Welcome to Catalyst

Welcome to Catalyst, Celebrity Cruises’ home for exploring modern lifestyles from across the globe.

With Catalyst we share what inspires the things that are uniquely Celebrity, inviting our readers to escape their everyday and explore with us.

Here, we’ll post news, features, and tips from topics as varied as food, shopping, fitness, and culture. Catalyst will feature the voices of global opinion leaders, accomplished journalists, past guests, and the well-traveled Celebrity Cruises crew.

Celebrity’s mission is to help all travelers, adventure enthusiasts, and culture-seekers—not just our guests —learn about the ways people live and travel around the world. We encourage you to return to Catalyst regularly to look for the next feature that will serve as inspiration for your next adventure.

We’d also love to hear from you. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ or share your thoughts in the comment section below.

"Angkor Wat" by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Angkor Wat” by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to Google Maps, we have spawned a new generation of “digitals tourists” who like to “visit” faraway beaches, temples and mountains… From their living-room couch. The world, however, is ripe with incredible sites and wonders that lose their splendor if not see in in person and one such structure is Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the world, sitting proudly in Siem Reap, the country’s northern region.

Built by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the mid-12th century for Vishnu, the Supreme God of Vaishnavism (one of the three main sects of Hinduism), Angkor Wat is actually just one of a collection of structures at the 154-square-mile Angkor Archaeological Park, which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992. A prime example of religiously-minded Khmer architecture, the laterite and sandstone structure features over 3,000 unique apsaras, or heavenly nymphs, carved into the walls as well as numerous episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. A sprawling space, Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and features three concentric enclosures, the innermost of which ascends to a central tower. Four gates, which show off elaborate carvings of mythological battles as well as the Khmer court, allow passage in and out.

Our top tips for visiting Angkor Wat:

1. To beat the crowds (several million tourists visit the site every year), be sure to arrive at the temple as early as possible
2. Consider visiting during a Cambodia’s non-peak season in April to October (though May and June are particularly hot, wet and unpleasant).
3. Hire a tuk-tuk, or auto-rickshaw, driver for the day, and ask his advice for the best route around the temple.

Cruisers slated to sail aboard the Celebrity Millennium or Celebrity Century can book a pre-cruise “Essence of Cambodia” cruise tour to see many of the above country highlights. Have you and your family sailed with Celebrity to Angkor Wat? What was the most incredible thing you saw? How did you feel to be in the presence of such historic greatness?  We would love to hear from you! Please share your pictures and memories with us via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Don’t forget to add the hashtags #CelebrityCruises, #CelebrityAngkorWat, #CelebrityAsia, and #CalebrityCambodia so we can join your conversation.

Celebrity Cruises and Canyon Ranch

(This post originally appeared on Celebrity Cruises’ UK blog, Celebrity Life.)

In need of some spoiling? A holiday in the sun gives you the chance to escape the stresses of work, and is the perfect time to unwind with a little TLC. There are many luxurious treatments available at our lavish Canyon Ranch Spa at Sea, just take your pick from our full range of wonderful massages and facials, and sit back and relax with our onboard spa specialists. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of our top five most luxurious treatments to enjoy.

Vitamin Infusion facial
This luxury treatment is great for when you want to make a big impression on your first night out onboard. During this 80-minute treatment your skin will be fortified with large doses of enriching vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. These added vitamins will increase your skin’s ability to resist damage from the Sun’s rays, and other environmental elements. Afterwards, your skin will be left feeling soft, supple and glowing.

Tension Zone Massage
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This highly effective shoulder and neck massage will relieve you of any tension you may have gained from the daily stresses of work and life back home. Your masseuse will employ a variety of techniques, and specific levels of pressure, to loosen any tight muscles around the neck and shoulder area, ensuring that you leave feeling light as a feather and like a brand new you.

Dry-No-More Scalp Treatment
If your hair is feeling dry and looking a little lifeless, be sure to spoil yourself with this wonderful treatment that promises to protect and moisturise your scalp, as well as revitalising your hair. Moroccan Oil is massaged into your hair to reduce scalp dryness and shield your hair follicles right from the root, leaving your beautiful tresses with a healthy appearance and silky feel. This is the perfect little luxury before a night out onboard with friends and family.

Environ Ultimate Vitamin Therapy
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Whether you want some help with a particular skin problem, or just want to feel revitalised, the Environ Ultimate Vitamin Therapy will leave you glowing. Our specialist therapists will work their magic to bring out your skin’s natural nutrients for visible results. This treatment also includes a medical-grade peel that promises to leave skin smoother, blemish free, as well as reducing fine lines and wrinkles. You’ll end your holiday looking, and feeling, younger!
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Recipe: Red Curry Duck

Red Curry Duck

While off-shore excursions may provide the most authentic Asian flavors of the continent’s many regions, Silk Harvest—a Celebrity Cruises specialty dining venue —offers our guests a genuine taste of the Orient, with signature dishes spanning Cantonese, Thai and Japanese favorites.

At Silk Harvest, the focus is on authenticity and freshness, which together help us create top-quality dishes from the Far East that our Captains Club and repeat guests will vouch for as some of the best at sea.  What’s more, many of the Silk Harvest staff were raised in the countries that inspired us and they love being able to showcase the cuisine they grew up eating and sharing with their own families.

There are many popular plates at Silk Harvest; however one that we receive many requests for is the Duck Red Curry, which is today’s featured recipe on Catalyst.

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Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Malaysia is a feast for the senses—incredibly tasty cuisine, lively street culture, world-renowned entertainment, and first-class events—that excites all who visit here. There is always something new to experience on a trip to Mayalsia, but a favorite amongst our Celebrity Cruises crew who regularly sail here is the annual Hari Merdeka celebration.

Every August 31, Malaysia celebrates the day it became independent from British colonial rule in 1957. The national holiday, is attended by thousands of Malaysians and tourists alike, is a heady mix of patriotism and partying for young and old alike, featuring beautiful dances, patriotic singing, and delightful flag ceremonies.

The highlight of the holiday is the Hari Merdeka parade, which is usually held at Merdeka Square in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.  (Merdeka Square is where Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, chanted the word “Merdeka” seven times as the British Union Jack was lowered and the new Malaysian flag was raised.)

Malaysia’s king, queen, prime minister and cabinet members all attend the Hari Merdeka parade, as do government and military officials. The day begins with the arrival of the sovereigns, as the national anthem “Negaraku” is played. Next is the Royal Inspection of the gathered battalions, followed by a flag raising, gun salute and recitation of the “Rukunegara,” or National Principles. The cultural performances and float-filled parade round out the celebrations.

Have you sailed to Malaysia with Celebrity? Have you experienced the Hari Merdeka celebrations? We would love to hear from you! Please share your pictures and memories with us via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Don’t forget to add the hashtags #CelebrityCruises, #CelebrityMalaysia, #CelebrityAsia, and #HariMerdeka so we can join your conversation.

Cruisers interested in adding a trip to Malaysia should check out Celebrity’s Asia cruises for the rest of 2014 and 2015.

Today is the 225th anniversary of Bastille Day, or Fête National, which is France’s annual national holiday. Le Quatorze Juillet commemorates the start of the French Revolution as a tribute to the demonstrators who stormed Paris’ Bastille prison on July 14, 1789 and led to the creation of a constitutional republic.

If you’re not in France, it may be hard to take part in the country’s annual military parade down the Champs Elysees, fireworks displays above the Eiffel Tower and ubiquitous firemen’s balls. However, no matter where in the world you are, you sure to find an opportunity to celebrate the holiday with parties now held in England, Belgium, Hungary, South Africa, French Polynesia, Canada, Vietnam and more.

In the United States, cities all over the country are holding regional event with New Orleans leading the party tally–the city is planning countless events, including concerts, waiters races and the traditional Council of French Societies wreath laying ceremony at the Statue of Jeanne d’Arc in the French Market. In Washington D.C. the French bakery, Paul, will hosts its fourth annual Bastille Day Baguette Relay Race, whereby participants pass off baguettes instead of batons, at the U.S. Navy Memorial. Celebrations are also being held in Dallas, Texas, where the “Bastille on Bishop” street festival will take over the district of Oak Cliff. (According to the New York Times, the area around Oak Cliff was once home to a 1200-acre utopian community for French-speaking colonists.)

For travelers interested in experiencing Bastille Day the authentic way next year, Celebrity’s Xfinity offers a number of summer sailings that begin their journeys from Le Havre (Paris).

 

 

Landmarks to Visit: Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

The fifth largest city in the Americas, Lima is a melting pot of cultures that mixes ancient traditions with cosmopolitan modernity. Boasting a vibrant nightlife and restaurants that are widely considered to be some of the best in South America, Lima is also your gateway to the most visited site in all of Peru, the world-famous mountaintop city of Machu Picchu.

“Discovered” by the American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu has become an iconic remnant of the ancient Incan Empire. Historians estimate the mighty Incas built the limestone-heavy site in the 15th or 16th century as a royal estate or sacred religious site. It was likely abandoned when the Spanish conquistadors began invading the region. The site, which stands 2,430 meters above sea level, consists of over 200 structures that remained untouched for thousands of years.

In addition to being the site of now famous ruins, Machu Picchu is also home to numerous endangered and threatened species, such as the neotropical otter and the dwarf brocket, as well as specialized vegetation like the “Puna” grasslands and Polylepis thickets. Furthermore, the South American attraction was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and claimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Today, Machu Picchu still possesses an undeniable air of mythology and mysticism, with its original purpose still shrouded in debate and mystery. But what we do know for sure is that, for the people who journey there, Machu Picchu is an unforgettable memory.

Celebrity cruisers can include an off-board excursion to Machu Picchu onboard the Xpedition.

Galapagos Island tours

It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since Celebrity Cruises first began taking guests to the Galapagos Islands. The interest in the archipelago of islands nestled in the Pacific Ocean, is ever-growing, and, without a doubt, the island’s animals—which Charles Darwin first began observing in the 1830s—are among the island’s top attractions. Tucked away from suburban sprawl and urban growth, the islands’ native wildlife have no natural fear of humans, which allows you to approach—and observe—them at very close range.

Here, we present a few of the remarkable creatures you are sure to see when visiting the Galapagos:

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra)

Endemic to seven of the islands, the Galapagos tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise in the world and the official symbol of the Galapgos islands. Averaging more than four feet in length and weighing in excess of five hundred pounds, the life span of these gentle giants is over one hundred years.

Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)
The only penguin living north of the equator, the Galapagos penguin is found primarily on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela. The reason the penguins can survive amongst the islands is the cool water temperatures brought to the region by both the Humboldt and Cromwell currents.

Darwin’s Finches
The Galapagos is home to an amazing thirteen different species of finches, with the most important differences between them being the size and shape of their beaks, which vary based on the assorted food sources on each of the islands.

A Galapagos Marine Iguana

A Galapagos Marine Iguana

Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)
Found on all of the Galapagos Islands, the marine iguana lives and forages in the sea, which is a unique quality for a lizard, and typically lives on the rocky Galapagos shores where they can often be spotted sunning themselves. The iguanas vary by size, depending on the islands they inhabit; the largest iguanas are found on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela—the smallest on the island of Genovesa.

Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki)
One of the most numerous species in the Galapagos, they are often spotted sun bathing on sandy beaches, dozing on rocky outcroppings, or gliding through the surf. Their loud bark, playful nature, and graceful agility in the water make the Galapagos Sea Lion the “welcoming party” of the islands and a favorite photography subject.

Swallow-Tailed Gull (Creagrus furcatus)
This member of the gull family spends the majority of its life flying and hunting over the open ocean and is most common on the eastern islands where the water is warmer. The swallow-tailed gull also holds the distinction of being the only fully nocturnal gull, preying on squid and small fish, which rise to the ocean surface at night to feed on plankton.

A blue-footed booby

A blue-footed booby

Blue-Footed Booby (Sula nebouxii)
Perhaps the most recognizable bird that inhabits the Galapagos, the blue-footed booby’s signature feature is its bright blue feet, which males as part of their elaborate mating call, during which they lift them up and down while strutting about in front of the female they’ve set their eye on.

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
Sometimes called Man of War birds, both the magnificent and great frigatebirds are related to pelicans. A good portion of their diet is obtained by stealing food from other seabirds, as well as snatching seabird chicks. With long wings, tails, and bills, the most prominent feature on the male of the species is its bright red pouch that is inflated during the breeding season to attract a mate.

 

 

Alaska Whale Sighting

Brent Nixon, the esteemed naturalist and guest speaker, will be sailing on select Celebrity Solstice cruises to Alaska this summer, giving specialized talks to guests about whales packed with information about each species’ social structure, feeding habits and preferred environment.

A former military instructor who’s taught classes on wilderness and high-altitude survival for more than 30 years, Nixon is also an expert about a number of species including bears, kangaroos, crocodiles and sea otters, and has given over 1,500 nature presentations throughout the course of his career.

Now based in the Cashmere/Leavenworth valley of Washington State, Nixon spends roughly 40% of his year guest speaking for Celebrity Cruises, public schools and community groups all over the country and the world.

We recently caught up with Brent to talk about his experiences and partnership with Celebrity cruises.

How did you begin giving nature talks?

I use to be a green beret instructor for the military and taught survival in jungle, desert and high-altitude cold weather environments. Eventually, I moved to Juneau, Alaska and started working for the Tongass National Forest, where I greeted cruise ships when they visited Juneau. I was appalled at the number of lies the crew members were telling about the animals of Alaska and decided to send letters to the various cruise companies suggesting ways to fix this. I have been working with cruise companies since 1982 trying to get the story right!

What subject are people most interested in hearing about?

There are a variety of interests—it really differs according to the crowd. In Alaska, one of my most popular shows is about brown and black bears because so many people are hoping to see a bear in the wild. My humpback whale show is also very popular because we are able to see whales from the cruise ships throughout coastal Alaska and British Columbia. In the Southern Hemisphere, my penguin show is extremely popular. If there was one show that defines me, it would be my orca, or killer whale, show.

Has the controversial documentary “Blackfish,” which is about SeaWorld keeping orcas in captivity, increased interest in your whale talks?

Oh yes, the number of requests has gone through the roof. Now, I have requests to do over 400 shows a year just on that topic. Normally, I would do 50 or 60 shows a year about orcas, but “Blackfish” has definitely increased the demand for information about orcas. And that’s just fine by me, because I’ve been fascinated by orcas since I was 12. I love how outrageously smart and culturally astute they are.

Are there any animals you don’t give talks about?

Jacques Cousteau once told me, ‘Never talk about sharks, because then the people will never ask you about anything else.” The other subject I avoid is dinosaurs. No sharks or dinosaurs—but I’ll talk about whales all day!

 

BBQ Glazed Chilean Sea Bass

Fourth of July menus are typically dominated by burgers, potato salad and corn on the cob, and for good reason. Such offerings are tasty and traditionally Americana in spirit. This year, however, consider elevating your Independence Day spread with a barbecue-glazed sea bass. The dish, which is served at Celebrity’s Main Restaurant, lends a fresh seafood twist to the all-American smokey barbecue flavors that’s always a pleasant surprise to cookout guests. Can’t find Chilean Sea Bass? The sauce works similarly well with other meaty white fish, such as Halibut or Monkfish; it also is a great way to liven up grilled shrimp.

On the ship, we serve the dish with a mashed potato and garnishes but there’s no need for all the accompaniments when serving this updated take on barbecue at your July 4th celebration. Instead, try pairing with a great German Potato Salad, a traditional coleslaw or—more healthy—Claremont Diner Salad (also known as Health Salad), or any of your family’s most popular sides.

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Ready for some fireworks, hot dogs and happy reunions with friends and/ or family? As usual, many of the country’s major cities are pulling out all the stops to celebrate the popular national holiday, which will mark America’s 238th birthday this year, as well as the 200th anniversary of ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ which was penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814.

For those you who can’t celebrate with Celebrity or at the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Fourth of July Spectacular this coming Friday, here are a few other July Fourth celebrations we recommend checking out.

Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks

Macy’s isn’t just known for its Thanksgiving Day parades. The famed department store also puts on one heck of a fireworks show in New York City every summer, and this year will be no exception. Situated on the East River, the 38th annual concert and fireworks show—which will air live on NBC starting at 8 p.m. EST—will light up the Brooklyn Bridge and its surroundings. The evening’s musical guests will include Lionel Ritchie, Ariana Grande, Enrique Iglesias and Miranda Lambert—an artist for every age and genre.

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular
Conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops lend their Fourth of July celebration some old-school flair via their musical selections. This year, the Beach Boys, Broadway star Megan Hilty, principals from a new production of “Phantom of the Opera,” and the Boston Children’s Chorus will join the first-class orchestra to sing Bostonians along to the 10:30 p.m. EST kickoff for fireworks along the Charles River. The concert will stream on CBSBoston.com and BostonPopsJuly4th.org if you are unable to make the festivities in person.

A Capitol Fourth
Representing the nation’s capital city, Washington DC is offering up a star-studded music and fireworks show that include performances by Frankie Valli, Patti Labelle, the Muppets, “American Idol” alumni Phillip Phillips and Jordin Sparks, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Joint Armed Forces Chorus and many more, with fireworks that will be visible all along the National Mall. Presented by
TV host Tom Bergeron, the show will be broadcast live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Philly’s Fourth of July Jam Concert and Grand Finale Fireworks
Not to be outdone by DC, Philadelphia—our country’s first temporary capital—is putting on a pretty glitzy concert and fireworks spectacular itself. Starting at roughly 8 p.m., The Roots, Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson and more will be belting out a stream of hits before the 10:30 p.m. fireworks finale lights up the sky above the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Billed as the “Largest Free Concert in America,” the Jam will be simulcast on VH1 and live-streamed at PhillyJam.VH1.com and on the VH1 App.

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular
Over on the West Coast, Los Angelenos can celebrate the Fourth with Steve Martin, who will be performing at the Hollywood Bowl with Edie Brickell, the Steep Canyon Rangers and the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West. The festivities begin at 7:30 p.m. PT.

Happy Birthday, America!

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