The Armenian Heritage Cruise (AHC) XIII, sponsored by the Armenian Cultural Association of America, Inc. (ACAA), sailed from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. On Jan. 16 for a weeklong cruise—a welcome relief from the cold and snow that gripped the northern states.
The destinations included St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and the Grand Caicos Islands. Everyone had eagerly anticipated a week of beautiful sights, new people, cultural programs, dancing and music, good food, and fun in the sun in a profoundly unique Armenian way.
Armenians came from all over the world: Armenia, Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, France, Greece, Italy, Israel, Lebanon, Switzerland, and Turkey. The United States was also well represented with people from almost every state in the country onboard. Each guest received an AHC tricolor tote bag and travel document pouch as a gift from the ACAA and Travel Group International. Guests met relatives, friends, and classmates after many years of separation. With tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces, they were all reunited on the Armenian Heritage Cruise.
There are three ways to experience complete fulfillment on this cruise:
1. Spend a week of fun in the sun, leaving the hustle and bustle of life on hold.
2. Learn and help preserve the Armenian culture and heritage.
3. Meet old friends and make new ones.
For one week, we put aside our differences and came together as one people and one nation to establish a “Little Armenia” in the Caribbean.
Everyone was given a tricolor ACAA Heritage Cruise cabin key card, which granted each guest entry into all activities for the week. Without the card, no entry to any event was allowed. Each morning the announcements of the daily activities were presented in Italian, French, German, and much to our joy, Armenian. We were honored to have onboard Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, Primate Emeritus of the Western Diocese of the United States, and Archpriest Rev. Fr. Vazken Bekiarian of Worcester, Mass. Everyday the clergy onboard conducted the morning service in the chapel, which was always filled to capacity.
Every night, two bands performed in various rooms on the ship: Joseph Krikorian and His Band, and the Aravod Band with Jim Kzirian, Aram Hovagimian, Khatchig Jingerian, John Harotian, and Richard Berberian. On Saturday evening there was a welcome reception hosted by George and Shakeh Basmajian and Maria Tavitian. The “cruise ambassadors” were introduced and a highlight of the week’s activities was announced, followed by an Armenian Talent Show.
Throughout the week, guests could sit poolside all day and enjoy the wonderful tropical weather. Others jogged, played Bingo, listened to lectures, or watched Armenian movies. For those who did not venture out of their cabins, the cruise provided 24-hour Armenian song and dance programs on two of the ship’s television channels.
In the mornings, Ara and Arevig Caprielian of New York conducted Armenian conversation classes. Margo Kaftajian of Dallas, Texas taught Armenian dance classes; many different styles of Armenian dance were taught, including the Tamzara, shourch bar, and Haleh. Guests could register for the Tavlou and Belote Tournaments under the direction of Antranig Boudakian and George Basmajian. The athletically inclined joined the annual 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament under the direction of John Jerikian.
There was a special table for the Armenian Heritage Tour 2010 with Maro Asatoorian, the ACAA liaison, where people could register for a 15-day tour to Armenia from July 18 to August 1 (with an optional excursion to Karabagh also available). The Hairenik Bookstore was busy everyday selling Armenian products like CD’s, movies, books, and souvenirs on the ship. The ACAA Hospitality Desk was open every morning to assist passengers. With so many activities, it could be difficult to decide what to do. The Armenian Heritage Cruise XIII had something for everyone.
After dinner on Sunday there was a Singles/Mingles Cocktail Party. This is a party where singles could meet and hopefully mingle. For the first time each day, there was an AHC Club 39 Happy Hour. Armenian singles ages 21-39 from all over the world had an opportunity to meet and maybe…
On one of the days we spent a wonderful day shopping and swimming on one of the worlds most beautiful beaches in St. Thomas. We returned to the ship and that evening attended an ACAA Gala Cocktail Party sponsored by the ACAA Armenian Heritage Cruise Committee and Travel Group International. Everyone enjoyed complimentary champagne and cocktails. At dinner that evening, guests enjoyed a unique Armenian menu with hummus, tabbouleh, beureg, lamb chops, chicken kebob, bulgur pilaf, salad, and pakhlava. The next day we arrived in gorgeous San Juan, Puerto Rico.
On Thursday, Ann Samuelian and her committee organized the Armenian Festival Day Pool Party. Prizes were awarded for the best Armenian tricolor outfit of red, blue, and orange. Along with face painting, Margo Kaftajian’s dance class performed the dance steps they had learned throughout the week. There was an Armenian Dance Contest with prizes for the best Armenian traditional dance. This has become an annual event and people came prepared with original design outfits and special dance steps to compete in the contests. To add to the festivities, the ship prepared a delicious Armenian menu for lunch. Later that afternoon, we spent a wonderful day at the beach in Grand Caicos Island.
Each day there were speakers and programs about relevant Armenian subjects. For example, the Hamazkayin Cultural Association held a tea reception and program. The
Armenian Relief Society hosted a tea reception and presentation—all the more prevalent as 2010 is the 100th anniversary of this great organization. The Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston, under the direction of Apo Ashjian, performed on the ship. Armenian Fund USA held a discussion to learn more and take part in a long-standing effort to build, revitalize, and help the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh. Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) chairman Ken Hachikian discussed the key points covered by the protocols from both the Armenian and Turkish perspective, including the implications as it affects the legal, political, economic, and moral ramifications for Armenians living in both Armenia and the diaspora.
Mary Terzian presented her book The Immigrants’ Daughter, which won the Best Book Award in the multicultural, non-fiction category and was a finalist in Indie Excellence 2007 Book Awards. A panel discussion on the protocols was held, with Ken Hachikian, Antranig Kasabarian, Appo Jabarian, and Jack Medzorian. Comedian Kev Orkian entertained the audience with a one-man, piano comedy performance filled with cultural satire. Born in London and active in the Armenian community, Orkian has performed all over Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.
The Knights and Daughters of Vartan held a reception and presentation for all the members and friends of the fraternal organization. In “Armenia and Its Diaspora: An Important Factor in International Politics,” Jabarian, the executive publisher and managing editor of USA Armenian Life Magazine and Hye Kiank, presented the facts that Armenia has a commanding geopolitical position in one of the world’s most important cross-roads, and that its progressive Diaspora makes Armenia a social and economic force.
The Armenian Weekly and Hairenik newspapers celebrated their 75th and 100th anniversaries, respectively, with a tea reception and presentation of their history. Sosy Kevonian presented her book, Prior to the Auction Souls, a graphic novel based on the life of Aurora Mardigian during the 1915 genocide. Antranig Kasbarian discussed the effects of the Turkish-Armenian protocols and its impact on Karabagh.
The Humanitarian Outreach Foundation presented its “Each One Help One Movement” by Berge and Terry Minasian—a project created to provide financial relief to over 500 extremely poor families in Vanadzor, Armenia, and to keep them intact. These are the poorest of the poor in Armenia and they all live in metal, ocean shipping containers.
And during one evening, everyone listened to their favorite Armenian patriotic songs with Joseph Kricorian and his band performing.
The Armenian Heritage Cruise has become a respected and prestigious program working under the guidance of the Armenian Cultural Association of America, Inc., which is a 501 (c) 3, non-profit organization, that primarily assists in Armenian research, cultural events, and especially provides primary assistance to the Armenian language newspapers.
We are involved in many endeavors and work within our mission to assist and help the Armenian people in the diaspora and Armenia. From all over the United States, dedicated individuals have volunteered to work on this event. Each area of the country and Europe are represented. There is no other event in the world that brings Armenians together for seven full days of fellowship and camaraderie.
We look forward to seeing you on our 14th cruise sailing on Jan. 21-28, 2011, with a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise to Nassau, Bahamas, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, Catalina Island, Dominican Republic, and Grand Caicos Island. Enjoy the unique experience of a lifetime on the “Original Armenian Cruise” where the Armenian spirit comes alive on the Caribbean Sea.
The following are comments we received from a few pleased passengers.
“Thanks to the ACAA Committee members for a great cruise. We all had a wonderful time on the Costa Atlantica. Our entire group from Paris, France enjoyed the warm ambiance, full of fun, dance, music, and shows. We will gladly come back to repeat this wonderful experience. We will definitely promote this cruise with our friends and family in France, hoping to enlarge the ‘Fransa-Hyes.’”
“It is my second time but, God willing, you can bet it will not be my last. Armenian Heritage Cruise…three words that sound like music to my ears. Aside from good food, fabulous scenery, and fantastic entertainment, it awakens the hidden warm feelings of belonging to a nation of wonderful people from all over the world. My heartfelt wish to my very dear fellow Armenians, next to good health, is to take part in this wonderful experience. May God bless the organizers.”
“I traveled from Argentina to be a part of the ACAA’s Armenian Heritage Cruise onboard the beautiful Atlantica. This huge ship has been converted into an Armenian town. The events exceeded my expectations with Armenian TV, dances, cultural programs, movies, and many more activities. This year there were over 30 Armenians from Argentina on the ship, and I am sure this number will triple next year. I want to thank the ACAA Committee for providing us with this wonderful experience.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina
“What an excellent experience for my first cruise! My kids have been on this cruise before, what an excellent Armenian cultural and friendly atmosphere. In fact my son found his life’s Armenian partner here. What an excellent thing to happen!”
“This cruise has enlightened me as to where the Armenian community stands today and how far we have progressed. Your program was a nice mix of the social, educational, political, and entertainment. It reminds me of the bygone ‘Atlantic City Affair’ that was hosted by Philadelphia years ago. I wish you continued success. Keep up the good work.”
San Diego, Calif.
“The Armenian Heritage Cruise is outstanding. Besides that, I had the opportunity to meet friends that I haven’t seen for 50 years. I was so satisfied to attend each event that was perfectly organized. I invite all Armenians from all over the world not to miss next year’s cruise. We will show the world the Armenians are united in the diaspora.”
“A week has passed and it is time to leave, but the memories will last a lifetime. As I pack my bags I am filled with unforgettable memories of a wonderful experience on the Costa Atlantica. I am taking with me a feeling that the Armenians in the diaspora are united, which will help Armenia.”
For more information on the Armenian Heritage Cruise, visit www.armenianheritagecruise.com.