The Double Threat of Maria Ho: Premier Poker Player & World-Savvy Traveler

Maria Ho: World Traveler and World-Class Poker Player
Maria Ho: World Traveler and World-Class Poker Player

Maria Ho, who is currently ranked in the world’s top 3 best female poker players (she’s been last woman standing in two World Series of Poker finals) is also extremely well traveled, globe trotting on frequent trips to Europe, the Caribbean, and Australasia. However, you might know her best as a contestant on the 15th season of award-winning CBS show, The Amazing Race.

Born in Taiwan http://www.celebritycruises.com/destinations/ports/taipei, Maria moved to LA with her parents and sister at the age of 4. She attended the University of California at San Diego and received a degree in communication studies and a minor in law. It was then that she picked up poker, playing occasionally for fun with friends. After graduating, Maria moved back to Los Angeles and built enough confidence and skill set to pursue poker professionally. Taking the industry by storm just one year after launching her career, Maria played in The World Series of Poker and, in 2007 and was The Last Woman Standing, finishing 38th out of over 6,000 players. In 2011, she won the same title, finishing 27th at the World Series of Poker Europe main event, which—to date—makes her the first and only player to ever hold both titles at the 2 tournaments’ main events, which have earned her more than $1.6 million in the short course of her whirlwind career.

We recently caught up with Maria to discuss poker-playing prowess and world-class travel.

What would be your top 5 tips for poker playing novices?

  1. Study and apply yourself to the game. There is always something more to learn    about poker and tons of resources to help you become a great player.
  1. Be humble and realize there is always room for improvement. Be willing to honestly look at the holes in your game and correct them.

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Wanderlust: Gifts for the Internationally Minded Moms

CEL_EUR_Capri_Family_TH84157 (1)

Buying gifts for the people we love most can often be challenging—we want them to be thoughtful, personal, and demonstrative of our sentiments. Additional woes, such as purchasing a present for the person who has everything, traveled everywhere, and has discerning international tastes to boot, only serve to make the pursuit more difficult. So, with May around the corner, cue Mother’s Day-buying angst for so many of us who want to shower Mom with love, gratitude, and—of course—a gift she’ll cherish and enjoy. With this in mind, we’ve curated our favorite presents for the Moms out there with wanderlust.

 

The Food-Loving Mom

Try the World, $50 – $210

We’re a little bit smitten with this subscription box service that’ll bring Mom a taste of world travel right to her doorstep. Choose from a single stop, a “6-Month Journey,” or a “1-Year World Tour,” and Mom will receive a culinary expedition of six or seven signature delicacies selected by a celebrated chef from the “country of the month.”

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Benvenuto Expo Milano 2015: What To See at This Year’s Universal Exhibition

Screengrab courtesy of Expo Milano
Screengrab courtesy of Expo Milano

Celebrity guests headed to Italy this summer or fall should consider a detour to Milan where Andrea Bocelli will open Expo Milano 2015 on April 30. Running through October 31, the international fair will showcase technology from over 140 countries, and welcome over 20 million visitors. The historical city, which is home to majestic Gothic cathedral, the Duomo, and Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, previously hosted the Expo in 1906, when the show—which opened in conjunction with the opening of the Simplon Tunnel—was dedicated to transportation.

Participating countries will put forward their best cultural and technological ideas on this year’s timely theme, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, encouraging visitors to consider how we can continue to produce food safely and sufficiently. Exhibits include a 12-acre wheat field built near the city’s new Porta Nuova business district, and a “sustainable hub,” sponsored by Celebrity’s official coffee, Lavazza. With food being the central theme, Expo 2015 will also pay tribute to the best of each exhibiting country’s gastronomic traditions, including Italian specialties from Mario Batali’s American delicatessen chain Eataly, and frozen treats courtesy of the Gelato Festival.

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Packing for a Cruise: The Essentials

How can we help you?
How can we help you?

Packing for a cruise can intimidate even the most experienced of travelers because unlike “traditional” vacations, cruises have the prospect of “formal” and themed nights to contend with, thus vacationers are posed with the ultimate question: to pack, or not to pack, the tux or gown. What’s more, all clothing and travel items need to be packed into two suitcases, max. But worry not—cruise packing can actually be pretty stress-free; especially when you follow our top tips.

Wardrobe: Mix it Up

Most cruises feature both laidback and more formal dining options, so in addition to your casual attire—such as t-shirts, jeans, sundresses and shorts—you’ll also want to bring a set or two of dressier options for those nights when you want to take your evening up a notch. Tuxedo- and gown-averse guests needn’t worry—dark suits, or blazers with trousers will work just fine, as will contemporary nighttime looks for women. That said, should you wish to don cocktail attire, you’ll also feel right at home. Other essential items include a minimum of 2 bathing suits (so one will always be dry!), workout clothes, sun hats, sandals, and sunglasses. However, if you’re headed for a cooler region, you’ll also want to add a lightweight (but warm) coat, pieces you can layer, along with socks and suitable footwear.

Technology: Capturing the Memories

To help you remember every aspect of your trip, you undoubtedly want to pack a camera (or if you have a smartphone, a charger to make sure your device won’t let you down at the wrong moment!).

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Celebrity of the Moment: Srdjan Cetkovic, Chief Housekeeper

celebrity of the momentMeet Srdjan Cetkovic, Celebrity Cruises’ Chief Housekeeper and our current Celebrity of the Moment! We recently sat down with Srdjan, who has been with Celebrity Cruises for nine years, to talk about his favorite destinations and things to do on board the ships.

Q: How many ships have you sailed on? Do you have a favorite?

A: I have sailed on Century, Summit, Millennium and Equinox. I know it sounds cliché but I have learned, grown and had great experiences on all of them.

Q: What destination has been the most pleasant surprise for you? Why?

A: One of my greatest surprises was Scandinavia. I expected snow as far as the eye could see. Instead, I got beautiful towns, rolling hills and amazing nature with waterfalls, rivers and forests.

Q: How do you relax during your time off while onboard the ships?

A: Onboard we have a great gym for guests and crew. When possible, I do my best to keep fit by either going to the gym or swimming, if the beach is close by.

Q: What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned while working onboard Celebrity Cruises ships?

A: I’ve learned that hard work, passion and dedication to the job, as well as having Celebrity flair and style, will pay off and allow you to achieve your goals – both personal and professional.

Q: What do you notice guests don’t take enough advantage of?

A: With over 70 nationalities onboard, every one of our crewmembers have an amazing story and culture to share with our guests. We encourage our guests and crew to learn from each other. By the time your cruise is over, not only have you had a memorable experience, but you have also learned something about a different culture that you would have never known.

“Talk the Talk” with Cruise Lingo Mobile App

Cruise Lingo App

You’re dining in a restaurant on the Côte d’Azur and want to ensure your French server understands that you are allergic to shrimp, or maybe you’re visiting your company’s Tokyo office and want to greet your Japanese colleagues in their native tongue, or perhaps you are in Venice meeting a long-lost relative for the first time and you want to express your delight in Italian.

Although we tend to take it for granted that much of the world speaks adequate English, there are always certain moments while traveling—whether for work or pleasure—when you wish you spoke the language of the country you are visiting, even if just to say “thank you” or “hello.”

Thank goodness for modern technology! These days we are rarely without our smartphones, and with this in mind, we created the Cruise Lingo app, which enables you to communicate—no matter the country—like a pro. Indeed, the days of holding multiple language dictionaries, phrasebooks, calculators, currency convertor charts and translation guides are outdated and over, because now, there’s an app for that.

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Celebrity iLounge Gives the Rundown on Apple’s Keynote

celebrity ilounge

Celebrity Cruises shares a unique relationship with Apple, being the first Authorized Apple Specialist at sea. Our Celebrity iLounges—available on all ships except the Celebrity Century—offer a number of how-to tutorials, from organizing audio and digital books, to creating a website. The on-hand product specialists can advise on all Apple products, from iPods to MacBooks, and pretty soon, the Apple Watch, if Tuesday’s much anticipated Keynote by CEO Tim Cook in Cupertino, California is anything to go by. Here, our summary of what you have to look forward to… Coming to a Celebrity iLounge soon.

THE ONE WE WERE ALL WAITING FOR

What: iPhone 6

Confirmed: As expected—or hoped—Apple will soon be releasing the iPhone 6. Actually, to be more specific, the iPhone 6 ($199 on a 2-year contract for 16GB model) and the iPhone 6 Plus ($299 on a 2-year contract for 16GB model).

He said: “They are, without a doubt, the best iPhones we have ever done.”

What you need to know: The new iPhone 6, which will come in a choice of silver, gold or “space grey,” will be thinner and feature a bigger screen plus an operating system that is 50 times faster than the original iPhone. Other new features include: rounder edges, power button on side, new sensor, barometer, improved 8 mega-pixel camera, mobile calls over WiFi, iOS8, NFC for Apple Pay (see below).

When can you get your hands on it? Available for pre-order on September 12. Shipment starts September 19.

 

THE GROUNDBREAKER

What: Apple Pay

He said: “Wallet: Your days are numbered.”

What you need to know: This one was a surprise. ApplePay, the company’s new payments system, integrates with the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch to allow users to pay with a single touch, thanks to a technology called near-field communication. Apple said it had already signed deals with American Express, MasterCard and Visa—which along with banks represent 83% of all credit card payments volume—and the new payment system will be accepted at over 220,000 locations, including McDonalds, Whole Foods, Disney, Target, and Apple stores (of course). Uber and OpenTable have also put themselves up to be the proverbial ApplePay guinea pigs.

When? October. But only in the US, much to the chagrin of Asian and European consumers.

 

DO BELIEVE THE HYPE

What: Apple Watch

What he said: “We have one. More. Thing.” [Cue wild applause.]

What you need to know: This is the company’s first wearable device. The much speculated Apple watch features a flexible Retina display, a built-in heart monitor, wireless charging and select built in apps. What’s more, it can sense force as well as touch. Apple has designed a range of digital watch faces that can be combined with a choice of six different straps, including a sports band, which is both sweat and chemical resistant, a “leather classic buckle” designed to look like a traditional watch strap, and a stainless steel bracelet-style brand. The Apple Watch will launch with three collections, each of which comes in two sizes—the basic Apple Watch collection and the Sport collection, with a stronger case. For the ultimate Apple aficionado, there will also be the Apple Watch Edition: “Made from an 18-carat gold” that’s been developed to be up to twice as hard as standard gold.

When can you get your hands on one? We have been promised an early 2015 release date.

How much? Starting from “just” $349, said Cook.

 

With so many new Apple devices hitting stores in the next few months, we’re certain our Celebrity iLounges will be filled with passengers looking for tutorials and advice come this fall—and we will be on hand to welcome you in with open arms.

Celebrity of the Moment: Paul Baya, Cruise Director

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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Explaining Sailing to Young, Wary Travelers

XBox Celebrity CruisesEarlier this month we received an e-mail from Loring Mandel. Mr. Mandel is proud member of our Captain’s Club – and just happens to be an Emmy-winning screenwriter and accomplished playwright.

Mandel has planned a family vacation to sail aboard Celebrity Constellation, but the 86-year-old self-proclaimed “older sailor” found that young members of his family were anxious for their journey in a very different way than he was. He took to writing as a way to ease their nerves and penned “The Magical Hotel.” This children’s book goes to explain a cruise ship as simply a hotel that laughs at time and confounds geography.

An eight-year-old family member was so moved by the pictures and story that Mandel was kind enough to share his work with our Captain’s Club Desk, in the hopes that his work could help inspire confidence in future young people before the travel the seas.

Find his words below, and additionally we took the liberty to further illustrate the book and create a free downloadable PDF. Feel free to print and share as you would like, and even if you don’t share with a child, we quite like Mr. Mandel’s whimsical view of sailing as adults.

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