Heritage Cruise 2011: Cruising Armenian Style

The Armenian Heritage Cruise (AHC) XIV, sponsored by the Armenian Cultural Association of America Inc. (ACAA), set sail from Miami, Fla., on Jan. 21 for a seven-day Caribbean cruise. Away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, more than 1,100 Armenians boarded the beautiful Costa Cruise Line’s premiere ship, the Costa Atlantica. A well-designed ship elegantly decorated and characterized with true Italian flavor, the Costa Atlantica provided a “Little Armenia” on the high seas in the Caribbean. Three words described the cruise: fantastic, fabulous, and Armenian!

A panel discussion on “The Struggle for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the Process of Armenian-Turkish Relations” was comprised of Kasbarian, Hachikian, Jabarian, and Sassounian.

For one week passengers were immersed in pure luxury. The destinations of the cruise included Nassau, Bahamas; Grand Caicos Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Princess Cay, Eleuthera. Armenians came together for a week to renew old friendships, meet new people, attend cultural programs, listen and dance to Armenian music, eat good food, and have fun in the sun. With packed bags and smiles on their faces, they came from all over the world: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The United States was also well represented with passengers from 26 states.

Each guest received an AHC tote bag from the ACAA and Travel Group International, and a tri-color ACAA Heritage Cruise cabin key card that granted entry into all of the special Armenian activities for the week. Without this AHC card, no entry to any Armenian event was allowed. Each morning the daily activities were announced in Italian, French, German, English, and Armenian.

While on board, His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian conducted church services every morning in the ship’s chapel, which was always filled to capacity.

Throughout the week guests sat poolside and enjoyed the tropical weather. Others jogged, played Bingo, listened to lectures, or watched Armenian movies. For those who did not venture out of their cabins, the ship provided 24 hour song and dance programs on two of the ship’s television channels. In the morning, Armenian conversation classes were conducted by Ara and Arevig Caprielian. Margo Kaftajian taught Armenian dance classes; many styles of dance were taught, including the Tamzara, Shourchbar, Haleh, and other popular traditional Armenian dances. Guests could register for backgammon and belote tournaments under the direction of Antranig Boudakian and Ara Papazian.

A table with information on the Armenian Heritage Tour 2011 to Armenia and Karabagh was set up by Maro Asatoorian, the ACAA Armenia Tour liaison. Here people had a chance to register for a tour to Armenia from Sept. 16-27, 2011. The Hairenik Bookstore was busy everyday selling Armenian CD’s, movies, and books. And the ACAA Hospitality Desk was open every morning to assist passengers. With so many activities it can be difficult to decide which to attend. The Armenian Heritage Cruise XIV had something for everyone.

As the sun set and the stars came out, the fun did not stop. Evenings were spent dancing and listening to three great bands: Khoren Mouradian and “D-On-Knowns” with Giro Tavitian and Sergoon Ibrahim; the All Star Traditional Band with Mal Barsamian, Richard Berberian, Khatchig Jingirian, Antranig Kzirian, and Jim Kzirian; and Nersik Isperyan and the Daron Band featuring musicians from Armenia.

Marie Tavitian and Arpi Ashkarian hosted a Welcome Reception at the beginning, when the cruise ambassadors were introduced and the highlights of the week’s activities were announced. This was followed by a song and dance show.

The first stop was Nassau, Bahamas. While many went shopping at the duty-free stores, others went to the Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island for some gambling and beach fun. This hotel is truly magnificent with its extraordinary gardens and largest man-made marine habitat in the world.

After dinner on Saturday, there was a Singles/Mingles Cocktail Party, where singles from 21-39 years old from all over the world had an opportunity to mingle and maybe… After 14 years of cruising, we have 20 couples that met on the ship and later married.

On Sunday, Barbara Haroutunian and her committee organized the Armenian Festival Day Pool Party. Prizes were awarded for the best Armenian tri-color outfit, with red, blue, and orange. Along with face painting, Margo Kaftajian’s dance class performed the Shourchbar. And the annual Armenian dance contest—where people come prepared with originally designed outfits and special dance steps—awarded prizes for the best Armenian traditional dance. To add to the festivities, the ship prepared a delicious Armenian buffet menu for lunch. Later that day, guests spent a wonderful afternoon at the beach of Grand Caicos Island.

That evening, Travel Group International and the ACAA Armenian Heritage Cruise Committee sponsored the ACAA Gala Cocktail Party, with complimentary champagne and cocktails. At dinner, guests enjoyed a unique Armenian menu with hummus, tabouli, boureg, lamb loin chops and chicken kebob with pilaf, and for dessert, pakhlava.

Each day, speakers and groups presented lectures on current and relevant Armenian subjects. The Hamazkayin Cultural Association held a tea reception and program. Appo Jabarian, the executive publisher and editor of USA Armenian Life Magazine, discussed “The Emergence of Armenian Americans in the Movie and TV Industry in Hollywood.” Comedian Garbis Terzian entertained his audience with a one-man comedy performance. (Garbis has been entertaining for at least 50 years, performing across the country. He is best known for his work as the lovable fez-wearing character named Hoja.) The Anahid Fund hosted a reception featuring Dr. Nazeli Charchian. The fund’s goal is to promote the continued growth of Armenia’s population by providing assistance to Armenian mothers who wish to have a third child. The Yeraz Dance Ensemble from New York gave a performance that inspired the audience. Now in its 10th year, the dance group is traveling all over the East Coast making a huge impact on the Armenian dance world. Other events and programs included the ARS tea reception and presentation; the Homenetmen tea reception and presentation; a talk by ANCA chairman Ken Hachikian about H.Res.252, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, and the untold story behind the scenes; a reception and presentation by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan; and a discussion with Dr. Antranig Kasbarian, chairman of the Armenian Cultural Association of the Eastern United States, on “What’s next in negotiations to determine the political status of Nagorno-Karabagh.”

Finally, a panel discussion on “The Struggle for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the Process of Armenian-Turkish Relations” was comprised of Kasbarian, Hachikian, Jabarian, and Harut Sassounian, the editor of the California Courier. Sassounian also hosted a discussion on “The Armenian Cause: Genocide Recognition or Quest for Justice?”

 

Cruise guests also had the chance to hear their favorite patriotic songs by Nersik Isperyan and both traditional and modern repertoire by the ELIXIR Piano Trio. The latter, featuring Samvel Chillingarian, violin, Lucy Nargizyan, piano, and Garik Terzian, cello, was founded in 2004. In 2005, they received the Most Distinguished Musician Award during an international competition in Italy. This trio has appeared in Europe and the United States.

On Tuesday, the ship arrived at the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, where guests spent the day shopping or swimming at one of the beautiful beaches. Our last stop was Princess Cay, Eleuthera, where many enjoyed swimming and playing water sports on Costa’s private island.

From all over the world Armenians came together to experience an action-packed week full with fun on the hye seas, an atmosphere of being Armenian, and a sense of Armenian pride. This is the fulfillment of the mission: “to foster better relationships for the Armenian people.” Proceeds from the cruise are given to the Armenian Cultural Association of America Inc. a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that provides assistance to Armenian research and cultural events and Armenian-language newspapers.

For one week, Armenians from all over the world come together to learn about each other, our heritage, and our history. We put aside our political and religious differences and come together as Armenians to support one nation and one purpose: “A free and independent Armenia, with all its privileges and responsibilities as a new democratic country in the world of civilized nations.”

The AHC recognizes the importance of a culturally vibrant and successful Armenian community. So get ready for Cruise XV 2012, which will sail from Jan. 21-28, 2012 on the beautiful MCS Poesia, which was built two years ago. AHC XV will be cruising to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Island; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Nassau, Bahamas. For reservations or for more information, call Travel Group International at 866-447-0750.

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Comments from Passengers

“This is our sixth time on the Armenian Heritage Cruise and we have enjoyed all of the cruises. We have gone with our good friends and we always make new friends from different parts of the world. This cruise brings Armenians from around the world together, which helps keep Armenians strong. Each year we say this is our last cruise, but once on the ship, we are the first to sign up for the next one.”

–Mario and Anjel Yazidjian

Fort Lee, N.J.

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“A few years ago one of our friends told us about the Armenian Heritage Cruise, and this year we decided to come. It took over 10 hours from Germany to Florida to board the ship, but it was worth the long trip because we are having a fabulous time. We have met many friendly people from all over the world and we are planning to come next year. When we go back to Germany we are going to tell all of our friends about this wonderful cruise.”

–Bedros and Hasmig Adrian

Frankfurt, Germany

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“The cruise is a wonderful opportunity to meet Armenians from all over the world to see how different geographies affect Armenians, while at the same time realizing that our Armenian heritage binds us together. The various activities serve all kinds of Armenian tastes, from food and dancing to the cultural and recreational activities. The cruise puts together the best aspects in a single week, waking up our Armenian spirit for the rest of the week.”

–Raffi Guldalian

Caracas, Venezuela

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“Can you imagine an entire ship full of Armenians from all over the world who want to meet each other? There were so many activities that it was not possible to participate in all the lectures, concerts, discussions, shows, and movies. This cruise is a place to relax and forget about your problems. Thank you AHC for organizing a wonderful experience.”

–Dr. Nazeli Charchian

Los Angeles, Calif.

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“The Armenian Heritage Cruise is a well-organized event. It attracts Armenians from all over the world. In a suitable manner it creates unity among Armenians and encourages all people to be proud and embrace their culture. There are so many activities, there is always something to do. As a 23-year-old I had plenty to do and this was a vacation I shall not forget.”

–Garbis Kolokossian

Sydney, Australia

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“This was our second cruise and we want to thank the organizing committee for a difficult job that was exceptionally well done. The highlight for us was having a university reunion. Those who have not taken this cruise are really missing something in their life. We highly recommend that they hurry up and sign up for the next cruise on Jan. 21, 2012.”

–Dr. Misak and Hourig Abdulian

Los Angeles, Calif.

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“Having never been on this cruise before, we accepted our friends’ invitation to join them with the intention of leaving the snow behind and enjoying days in the sun. However, the cruise was much more than we expected. Amazing cultural events, informative thought-provoking lectures, seeing friends and meeting people that we haven’t seen in years. How amazing is that! The cruise exceeded our expectations one thousand times over! Our thanks and congratulations to the committee for a job well done.”

–Charlie and Sona Aslanian

Belmont, Mass.

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“I’m amazed how you can gather so many Armenians from around the world and organize this wonderful cruise. According to Armenian history the weddings of kings and queens lasted for seven days and seven nights, and that’s what happened on this ship. A party every night! I love it and I will encourage every Armenian, and especially the youth to come and enjoy this opportunity.”

Shakeh Knar Salatian

Granada Hills, Calif.

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“I had a wonderful time on the Armenian Heritage Cruise, and all Armenians from around the world should sign up for the January 2012 cruise.”

Alice Gregory

London, England

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Barbara Haroutunian

1 Comment

  1. Who do I contact as far as the entertainment department, I would really like to Dj this cruise…..

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