Arta Kjato

Arta Kjato knows a thing or two about kids. As the Youth Program Manager aboard the Celebrity Summit, Arta is responsible for planning activities and events to entertain our younger guests, including Celebrity Cruises’ excursions. When brainstorming the next great event and adventure, Arta says she finds inspiration in “life itself.”

“I find inspiration every day,” says Arta, who has been with Celebrity Cruises for several years. “I consider myself very lucky to have a job which I love and am truly blessed to have a healthy and happy family who love and support me.”

We recently caught up with Arta to talk about her job, her funniest moments and her favorite places to travel.

What activity do kids enjoy the most?

This definitely varies based on the ages of the kids. Older children always enjoy activities more when they are given the freedom to do things on their own, such as scavenger hunts or other challenges that require teamwork and “figuring out” correct solutions. The younger kids love a balance between “hands on” activities, like arts and crafts, and sports and family challenges.

What’s the funniest moment you can remember while working with Celebrity?

Since I work with kids, every day is a comedy in and of itself. One recent moment that stands out in particular was a “Pajama Jam Night.” Because I love connecting with the kids, I wore an overall monkey pajama set, with the tail and all! Of course, as I was waiting in the crew area in my PJs, I ran into the Chief Security Officer who said, “I really don’t want to know.” His reaction made me laugh a lot, especially now that I’ve been on board for six months, they’re used to seeing me all dressed up.

Later that same night, I went down to the Guest Relations Desk to finish an errand—still in my outfit—and came across a guest that was waiting for assistance. When she saw me, she yelled out towards the desk, “So now you are sending the giant mouse to help me out?!”

I enjoy making people laugh and love, especially when I can do it for our guests and my fellow crew members.

What do you do when you’re not working on a ship?

Most of the time I just want to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends. I love to take them out and spoil them or travel together. I also enjoy cooking, remodeling the house and garden, driving and sleeping in late. Just some things that I miss while onboard.

What’s your favorite place to travel to?

Working for Celebrity has opened my eyes and heart to many new experiences and ways of seeing the world. I have been almost everywhere. For crew members like me, a normal contract means you can literally make a circle around the globe, come back to where you started, and then fly home.

A place that I would like to go back to is Sydney, Australia. The energy that flows through that city and the feeling that overtakes you the moment you step off the ship there is absolutely amazing. Everyone should visit Sydney at least once in their life. Did I mention that we dock right next to the Sydney Opera House?

President's CruiseLast month, Celebrity Cruises’ President and CEO Michael Bayley, hosted an exclusive party on board the Celebrity Equinox 7-night Mediterranean cruise from Rome to Barcelona. The indulgent affair was held in Bolgheri, a medieval Tuscan village .

A select number of Captain’s Club guests were invited to wine and dine at the luxurious event where local groups provided traditional open-air entertainment ,to demonstrate the village’s rich cultural legacy, while historical reenactments proffered a glimpse at 15-century Tuscan life. To enhance the experience, the village was closed to the public during the event, so Celebrity guests had full V.I.P. access to the town’s delightful shops and restaurants,.

“The evening in Bolgheri was wonderful, the food delicious and the atmosphere was enchanting!” commented guest Kelley White Hawkins, who attended with her husband. “Thank you, Celebrity, for this special event!”

For more highlights from this special Tuscan event , check out our Facebook photo album, filled with highlights of the party .

If you want to plan your own Tuscan adventure, be sure to see our top travel tips.

The next President’s Cruise will be on Celebrity Century, leaving Singapore on March 8, 2015. Want to plan something further ahead? All special event cruises are listed in the Captain’s Club section of the Celebrity Cruises website.

FlorenceTuscany is always a favorite destination for travelers to Europe who are lured by the promise of fabulous food, delicious wines, beautiful countrysides and stunning Renaissance art. Indeed, it’s no wonder that this corner of the earth has inspired artists for centuries. With feasts promised for all the senses, here’s our top tips for what to see, do and taste while you spend your days Under the Tuscan Sun.

The Tuscan Seaside

Tuscany, has some of the most beautiful seaside towns across Italy, but one of our favorites is Forte Del Marni. Long stretches of beach framed by dazzling blue seas and a stunning mountain backdrop make this the perfect spot to kick back and enjoy a delicious scoop of gelato.

When we’re looking for a little more activity, however, we like to head to the nearby town of Pietrasanta . Since the 15th century, Pietrasanta has inspired writers and artists, including the great master, Michelangelo, who patronized this very spot to source superior marble for his statues. While you’re here, we encourage you to stop by Locanda di Bruno for a delicious Italian meal and some of the best homemade focaccia we’ve ever tasted.

The Tuscan Mountains

If you love to be out in the fresh air, experiencing the great outdoors, then you’ll love the mountainous regions of Tuscany. Mount Amiata, a dormant volcano, is a great place for long hikes and horseback riding, Alternatively, you might want to take some time to enjoy the mountains of Pistoia, a stunning area that is one of our favorite picturesque picnic stops during the summer.

If you’ve worked up an appetite from hiking through the hills, be sure to enjoy the “Tuscan Chocolate Valley,” a collection of chocolatiers located between the Pisa, Pistoia and Prato areas of Italy. Also in the region is Slitti, an award-winning coffee and chocolate shop in Pistoia—locals are crazy about their candied orange peel dipped in rich, dark chocolate. (So are we.)

The Tuscan Countryside

Picture a Tuscan countryside, and your mind will no doubt wander to the lush vineyards of Chianti. If this is the case for you, we recommend heading to Radda, which is interesting for its rustic churches, castles and rolling hills of green and gold, alone. But the piece de la resistance of this medieval town is undoubtedly Castello di Monterinaldi, a truly Tuscan vineyard.

If, like us, you couldn’t resist picking up a bottle (or a case) of the delicious Chianti you sampled, you might like to pair it with the region’s remarkable cheeses. If this is the case, make your way over to Pienza, in Val d’Orcia, where you’ll get to enjoy the mouth-watering local cheeses amidst a stunning, forested wilderness.

Where in Tuscany do you want to visit?

LaConcepcion Canary IslandsAs much of the U.S. becomes drenched in heat and humidity this month, it might be time to consider a refreshing trip to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The Canary Island’s largest city has the best climate in the world (it’s scientifically proven!) and boasts a full spectrum of terrains, ranging from tropical forests and sunny beaches, to dry deserts and snow-capped mountains..

Located roughly 90 miles from the coast of Africa, Las Palmas—the hometown of Oscar-nominated Spanish actor Javier Bardem—is an exotic mix of Spanish and Moorish cultures. The city’s distinctive cultural history is reflected in its traditional dishes, which include carajacas, a roasted or fried liver dish, papas arrugadas con mojo, potatoes in a “mojo” sauce, and sancocho, a local fish stew that’s a well-reputed hangover cure.

So, with just 24 hours in Las Palmas, what must you see and do? We asked our trusted friends—the editors of Travel + Leisurefor their top three recommendations to share with you:

Las Canteras Beach

This golden stretch of sand, backed by glittering high-rises, is just a few blocks from the cruise terminal. Join locals paddle boarding on the placid ocean or take a turn at snorkeling around La Barra, a rocky reef formation that lies just off the shore and is known to attract hundreds of vibrant fish species.

Canary Islands Museum

Quickly familiarize yourself with the Canary Islands’ early history at this comprehensive museum. The exhibits, which are divided among 11 rooms, are loaded with artifacts such as ceramic vessels, religious idols, wooden tools, and a model dwelling that help to recount the timespan between 500 B.C. and the 15th century, when the archipelago was colonized by the Castilians.

Canarian Garden

To put together this grand garden just outside of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Swedish botanist Eric Sventenius visited every Canary Island and collected tree and flower specimens from each of them. Today, ambling paths cut through a jungle of exotic plants, each one representing a piece of the archipelago’s natural history.

Plan your Canary Islands cruise on Celebrity today and see Las Palmas for yourself!

Cruising to Cartagena, Colombia

Photo by pedrosz | Flickr cc

Pulsating with a rich history, exuding modern charm, and emanating an ambiance that can only be described as magical, Cartagena (pronounced Car-ta-hay-na), Colombia, has seen a reawakening of its spirit. Once described as a city “unchanging on the edge of time” by Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cartagena was recently dubbed Latin America’s “hippest secret” by the New York Times, thanks to what National Geographic Traveler is dubbing the city’s “colonial chic” amenities.(Link?) Within the confines of the city’s sun-and-salt-bleached walls, the cobblestone streets are alive with an intoxicating blend of color, rhythm, and romance that radiates from the historic center and out to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Upon Arrival

Ships dock on Manga Island, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Here, visitors can marvel at some of the world’s finest emeralds in the terminal’s man-made cave, complete with emerald veins and the aroma of Colombian soil. A free shuttle runs from the dock to the port gates, where taxis and buses are available to take guests into the center of town. Best explored by foot, Old City Cartagena is reminiscent of many storied towns in Spain and Italy, with winding cobbled streets and numerous plazas.

When approaching the Port of Cartagena, be sure to take in the splendid views of the mighty forts of San Jose and San Fernando. These 18th-century white-stone strongholds once protected the entrance to Cartagena Bay from plundering pirates.

Ten minutes south of Old City lies the Bocagrande Peninsula, a modern neighborhood complete with high-rise buildings, luxury hotels, and resort-owned beaches. Here, the Pierino Gallo Shopping Plaza is the premier location to purchase leather goods, world-famous Colombian emeralds, and coffee.

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IMG_4826Janelle Monae, Robyn, Röyksopp, The National, OutKast and Icona Pop are just some of the big names performing at this year’s Way Out West Festival in Gotheneberg, Sweden. Meanwhile, the festival itself will be buoyed by Stay Out West, which sees after-hour gigs popping up at clubs around the city throughout the fest’s duration, between August 7-9. As such, the eighth WOWFest promises to expand on both the musical firepower and sustainable settings seen in previous years. After all, this is a music festival that is now known as much for its line-ups as it is for its environmentally friendly mission.

First launched in 2007, the Way Out West Festival, or WOW Fest, is a perfect retreat for international fans looking for good music in an eco-friendly setting. Indeed, WOW’s central mission—all parties working in concert to preserve the environment—is the festival’s driving force and is why all vendors are required to work with an eco-friendly approach, and use only organic products that are both fairly produced and transparently labeled. In addition, all seasonally appropriate food must be locally produced without chemical additives.

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Hundred Foot Journey Recipe

Photo Courtesy of DreamWorks

In The Hundred-Foot Journey, which opens this Friday, Helen Mirren stars as Madame Mallory, the proprietress of a Michelin-starred French restaurant who tries to drive away the Indian eatery that opens down the street.

In a turn of events, Madame learns to respect the talented young, home-taught Indian chef, Hassan Kadam (played by Manish Dayal), and eventually takes him under her wing. The result is a feel-good tale of cultures clashing before ultimately colliding into friendship, and is accompanied by a visual smörgåsbord of classic French dishes infused with Indian spices and spirit—think beef Bourguignon reimagined with cumin and ginger—that whet the appetite and the mind.

Though all the restaurants featured in “The Hundred-Food Journey” exist only in celluloid or on the page (the film is based on Richard S. Morais’s 2010 novel of the same name), the film’s producers brought in consultants to make sure all the actors could pass for authentic cooks. Meanwhile, Floyd Cardoz, the former executive chef at New York’s North End Grill, created all the dishes seen on screen.

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Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

What does it take to be revered as Scotland’s largest and most popular event? Forty-five steel drummers, 40 Shetland fiddlers and 35 Zulu warriors will all play integral parts in this year’s 65th annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Scotland’s premiere musical event. This year, the cultural extravaganza—which runs from August 1 – 23 at the Esplanade of the Edinburgh Castle—will revolve around the theme of “Our Home, Friends and Family,” in honor of the Year of Homecoming.

Tattoo organizers say they have put together the largest gathering of pipes and drums in some time. They also coordinated over a hundred highland dancers and all three Scottish Royal Marine Bands to give the 220,000-strong audience a vibrant showcase of folkloric dance displays, historical re-enactments and military demonstrations. In total, musicians and performers from nearly 50 countries will perform to create a momentous event that will be televised in more than 30 countries to roughly 100 million audience viewers worldwide.

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Paul BayaPaul Baya, Celebrity Cruises’ Cruise Director, has been working on the high seas for almost two decades. Originally from Westchester County in New York, Paul attended Lynchburg College in Virginia, where he majored in communications and minored in theater performance. Though he’s appeared on shows such as “Regis and Kelly,” Paul now considers the ship his stage.

We recently spoke to Paul about what inspired him to become a part of the Celebrity Cruises team, his funniest onboard memories and more.

What inspired you to become a Cruise Director and work with Celebrity Cruises?

My inspiration to become a cruise director picked up pace over time since I started with the industry in the mid to late 90s. I love the CD position onboard; the interaction with the guests, surrounding myself in multiple facets of entertainment with some of the most talented and dedicated professionals on (and off) the high seas. I’ve always recognized Celebrity Cruises as a top leader in the cruise industry, and after over 10 years with another line, I wanted to raise the level of my career and be a part of new entertainment concepts. I feel as though I “graduated” up to Celebrity. I’m honored to be part of this exciting team.

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Bobby Flay Celebrity CruisesBobby Flay is no stranger to the James Beard Foundation. The American chef, restaurateur and media personality received the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award in 1993, was inducted into the Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2007 and co-hosted the James Beard Awards in 2008.

This past Saturday, Flay was able to add another James Beard award to his resume: honoree at Chefs & Champagne, the foundation’s annual summer tasting party at the Wolffer Estate Vineyard in the Hamptons. Flay’s award puts him in the company of previous winners Julia Child, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and more.

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