BY BARBARA HAROUTUNIAN
Armenian Heritage Cruise XIV, sponsored by the Armenian Cultural Association of America Inc., sailed from Miami, Florida on January 21, 2011 for a seven day Caribbean cruise. Away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, more than 1100 Armenians boarded the beautiful Costa Cruise Line’s premiere ship the Costa Atlantica. The Costa Atlantica is a well designed ship that is elegantly decorated and characterized with true Italian flavor. This beautiful ship provided a “Little Armenia” on the high seas in the Caribbean. For one week the 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 of renewing old friendships, meeting new people, attending cultural programs, listening and dancing to Armenian music, eating good food, and having fun in the sun. With packed bags and smiles on their faces, Armenians 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.
Three words describe this cruise – FANTASTIC, FABULOUS, and ARMENIAN!
Each guest received an AHC tote bag from the ACAA and Travel Group International. Everyone was given a tri-color ACAA Heritage cruise cabin key card; this card granted each guest entry into all 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.
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 there were Armenian Conversation Classes conducted by Ara and Arevig Caprielian. Margo Kaftajian taught Armenian Dance Classes. Many different styles of Armenian dance were taught such as Tamzara, Shourch Bar, Haleh, and other popular traditional Armenian dances. Guests could register for Backgammon and Belote Tournaments under the direction of Antranig Boudakian and Ara Papazian.
There was a table set up for the Armenian Heritage Tour 2011 to Armenia and Kharabagh with Maro Asatoorian, the ACAA Armenian Tour Liaison. Here people had a chance to register for a tour to Armenian from September 16-27, 2011. The Hairenik Bookstore was busy everyday selling traditional Armenian products including CD’s, movies, books and Armenian artifacts on the ship. 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. The evenings were filled with 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. Nersik Isperyan and the Daron Band featuring traditional musicians from Armenia.
The first night there was a Welcome Reception hosted by Marie Tavitian and Arpi Ashkarian. The Cruise Ambassadors were introduced and highlights of the week’s activities were announced. This was followed by a song and dance show.
Our 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 or 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. This is a party where singles from ages 21-39 years old from all over the world have an opportunity to mingle and maybe… After 14 years of cruising we have 20 couples who 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, red, blue and orange. Along with face painting, Margo Kaftajian’s dance class performed the Shourch Bar. 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 contest. To add to the festivities the ship prepared a delicious Armenian Buffet Menu for lunch. Later that day we spent a wonderful afternoon at the beach of Grand Caicos Island.
That evening there was an ACAA Gala Cocktail Party sponsored by Travel Group International and the ACAA Armenian Heritage Cruise committee. Everyone drank 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 there were speakers and programs about relevant Armenian subjects:
∙Hamazkayin Cultural Association Tea Reception and Program
∙Appo Jabarian, Executive Publisher and Editor USA Armenian Life Magazine discussed “The Emerging of the Armenian American Presence 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, who he has named after his grandfather.
Anahid Fund had a reception which was presented by 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 their third child.
Yeraz Dance Ensemble – this Armenian dance group from New York gave an amazing and astounding performance that excited the audience. Now in its 10th year, Yeraz Dance Ensemble is traveling all over the East Coast of the United States and 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;ANCA Presentation by its Ken Hachikian Chairman, discussed the key points of “H.Res.252 the Armenian Genocide Resolution”, the untold story behind the scenes, Victories and Defeats; Armenian Patriotic Songs in Concert – everyone listened to their favorite patriotic songs sung by Nersik Isperyan; Knights and Daughters of Vartan – a reception and presentation for the fraternal organization; Dr. Antranig Kasbarian – a discussion of “What’s next in negotiations to determine the political status of Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh); ∙ELIXIR Piano Trio – Samvel Chillingarian, violin, Lucy Nargizyan, piano, and Garik Terzian, cello – founded in 2004, this dynamic trio performs both traditional and modern repertoire with classical, folk and jazz influences. They are the winner of the Most Distinguished Musician award 2005 International Competition in Italy. This trio has appeared in Europe and the United States; A Panel Discussion to discuss – the struggle for recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the process of Armenian-Turkish relations. The panelists were: Dr. Antranig Kasbarian, Chairman of the Armenian Cultural Association of the Eastern United States; Ken Hachikian, Chairman, Board of Directors Armenian National Committee of America; Appo Jabarian, Executive Publisher USA Armenian Life Weekly; and HYE Gyank (Armenian Edition); Harut Sassounian, Editor of the Armenian Courier
There was a most interesting discussion by Harut Sassounian, Editor of the California Courier – “The Armenian Cause: Genocide Recognition or Quest for Justice?”
On Tuesday we arrived at the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, where we spent the day shopping or swimming at one of the beautiful beaches. Our last stop was Princess Cay, Eleuthera where most of the Armenians 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 filled 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 nonprofit organization that primarily assists in Armenian research, cultural events and especially provides assistance to Armenian language newspapers. The Armenian Cultural Association Inc. continues to create a venue where Armenians of all persuasions come together in a luxurious setting.
For one week, Armenians from all over the world are given a unique opportunity to 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.”
This AHC recognizes the importance of a culturally vibrant and successful Armenian community so-GET READY FOR CRUISE XV 2012 sailing on January 21-28, 2012 on the beautiful MCS Poesia, which was built 2 years ago. AHC XV 2012 will be cruising to St. Thomas, US Virgin Island; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Nassau, Grande Bahamas. For reservations and information about the Armenian Heritage Cruise XV, contact Travel Group International at 866-447-0750.