Cruising the Mediterranean

Entranced by the serenity of Southern Europe’s Mediterranean coastline, I basked in the sun’s brilliance as it shimmied across the azure water. This part of the world is, indeed, a slice of paradise. In a few minutes, I would disembark from the ship and join a phalanx of fellow tourists, spending the day reviewing centuries-old culture and architecture and sampling local cuisine.

My European trek was part of a cruise organized by the National Professional Network. Created by William Tedford and Madeline Moore, NPN has brought together thousands of African Americans on “leadership summit” cruises for 15 years. Attendees enjoy exotic locales and cruise amenities. The trips also provide an opportunity for black professionals and entrepreneurs to network and attend empowerment forums. On this voyage, NPN enjoyed its largest gathering to date-more than 1,000 participants aboard Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas, a 2,076-passenger cruise ship offering spa visits, sports and leisure entertainment, and endless culinary samplings. The cruise whisks away attendees on a 10-day excursion with stops in Spain, France, and Italy.

“From public policy to corporate strategy, NPN has created a safe place to build valuable relationships,” says Tedford.

For lovers of world history, unique cultural experiences, and grand architecture, the trip fulfilled every passion. The following provides highlights and Mediterranean attractions:

NPN members gathered two days prior to the start of the cruise to begin conference proceedings and make arrangements for connections in Barcelona, Spain. With a population of 3 million, Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean coast. Most attendees stayed at the Hotel Arts Barcelona, a Ritz-Carlton property that boasts spacious, contemporary rooms and breath-taking views of the Mediterranean and Port Olimpic. A popular leisure and dining marina with more than 700 berths, Port Olimpic was extensively renovated in preparation for the its duties as host city of the 1992 Olympics.

Las Ramblas, situated within walking distance of the hotel, is a pedestrian, tree-lined boulevard that extends from the waterfront to Placa de Catalunya, the town square. It features succulent seafood, street performances, and a bustling nightlife for those looking to party or gamble the night away.

If you venture to the Gothic Quarter, you will find magnificent, centuries-old structures such as the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, designed in classic gothic style and accentuated with 500-year-old stained glass windows.

On day three, the Splendour of the Seas docked in Marseille, the oldest city in France, which stretches from the mountains of the Southern Alps to the waters of the Mediterranean.

One of Marseille’s main attractions is Notre Dame de la Garde. The gold-leaf-covered cathedral, which dates back to the 19th century, is filled with beautiful mosaics, multicolored marble, and a dazzling array of paintings and murals. Endless flights of stairs lead the inspired to the highest point of the city and eventually gives way to an arresting panorama of the region. Another great sight is Palais Longchamp, with its lakes, fountains, and detailed sculptures.

Cannes, Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo. Cosmopolitan centers with enchanting