Where else can children and seniors enjoy themselves in harmony and erase any generational gap that might intervene?
Of the 800 guests who came aboard the MSC Poesia this January for the Armenian Heritage Cruise XVI, it was one, big happy family sailing the Caribbean with stops at Cozumel, Mexico; Isla De Roatan; the Cayman Islands; and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
This was my fourth junket aboard the Heritage cruise lines, and there appears no end to my infatuation. In fact, life just keeps getting better with age.
It’s the best of both worlds here. Seeing the children romping to and fro on the dance floor is bound to give you a youthful lift. On the other hand, interfacing with adults and seniors from around the world (literally!) opens new friendships and cultivates older ones.
The 800 number might have been a little lower than usual. Had it not been for a funeral in the Mid-West, another 80 revelers would have hopped aboard. Some previous years saw twice that number.
Could a gold nugget be losing some of its luster? I would hope not. Considering the economy and the similar destinations (though different routes), the Heritage Cruise still manages to hold its own water while raising money for worthy charitable organizations both here and abroad.
Considering the fact this was Number 16 and was still vibrant says something for the organizational team and people like Steve and Angele Dulgarian of Chelmsford, Mass., who have managed to hop aboard for all but two of these extravaganzas. There are others with perfect and near-perfect attendance.
Now here’s some news. Of the 800 this year, 500 already booked for next year—to get the perks aboard a brand new MSC ship with greater capacity and amenities. According to the organizers, they’re looking to accommodate 1,200 Armenians next winter, maybe more.
This year’s entourage got to see some exceptional choreography and costuming by the Akh’tamar Dance Ensemble, who unveiled a junior ensemble as well. The spirit just oozed from the rafters when they appeared. Some 80 dancers lit the stage from Tenafly, N.J., where they call home, under the tutelage of director/choreographer Sylvia Asadourian. Musicians Khoren Mouradian and Khatchig Jingirian, together with their ensembles, kept the singing and dancing at a high octave.
Dr. Antonia Arslan, the author of The Skylark Farm, was on hand for a book-signing and movie showing. You probably won’t see a more powerful and dramatic portrayal of the Armenian Genocide. The support she received from the Italian government to override Turkish resistance toward the film is something we Americans would like to see in this country.
The itinerary also featured its exuberant Armenian Festival Day with guests attired in their best tricolors. In fact, the entire deck was “bedecked and bedazzled” in red, blue, and orange.
You had your language classes and your dance classes. There were some pretty poignant lectures, including one from Canadian Ambassador Armen Yeganian on dual citizenship. Joining him on a panel regarding the presidential elections in Armenia were Ken Hachikian, chairman, ANCA; Dr. Antranig Kasbarian, Tufenkjian Foundation; Appo Jabarian, executive publisher, USA Armenian Life; and Boghos Kupelian, noted Armenian intellectual and writer.
Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelacy vicar, made his usual presence, starting the day off with a brisk religious service. There were also some spirited tavlou and belote tournaments.
Let’s put it this way. There was no occasion to feel bored. An active itinerary offered many sidelights. Two receptions also drew their crowds, one tendered by the Armenia Relief Society (ARS) and another by the Knights of Vartan.
And there were the surprises, including a wedding reception that was open to one and all. More on this in a separate column.
People ask me what I enjoy best about the Heritage Cruise. Well, being a warm water sort of guy, I went to every beach in each of the four ports, swimming to my heart’s content and strolling along the surf while snow pelted New England.
The fact there were Armenians exercising their tongue kept my language pretty fluent. It was preferred by many. Not to say that if you don’t know Armenian, you’ll be lost. That was not the case.
The momentum kept me going, not to mention the ship’s entertainment and Broadway-style shows. Okay, so the casinos could have been kinder to me, but I had fun trying. And the solitude of a cabin deck with a good book bore its delight.
Such a life. If you’ve never done a Heritage Cruise, an experience awaits you. It’s a week well spent. And thanks to the Providence crowd who shared our table and one next to it. We enjoyed the company immensely.