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.

Continue reading “The Double Threat of Maria Ho: Premier Poker Player & World-Savvy Traveler”

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.”

Continue reading “Wanderlust: Gifts for the Internationally Minded Moms”

Volvo Ocean Race Docks at Abu Dhabi for New Years

Courtesy of Ocean Volvo Race
Courtesy of Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi will be the place to be for New Years Day. The city will play host to the Volvo Ocean Race, a crewed international yacht race that only takes every three years, this December through January. Previously known as the Whitbread Round the World Race, the competition spans four oceans, five continents, nine legs, 11 ports and 38,739 nautical miles—hence the event’s nickname: “The Everest of Sailing.” Like Formula One races, competitors are awarded points based on their finishing order in each leg of the competition. The team with the highest number of points is

This year’s race started in Alicante, Spain on October 4, 2014 and will finish in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27, 2015. Seven teams  are currently racing around the world for the top prize, including Team SCA—the first all-female team to participate since 2001-02—and Team Alvimedica, skippered by 29-year-old Brown University alumnus Charlie Enright. Vestas Wind, the Danish team, is currently lagging behind after crashing  into a reef in the Indian Ocean.

To celebrate the race’s next stopover in Abu Dhabi, marking the end of the second of nine legs, the city has planned a 23-day celebration running from Friday, Dec. 12, 2014 to Saturday, January 3, 2015. Events range from a concert performance of the BBC’s nature series “Blue Planet, as accompanied by award-winning conductor George Fenton and the 75-piece National Symphony Orchestra, as well as animals talks about turtles and falcons.

From Abu Dhabi, the sailors will set course for Sanya, China and Auckland, New Zealand, where similar celebration are planned.

 

 

Getting Your Maple Syrup On in Quebec City

Maple Candy

Quebec City is one of the few cities in the world where maple syrup may run in Québécois’ veins instead of blood. Canada produces over 80% of the world’s pure maple sugar—with the province of Quebec contributing to 91% of this production—and the process has become an integral part of the city’s culture and economy. Today, Canadian maple syrup is exported to roughly 50 countries, with the United States being the primary importer.

According to the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, Canada’s early settlers first learned how to the harvest tree sap and boil it into syrup from the Amerindian peoples. Today, the general process is not much different. Syrup producers tap appropriately sized trees in the spring, gather the sap for 12 to 20 days and then transport the sap to a sugar house where it’s boiled into maple syrup.

Luckily for those of us with a sweet tooth, many of the sugar houses in Quebec open up the production process to visitors, who can come watch the sap be collected and boiled, eat a meal cooked with maple syrup instead of sugar, watch a French Canadian folklore performance, and of course, watch maple taffy be made—right in the snow! Continue reading “Getting Your Maple Syrup On in Quebec City”

Exploring Legoland in Denmark

Courtesy of LEGO.
Courtesy of LEGO.

It’s been a big year for Lego.

An animated feature film starring the brick-shaped toys cleaned up at the box office this past February, and another film, revolving around the character Lego Batman, is due in 2017. The Danish company also released  new sets related to Disney Princesses, The Big Bang Theory, and many many more. Most importantly, Lego surpassed Mattel, the toy company behind Barbie dolls, in revenue, making it the biggest toy company in the world by revenue and profit. Not bad for toy that’s over 50 years old.

What better way to celebrate one of Toy-dom’s most enduring companies than  byplanning a trip to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark. Located a three-hour drive from Copenhagen, Legoland Billund is one of six Legoland parks in the world (the others are in California, Florida, Germany, Malaysia and England, with a new Abu Dhabi park scheduled to open in 2016). It’s also Denmark’s most popular tourist attraction outside of the capital city.

While all the parks have Lego-built replicas of the world’s most famous landmarks, the original park—which opened in 1968—trumps its followers because it is located next to the original Lego park. This means that guest can take inside tours inside Lego founder Ole Kirk Christiansen’s original house—and view Lego sets and models dating back to 1934—and meet with LEGO designers. The park has also used over 60 million Lego bricks to create themed “lands” involving pirates, cowboys, knights, and other popular lines.

2015 will be a particularly exciting time to visit. The park has already announced it will host the world’s largest Lego model, a 20-ton heavy Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter that was built from 5.3 million (!) Lego bricks. The model will be “animated” and give guests the feeling of being in an intergalactic starship though strategically placed light effects and dramatic sound effects. Doors to Legoland Billund open Saturday, March 28, 2015 (and close Sunday, November 1, 2015), so interested Copenhagen-bound Celebrity guests should start planning their visits now.

For more on things to do in Copenhagen, check out what our Celebrity Global Insiders have to say.

Celebrity Scores Touchdowns With New England Patriots & New York Jets

patriots fan cruise

The New England Patriots and New York Jets have long been National Football League rivals. The two teams most recently faced off last month, with the Patriots, led by a resurgent Tom Brady, just barely beating out the Jets with a score of 27-25. The teams have now met a total of 113 times, counting postseason appearances.

Fans of either team will soon be able to play out their rivalry on the high seas. Starting next March, Celebrity Cruises is offering themed sailings with past and present members of each team. The trips leave port within two weeks of each other, so choose your affiliation wisely.

On March 15, the Celebrity Silhouette will set sail from Ft. Lauderdale with Celebrity’s First Annual Patriots Fan Cruise to celebrate our official partnership with the New England Patriots.  Seven former players—Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, Scott Zolak, Peter Brock, Joe Andruzzi, Patrick Pass and Steve Nelson—will all be guests on the seven-day eastern Caribbean sailing. A true “fan cruise,” the sailing will offer guests opportunities to sing karaoke with their favorite players as well as get their autographs.

Continue reading “Celebrity Scores Touchdowns With New England Patriots & New York Jets”

A View To A Thrill: Glass-Bottomed Architecture

Reflection BathroomLast week, the Eiffel Tower unveiled see-through glass floor panels on its first level as part of the popular French attraction’s 125th anniversary. The new glass walkways, which cost $38 million, offer a dramatic view of the 187-foot drop from the first level to the ground (the tower as a whole is 1,063 feet) and have become a mecca for tourists looking for the ultimate selfie.

The Eiffel Tower is picking up on long-time trend: adding glass architecture to give travelers a view that will take their breaths away. Here, our five favorite spots to get a “clear” view.

Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck

At 1,353 feet up, “The Ledge” gives 1.5 million annual visitors a chance to see the city of Chicago (and four different states) from 103 floors up.

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Located at the Grand Canyon West’s Eagle Point, the Skywalk lets visitors walk on a glass walkway nearly 4,000 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon.

Santa Catalina Island’s Glass-Bottom Boats 

Catalina is famous for its glass-bottomed boat tours, which offer passengers an underwater perspective of the island’s marine life. Available night and day, tours takes advantage of the island’s crystal clear water to show visitors the colorful swarms of fish, kelp forests and aquatic plants located around Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve and other locales.

The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort

Guests at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort offers guest multiple opportunities to see the water below them. The King Water Villa, for example, features a glass desk, which has been set over glass panels, to give the impression that it is “floating over the water below.” But what’s most impressive is the resort’s all-glass undersea restaurant—the only one of its kind in the world.

Celebrity Reflection Shower

Where’s the best view from Celebrity Cruises’ passenger ship Reflection? It’s not where you might think. Reflection’s top suite offers a cantilevered glass shower that juts out from the 14th deck of the vessel, giving its occupant a 360-degree view of the sea.

Reader, where’s your favorite place to see “clearly”?

Celebrate La Dia de Los Muertos With ‘The Book of Life’

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox
Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—is the well-known Mexican holiday that serves to honors the deceased. Elaborate culinary dishes and having plenty to drink are key to the many parties, which are so integral to this annual celebration that blends indigenous Aztec rituals with Catholicism, which was brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadores.

In Mexico, the festivities take over much of the country, as family members and friends gather at cemeteries to honor their dead relatives. Cruisers stopping by Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Valleta, Mexico in the weeks after Halloween should keep their eyes peels for omnipresent calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls) designs, which feature on everything including candy, parade masks, and storefront window displays. Though they may see a little macabre at first, the skeleton and skull imagery is actually used as a reassuring reminder to everyone involved that death is a natural part of life, and even those that are long gone will always be a part our communities if we remember them and honor their memories.

Continue reading “Celebrate La Dia de Los Muertos With ‘The Book of Life’”

Ryder Cup 2014 Tees Up in Scotland

Courtesy: Twitter/rydercupusa
Courtesy: Twitter/rydercupusa

In just under a week, the world’s best American and European golfers will descend upon Scotland for the biennial Ryder Cup at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire (September 26 to 28; www.rydercup2014.com). And this year, the match-play golf competition is set against slight political intrigue, as last week, Scotland’s citizens voted to stay with the United Kingdom and not become a fully independent country.

Officially begun in 1927, the Ryder Cup is put on by the PGA of America and the PGA European Tour, with each group selecting 12 golfers to represent their continental teams. This year, Team USA is led by Tom Watson, and includes well-known players like Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, and Bubba Watson. Meanwhile, the European team is captained by Irishman Paul McGinley, and includes Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, and Justin Rose on its roster. Considering that McIlroy, Stenson, Garcia and Rose are respectively ranked 1, 3, 4, and 5 in the world right now, Team Europe is handily expected to defend their title and win for the sixth time in the USA v. Europe’s last seven meet-ups.

Continue reading “Ryder Cup 2014 Tees Up in Scotland”

Oktoberfest Celebrations from Germany to Zinzinnati

Photo courtesy of Facebook
Photo courtesy of Facebook

The name Oktoberfest is somewhat of a misnomer, for although part of Germany’s annual celebration of beer and Bavaria does indeed take place in October, the majority of the fest’s events actually take place in the second half of September.

The root of the festival’s name, Oktoberfest, dates back to October 12, 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen and the citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate the royal event in the fields in front of the city gates. The wedding festivities ended on October 17th with a horse race. Modern Germany continues to the now annual tradition of Oktoberfest, which has grown to be the largest festival in the world (more than six million people fro around the globe attend each year). However, the celebrations have been moved up by a few weeks in order to take advantage of September’s warmer weather and stay out in the tents longer.

Continue reading “Oktoberfest Celebrations from Germany to Zinzinnati”