The 21st Armenian Heritage Cruise sailed from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 20-28, on Royal Caribbean’s premiere ship, the gorgeous Freedom of the Seas.
Armenians from around the world including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, Lebanon, Turkey, Venezuela, and many states within the U.S. were represented at the 21st installment of the annual cruise.
For eight glorious days, participants were given the opportunity to interact with old friends and make new connections with fellow Armenians. This cruise gave everyone onboard an unforgettable experience with many wonderful memories.
What brings over together over 1,000 Armenians from all over the world on the Armenian Heritage Cruise is a common desire to meet new and old friends, attend cultural events, visit new places, and dance to Armenian music, while cruising on the “Hye Seas.”
Destinations this year included St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Puerto Rico, and Labadee. On each island participants enjoyed exotic secluded beaches, where they were all able to swim, listen and dance to Armenian music, eat good food and have fun in the tropical weather.
Participants were honored to have Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian, the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Brazil onboard. Each day started out with Armenian Church Service.
For those guests who needed a little help on the dance floor, Margo Kaftajian taught basic Armenian dances. Her classes were packed with enthusiastic dancers looking to learn new dance moves!
Each day the Armenian Heritage Cruise Hospitality desk was open for any questions or concerns. Maro Asatoorian was also available with information regarding the 2018 Armenian Heritage Tour to Armenia and Artsakh. This year, they will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first independence of Armenia on May 21 –June 4.
For some friendly competition Antranig Boudakian, John Jerikian and Hampar Vartanian supervised the annual tavlou and belote tournaments.
The Hairenik Bookstore was open each day where guests had the opportunity to purchase uniqu Armenian books, CDs, videos and souvenirs.
The first night there was a welcome reception hosted by Maria Tavitian and Margo Kaftajian highlighting the week’s activities.
The entertainment aboard the ship was truly exceptional this year. Participants listened to the dynamic vocals of Harout Pamboukjian and his fantastic band from California. Harout captivated his audience during his performance and truly created an atmosphere of energy, excitement, and dancing. Participants also enjoyed the “All Star Kef Band” featuring Jim Kzirian, Steve Vosbikian, Richard Berberian, Antranig Kzirian, and Vik Momjian. Harout Artin Bedrossian also joined the lineup for a truly amazing combination of entertainers. Sibil from Istanbul, Turkey performedtwo concerts singing her newest songs which delighted the souls of everyone.
The Akh’Tamar Dance Ensemble from New Jersey dazzled the audience under the artistic directorship of Sylvia Asadourian. They performed traditional Armenian folk dances dressed in authentic costumes.
For the second year in a row, Maria Tavitian, Dr. John P. Bilezikian, and Dr. Raffi Hovanessian organized and introduced special Medical Programs for Health Care Professionals where ACCME, CDE, and CPE Accreditation were received. Some of the topics presented were: “Osteoporosis in Armenia: The Second Decade” by John P. Bilezikian, MD, PHD; ”Prevalence of Gum Disease in Armenia” by Gregory Kazandjian, DDS, MS; ”Eye Care in Armenia” by Lawrence V. Najarian, MD; “Pharmaceutical Delivery in Armenia: Challenges” by Romic Eskandarian, Pharm D.; ”Healthcare and Education in Armenian Women’s Reproductive Years” by Samuel Badalian, MD, PHD.
On Wednesday evening the chefs aboard the “Freedom of the Seas” prepared a special Armenian dinner, which included such favorites as cheese boreg, chicken kebob, hummus, bulgur pilaf, seasoned lamb chops, baklava, and much more. The ACAA and TravelGroup International served complimentary wine for the guests along with dinner. On the same evening was a cocktail party featuring Harout Pamboukjian, sponsored by ACAA and TravelGroup International.
This year guests experienced an extraordinary cultural program aboard the ship. Five guest speakers presented interesting and culturally relevant Armenian topics that directly affect Armenia and the Diaspora. We were honored to have Robert Avetisyan, the Permanent Representative of the Artsakh Republic to the U.S. The topic presented was “The Current situation in and around Artsakh, the conflict settlement process, as well as the economic process in the rebuilt and investment opportunities”. Raffi Hamparian, chairperson of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). discussed “The Armenian Cause: Today, Tomorrow and into the Future.” Shahen Mirakian, president of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) discussed “International Recognition of Artsakh: The Legal Case.” Robert Haig Setrakian discussed, “An Overview of the Armenian Banking System: A Bright Spot in Armenia’s Economy.” Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian, the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Brazil discussed the history of and the current activities of the Armenian community of Brazil.
Other activities included “Armenian Business Networking,” which gave professionals fromvarious backgrounds the opportunity to exchange business cards and network amongst fellow Armenians; a presentation on the activities of Homenetmen; and a presentation on the activities of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS).
Armenians worldwide enjoying this cruise every year—a cruise, which stays true to its mission “to foster better relationships for the Armenian people.” The Armenian Cultural Association of America, Inc. continues to create a venue where Armenians of all backgrounds come together in a lavish setting and benefit in a friendly environment with respect and dialogue between each other, our heritage and our history. They put aside their political and religious differences and come together as Armenians to support one nation and one purpose: a free and united Armenia. They dance, sing, dine, mingle, network, and enjoy each other’s camaraderie and friendship.
To the many loyal and sustaining friends, the organizers extend their most heartfelt gratitude in helping make the Armenian Heritage Cruise one of the premiere events of the Armenian social scene. This is an unforgettable week of Armenian fellowship, Armenian music, Armenian food, Armenian spirit, and fun.
Please join us next year January 20-27, 2019 aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas for another unforgettable Armenian experience.
A special note of appreciation must be extended to the Armenian Cultural Association of America for making the cruise possible. For more information or to book a reservation on Armenian Heritage Cruise XXII contact TravelGroup International at 866-447-0750.
Comments from a Few Pleased Passengers
“I am from Paris, France and I came with my nephew on the Armenian Heritage Cruise. Since Harout Pamboukjian and Sibil were being featured, I wanted to see them perform. I also loved meeting people from all over the world. I have had so much fun I want to come again next year with my sister”.
“It was again a really great opportunity for any Armenian from all over the world to come and meet another compatriot in a friendly = nationalistic atmosphere and have fun in the meantime on the Armenian Heritage Cruise”.
Los Angeles, Calif.
“I have been on the AHC 17 times and I am anxiously waiting to sign up again for next year’s cruise. Hope to see everyone again next year”.
Boghos and Sylva Deradourian
“This is my 5th AHC and each time it gets better and better. The committee is very well organized and everyone you meet is very friendly. You get to meet Armenians from all over the world, enjoy singers, musicians, comedians, and hear lectures and get the latest information about Armenia and Artsakh. You will have fun every hour of the day, all week long while making new friends”.
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
“While I was certainly looking forward to my first Armenian Heritage Cruise; I had no idea what to expect. Everyone welcomed me. Having an opportunity to come together to celebrate and honor our culture has been very important to me. I am so grateful that despite all our struggles we are still here and able to sing, and dance as Armenians in such a beautiful setting”.
British Columbia, Canada
“Thank you Armenian Heritage Cruise committee for organizing a wonderful cruise on the Freedom of the Seas. Had a great time with some old friends and met new ones from around the world.”