ARMENIAN HERITAGE CRUISE XX
CRUISING ARMENIAN STYLE – JANUARY 20-29, 2017
BY: BARBARA HAROUTUNIAN
On a warm and beautiful sunny day, Armenian Heritage Cruise XX 2017 sailed from Miami, FL for a nine-day spectacular getaway. On January 20, 2017 over 1,300 Armenians boarded the Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. This truly remarkable boat is a most innovative ship, featuring an ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, full size basketball court and much more. We had Armenians join us from all over the world including; Australia, Armenia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Lebanon and over 25 states within the United States.
We were honored to have onboard His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy and the former Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Armenia, Ambassador John M. Evans and his wife Donna.
Twenty years ago, we started out with a few hundred guests, and today we have over 1,300 Armenians from all over the world. Over the last twenty years, family, friends, and new acquaintances come together for non-stop Armenian entertainment and cultural events. We have also seen a few engagements and marriages as a result of this fantastic cruise! The beauty of the AHC vacation is that there is always something new and always a fresh discovery we haven’t seen.
The cruise departed from Miami, Florida on Friday evening, and our destinations included Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, and Labadee. Our days aboard the ship started out with Armenian Church Service led by His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy. For those who needed a little help on the dance floor, Margo Kaftajian taught basic Armenian Dance, such as the Shourch Bar, Tamzara, Haleh and many more. Guests could register for Backgammon and Belote Tournaments under the direction of Antranik Boudakian with John M. Jerikian and Hampar Vartanian. Maro Assadourian had a special table set up for the Armenian Heritage Tour 2017 to Armenia and Karabagh departing on September 17 – October 1, 2017. Each day the ACAA Hospitality desk was open to assist passengers with all their needs. The Hairenik Bookstore returned this year, providing all kinds of unique Armenian merchandise.
The entertainment aboard the cruise this year was truly exceptional, we all enjoyed listening to bands and singers such as: Joseph Krikorian, Kevork Artinian, and Harout Khatchoyan. We enjoyed a concert by Antranik Mouradian featuring Salbi Mailyan, Harout Hagopian and Armen Hovhannissyan, a unique collaboration of musicians showcasing their different styles of Armenian music together.
From England, comedian, musician and actor Kev Orkian entertained the audience with a one man piano comedy performance that was truly spectacular. This is the third time he has performed on the Armenian Heritage Cruise. He is more phenomenal each time!
This year for the first time we had a special program: CME Seminar for medical health care professionals and dentists. The registrants were able to attend specific medical classes to obtain accreditation which was affiliated with Columbia University and the University Of Michigan School Of Dentistry. The lectures were conducted by renowned authorities in health care who have made major contributions to improve education and increasing the standards of health care in Armenia. The program featured Dr. John Bilezikian, Chairman Dr. Raffy Havanessian as Honorary Chairman and Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan, Dr. Robert Bargranian and Dr. Laurence Najarian. The discussion included initiatives in Health policy and Management, osteoporosis awareness, and delivery of eye and dental care.
The first night there was a Welcome Reception hosted by Maria Tavitian and Margo Kaftajian, all of the week’s activities and highlights were announced.
The first two days were spent at sea, from sunrise to sunset one could be active aboard the ship or one could just lay back and relax in the luxurious stateroom. Most of us spent the night dancing away until the wee hours of the morning to the sounds of Armenian music. During these Sea Days, there were Cultural Programs of Armenian interests.
Wednesday evening there was an Armenian dinner along with complimentary wine. After dinner there was an ACAA Gala Cocktail Party sponsored by Travel Group International and the ACAA Armenian Cruise committee.
Friday morning Barbara Haroutunian and her committee organized the Armenian Festival 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.
The island of Labadee is on the north coast of Haiti and is privately owned by Royal Caribbean. At the end of this beautiful island the area was reserved exclusively for the Armenian Heritage guests where we enjoyed Armenian music, beautiful beaches, and an Armenian lunch prepared by the ship.
Aruba is a gorgeous island full of colorful outdoor markets and historic sites. The day was spent relaxing and enjoying white sandy beaches or shopping in many of the Duty free stores. We are fortune to enjoy this Caribbean beauty every year.
Curacao is a sophisticated Dutch island 35 miles off the coast of Venezuela, with its candy colored buildings Curacao looked like tropical Holland. Between the natural beauty of this island and the colonial treasures of its historic capital, Curacao is perhaps one of the wealthiest Caribbean destinations.
Bonaire is a “diver’s paradise”, and almost every day is perfect for diving and snorkeling. The island sits just 11 degrees North of the equator, where the sun shines for nearly 12 hours a day and the temperatures are in the 80’s almost all year round.
Each day there were speeches and programs about relevant Armenian topics:
- Cosmic Ray Division in Armenia – Scientific Excellence on a Global Scale – Presented by Anahid Yeremian.
- Four Day War and Its Aftermath – Presented by Mary Matosian.
- Knights and Daughters of Vartan – a reception and presentation for the fraternal organization.
- ARS Tea Reception and Presentation
- Truth Held Hostage: America and the Armenian Genocide – What Then? What Now… – Presented by Ambassador John Evans.
- Armenian Business Networking Hour
- Current Armenian Situation in the Middle East – Presented by Serpazan Anoushavan Tanielian.
- Current Political Situation In Armenia and Karabagh – Presented by Dr. Antranig Kasbarian.
- Round Table Discussion – Armenia and Artsakh – Moderated by Dr. Raffi Hovanessian, Ambassador John Evans, and Dr. Antranig Kasbarian.
In 1997, it began as a dream and 20 years later it is one of the most thrilling vacations of a lifetime! Armenian Heritage Cruise is about reaching new heights with the buzz and bustle of unparalleled entertainment, visiting beautiful islands, and relaxing on pristine beaches. The Armenian cruise is about fun and culture, and on the ship Armenians from all over the world stand together as one group and ONE NATION.
The Armenian Heritage Cruise strives to bring Armenians from all over the world together for a week of cultural, educational, religious, charitable organizations and activities on the national and international level for the betterment of the Armenian nation and people worldwide. The ACAA is a registered Armenian 501 © 3 , non-profit corporation and donations are tax deductable that primarily assist in cultural activities, research on Armenian topics, grants to Armenian newspapers, publications, internships, depository guardian of the original governmental archives of the first Armenian Republic of 1918 and other Historic Armenian National documents. From all over the United States, dedicated individuals have volunteered to work on this fabulous event. We put aside our political and religious differences and come together as ARMENIANS to support one nation, one people and one purpose – “A Free and Independent Armenia”. We look forward to seeing you on Armenian Heritage Cruise XXI 2018, sailing January 20-28, 2018 aboard the beautiful Royal Caribbean’s – FREEDOM OF THE SEAS, sailing to St. Kitts, St. Maarten, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Royal Caribbean’s private island of Labadee.
Join us next year and you are sure to enjoy a “Hye Adventure” on the “Hye Seas” like no other in the Carribean. Enjoy this unique experience of a lifetime on “THE ORIGINAL ARMENIAN CRUISE”, where the Armenian spirit comes alive on the Caribbean Sea. For reservations and information about Armenian Heritage Cruise XXI contact Travel Group International at 866-447-0750.
COMMENTS FROM A FEW PLEASED PASSENGERS:
“I have always wanted to go on the Armenian Heritage Cruise and finally I joined all of my friends and bought a ticket. From the first day to the last day of our cruise, everything was very well organized. I was amazed that every night there was a variety of programs, dances and educational lectures. I can’t wait to be back again next year.” Shake Tokmanian (Glendale, California)
“What a magnificent cruise, and “Hats Off” to you, your committee members and staff for all the hard work in putting on this annual event. It only seems to get better and better each year. We were entertained with concerts, comedians, dances and ice skating. We also had some thought provoking lectures as well. It has proven to be a relaxing time of the year to spend quality time with friends from across the country and even from our own back yards. We look forward to joining you next year, or can we do it twice a year? Keep up the good work, because you know, given the opportunity, AREMENIANS LOVE TO PARTY ON! God willing, see you next year.” The Garakians (Los Angeles, California)
“This year I had the pleasure of being part of the 20th Anniversary of the Armenian Heritage Cruise. I did not know what to expect as I am an Armenian from Sydney. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderfully organized cruise. Not only did we enjoy the beautiful islands but also all the wonderful Armenians we met from all over the word. Every night was a party and we sang and danced and had a ball. I made memories that I will not forget. I recommend to every Armenian who has the opportunity to take this cruise, as it takes you back to your roots. I would like to congratulate the committee for a job well done. Vartzgudt Gadar!” Tamar Kelleyan (Sydney, Australia)
“I came on the “AHC” with my husband Vardges and we were surprised to see so many Armenians from so many countries from all over the world greeting their friends from previous cruises. On every corner of the ship we could hear the Armenian language. We attended wonderful lectures, concerts and in the evening saw how Armenians from different countries dance. I was able to meet people who were on the cruise for the 20th time. Every activity on the “AHC” cruise supports with confidence that Armenians are alive and will continue to live and prosper.” Roza Harutyunyan and Vardges Babyan (Yerevan, Armenia)
“This is my second time I’m sailing with the “AHC” coming all the way from Lebanon. I truly enjoyed the various programs on medical and political issues, and above all the great cultural events. This was the result of the hard work of the committee. When I go back to Lebanon, I will cherish the memorable time we spent together making new friends from different backgrounds. I would like to congratulate the organizing committee members for such a successful achievement. God Bless!” Aline Kayianjian Ohanian (Beirut, Lebanon)
“1300 happy, joyous, festive and boisterous Armenians in the midst of a tropical paradise. What could be better?” Hagop and Aida Dakessian (Jackson, Michigan)