basque country, her favorite region in Spain. She lived and worked in Mexico for seven years and traveled the country from Mexico City to the Yucatán.

Now she turns her love of travel to cruise lecturing. A lively and engaging speaker, her lectures on history, literature, and the visual arts are delivered with elegance, wit, and erudition. Sailing the Caribbean archipelago is one of her favorite and best-known destinations. The allure of Spain transmits as she delves into Iberia’s history and culture. She sees her role as cruise lecturer to make far-away worlds come alive for all guests.

Click here to visit Adriana's website >>

Drawn from her wide-ranging research and her own travels, Dr. Méndez’s lectures showcase literature and the arts. Beautifully illustrated with maps, historical and contemporary images, her lectures provide valuable context for the following itineraries.

Spain and Northern Europe

1. Caliphates and Conquerors: Turmoil and Triumph in Medieval Spain
For over eight centuries, the Muslim Caliphate at Córdoba ruled most of the Iberian peninsula. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities lived together in relative peace, forging a culture of religious tolerance and a flourishing of the arts. When El Cid, Spain’s epic hero, conquered Valencia, it was the start of the Reconquest that brought this long period of peaceful coexistence to an end.

2. The Lion and the Castle: Marriage and Empire in Renaissance Spain
The marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabel I of Castille was a turning point in Spanish history. It united the Christian kingdoms in the north, forced the expulsion of Muslims and Jews, and led to Spain’s vast overseas empire in the Americas, changes mostly attributed to Isabel I ‘s queenly power.

3. Porto: The City of Azulejos
Portugal is unique in developing the use of glazed ceramic tiles to decorate churches, gardens, and private mansions. This lecture traces the art of the azulejos from King Manuel’s palace at Sintra in Lisbon to the beautifully ornate blue-and-white tiles that grace public spaces and churches in Porto.

4. Fact or Fiction: Falmouth and Literary Cornwall
The rugged coast of Cornwall, with its Celtic ruins and abandoned mines, has inspired many British and foreign writers to imagine its landscape. This lecture focuses on Winston Graham’s famous Poldark series, showing how the author weaved facts, historical events, port cities, and mansions into alluring historical romance.

5. A Walking Tour of Bergen
Bergen, the world’s most beautiful college town, comes alive in its vibrant fish market, where locals and visitors mix and mingle. This lecture tours the city’s iconic sites, beginning with the Bryggen wharf and medieval merchants from long ago, to its world-class art museums. It ends on a touch of fashion, the art of hand-woven wool garments inspired by Nordic landscape and crafted by award-winning women designers

Canary Islands

1. Fabled Journeys: Early Times in The Canary Islands.
Travel back in time to the period when the Guanches, the Canary Islands’ original peoples, roamed free amidst ravines and coastlines. Learn about their villages, nature-inspired religion, and unique marital rituals. The Europeans’ arrival shattered their world, leading to their defeat by 15th century Castille, and to the long trail of explorers sailing out to the Americas after 1492.

2. Science, Travel, and Exploration: Alexander von Humboldt in Tenerife (1799)
Near the snow-capped summit of the Pico de Teide, Spain’s highest peak, sits a statue of Alexander von Humboldt, one of the most important scientific travelers during the Age of Exploration. Before sailing off to the New World in 1799, the Prussian explorer climbed the Teide, measured the height of the volcano, and drew the ancient Dragon tree. These findings prepared our current understanding of diverse natural environments.

3. Lanzarote Landscapes: The Art of César Manrique (1919-1992)
Explore the profound influence of the Canary Islands’ unique landscape on renowned artist and sculptor César Manrique. His ecological interventions into lunar valleys, volcanic tunnels, and cactus forests have made Lanzarote a showcase for the fusion of nature and art.

Panamá Canal and the Dutch Caribbean

1. Fleets and Forts in Colonial Panamá
A look at Panamá’s colonial history, from Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s first sighting of the Pacific to its folding into the Viceroyalty of New Granada (16th-18th centuries). Pirates raided the port of Portobello, a crucial landing of the Spanish treasure fleet, sacking its riches for crown and empire.

2. ¡Fiestas! Panamá’s Coming-of-Age Celebrations
Panamá is the only Central American country that celebrates its Independence twice: as a province of Gran Colombia, it celebrates Spanish America’s break from Spain; then, as a separate republic, it paved the way for building the Panamá Canal. Join the festive atmosphere with the tamborito dance, colorful costumes, and musical rhythms.

3. The Taming of the Jungle: A Look at the Men Who Built the Panamá Canal (and the Women Who Helped Them)
As we cross the Canal, meet the larger-than-life personalities who dreamed and built it: from turn-of-the-century visionaries, engineers, presidents, scientists, and politicians, to the thousands of workers who labored fearlessly amidst the heat. Behind the scenes, women—nuns, wives, and cooks-- made their dreams a reality.

4. Triple Crown: Painting the Dutch Caribbean
The Leeward Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao greet the visitor with pastel-colored architecture, a welcome in Papiamentu, and an explosion of musical rhythms. Contemporary artists refashion their Dutch heritage and history, reimagining landscape and celebrating a multi-ethnic Antillean identity.

The Caribbean and Florida Ports

1. ‘The Repeating Island:’ The Many Caribbean Archipelagos
Nowhere is geography more tied to history than in the Caribbean Archipelago. An explorer’s look at the many Caribbean archipelagoes and their shared history as colonial and plantation societies, illustrated through the Lesser Antilles and St. Kitts.

2. Barbados: The Sugar Island
Despite its small size, during the 1600s, the British colony of Barbados launched one of the most far-reaching socioeconomic revolutions in modern times: the sugar plantation. Turned into a model for Caribbean societies, the sugar plantation generated enormous wealth, impacted the British empire, and upturned the lives of millions of African slaves.

3. Martinique: Cradle of Créolité
The statue of Martinique’s most famous citizen, the Empress Joséphine Bonaparte, lies decapitated at the Place de la Savane in Fort-de-France, the symbol of the island’s status as a French overseas dominion. Contemporary writers of the créolité movement stress Martinique’s creole language and African identity as a way out of their island’s colonial past.

4. ‘Pirates of the Caribbean:’ Tortola and the British Virgin Islands
Spain’s vast overseas dominions sparked the envy of European royals, who launched a full-scale campaign to steal Spanish riches and territories. During the Golden Age of Piracy (1650-1730), privateers plundered Caribbean Sea routes with official letters that gave their raids a semblance of legality. French buccaneers, Jamaican privateers, and a motley crew of rogues, pirates, and seafarers gathered at Tortuga, ready to plunder slave ships, cargoes of rum, and vessels of the Spanish treasure fleet.

5. Borinquén: Puerto Rico in Literature and Art
True to its original Taíno name, Borinquén, Puerto Rican poets, writers, and essayists dream their island in two languages. Puerto Rico’s multi-racial and bi-cultural heritage comes alive in literature and art, ways to explore what it means to be Puerto Rican today.

6. From Frontier to “Boom” Town: Literary Key West
At the southernmost tip of Florida, Key West served as a maritime frontier where visionaries, wreckers, pirates, and cigar makers made their fortunes. In the 1930s and 1940s, it was the favorite playground for the lost generation of American writers, including its most famous literary denizen, novelist Ernest Hemingway.

7. ¡Azúcar! The Many Faces of Cuban Miami
From a sleepy retirement destination, Miami has been transformed into a vibrant twenty-first century multi-cultural mecca, a change mostly brought about by the massive influx of Cubans during the early sixties. Tour Little Havana for an espresso (cafecito) loaded with sugar--¡Azúcar!--a key to Cuban Miami’s musical and artistic beat.

South America

1. Buenos Aires: A Lettered City
At the iconic Café Tortoni in downtown Buenos Aires sits Carlos Gardel, the immortal tango singer, joined by Jorge Luis Borges and Victoria Ocampo, two writers that made modern Argentina. The lyrics of the tango, born in La Boca and San Telmo neighborhoods, sing to Buenos Aires as nostalgia and sentiment.

2. Montevideo: Past and Present
Take the ferry across the Río de la Plata to Montevideo, a city lost in time and wedged in between Argentina and Brazil. Its distinct culture evolved with the tea-drinking ritual of mate and the rhythms of candombe, a lively, African-derived dance that resounds during carnival season.

3. São Paulo: The City of Finance, Fun, Fashion, and Feijoada
In São Paulo, you can have it all: high-stakes finances, fun-filled nightlife, trendy fashion, and the delicious feijoada, Brazil’s national dish. Home to many nationalities and peoples, paulistas enjoy their cosmopolitan city while celebrating the immigration stories that made them who they are.

4. Paraty: Colonial Port, Cachaça, and the Gold Route
Then a busy colonial port and now a charming harbor, Paraty’s cobbled streets are filled with passersby, ateliers, and artisan markets. Paraty played a leading role during the 18th century gold rush as a transport route from distant Minas Gerais to the coast, marked in the worn stone steps of the Royal Road lying deep in the jungle. Nearby, local distilleries brew the delicious cachaça, the sugar-cane liqueur that sweetens the capirinhas, Brazil’s national drink.

5. Alegria! Surf, Sights, and Sounds of the “City Marvelous”
Nestled by mountains, carpeted in jungle, and caressed by warm Atlantic currents, Rio de Janeiro enjoys a truly spectacular natural setting. Join the cariocas in enjoying the Cidade Maravilhosa’s world-class beaches, iconic landscapes, and dramatic mountains, while dancing to the subtle rhythms of the bossa nova.

6. Imperial Rio: Palaces and Gardens
Brazil was the only country in Latin America which gained independence without a shot. A stroll down the Centro shows Rio’s unique history as capital of Portugal and Brazil during the 18th-19th centuries. The palaces and gardens built by Brazil’s three kings attest to the pageant and passion of empire.
Lecturer with Holland America, Seabourn, Azamara, Silversea, and Viking. Geographical areas: the Caribbean, Panamá, Spain, Portugal; recently, Cornwall and Bergen. My expertise on travel writing inspires enrichment lectures on Atlantic voyagers and explorers.

Recent cruises completed:

Azamara Pursuit - Canary Island Intensive
Sailing dates: March 9-15, 2024
Date of embarkation: Sat March 9, 2024
Port of embarkation: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Date of disembarkation: Sat March 16, 2024
Port of disembarkation: Lisbon, Portugal

Azamara Onward - Caribbean Holiday Voyage
Sailing dates: December 22, 2023-January 5, 2024
Date of embarkation: Fri, December 22, 2023
Port of embarkation: Fort Lauderdale
Date of disembarkation : Fri, January 5, 2024
Port of disembarkation: Fort Lauderdale

Azamara Onward - Caribbean Breezes
Sailing dates: November 30-December 12, 2023
Date of embarkation: Thurs, November. 30, 2023
Port of embarkation: Fort Lauderdale
Date of disembarkation: Tues, December 12, 2023
Port of disembarkation: Fort Lauderdale
Languages: Native speaker of Spanish; intermediate fluency in French
Travel insurance as Cruise Ship Speaker: current
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Queen Elizabeth Q328 Panama Canal 16 San Francisco, California Sunday, August 20, 2023
Viking Jupiter JU230403 Trades Routes of the Middle Ages 14 Barcelona Monday, April 3, 2023