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Celebrity Cruises: Q&A with Helen O’Connell, a Celebrity Reflection Godmother

Celebrity Reflection is set to arrive in Miami on Dec 1.  As part of her inaugural ceremony she will be christened by not one, but four Godmothers this time. We’re proud of our ship godmothers, the strength of character they all possess, and their incredible support in the fight against breast cancer. Prior to the launch of our newest ship, we recently interviewed each of these amazing women to hear what they have to say.

As an eight-year employee of Celebrity Cruises, Helen O’Connell manages Community Relations and has a clear and contagious passion for serving her community. She works tirelessly to accommodate those in need and to help the non-profits that serve the many communities in which our corporation operates. She is widely lauded, internally and externally, for leading the corporation’s annual “G.I.V.E. (Get Involved, Volunteer Everywhere) Day,” and events leading to it in South Florida, as well as in many of the company’s offices and ports of call around the globe. Additionally, she serves as the corporation’s liaison with Make-A-Wish Foundation and Breast Cancer Research Foundation, overseeing the planning and implementation of numerous fundraising events each year.

When Helen commits to a project, she sees it through to the very end. She’s committed to seeing that our hard work as a company continues to make a difference in the lives of others. She firmly believes that once Royal Caribbean Cruises, or one of the brands’ names, is stamped on a project, it is always ongoing.

On a more personal level, Helen is the youngest of four girls. Her parents are from Ireland and she grew up in Whitestone, N.Y., in the borough of Queens. Helen loves volunteering and being involved in various organizations, from foster care to clean-ups and revitalizations of urban environments. Helen also helps her mother and sisters take care of an ailing, widowed aunt in Ireland, so she makes trips quite often to manage the situation.

In late September 2008, Helen’s father was diagnosed with bone cancer. She traveled to NYC every weekend  to help her mother and sisters take care of their father at home, where he died on December 1, 2008. Then, on December 1, 2009, during the inaugural of Oasis of the Seas, a ship on Celebrity’s sister brand, Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer. She worked through her treatments and scheduled her surgery during the holidays, so her two-person team could manage the workload at a quieter time of year and her family wouldn’t spend their first Christmas without their dad worrying about her surgery. This year, on December 1, 2012, the naming ceremony of Reflection will take place, a day when Helen will celebrate, rather than grieve.

We recently sat down with Helen to talk about her history with Celebrity and her excitement about her new honor.

How did it feel to be selected to be a Godmother?

When I heard that Michael Bayley wanted to choose employees who have been touched by breast cancer to be the Godmothers of Celebrity Reflection, I was so proud to work for an amazing leader and company. Then, to receive a call from our Chairman, Richard Fain, who extended the invitation to be one of the Godmothers, was overwhelming. I was truly taken aback by our conversation with him and it left me a bit stunned, actually. I started to babble and it didn’t begin to sink in until a few minutes after we hung up the phone. I still don’t think it has sank in fully yet.  Our partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation reinforces our company’s dedication to important issues in our employees’ and guests’ lives. I love my job and I am so proud to represent Celebrity Cruises in the community on a daily basis. To now have this accolade on top of that is just fabulous! I truly feel blessed and honored to be one of Celebrity Reflection’s Godmothers.

What are you most looking forward to with this honor?

One of the best things about this honor is sharing this role with three other amazing women. Better still, Rosey Rodriguez, one of the three women, is such a special friend to me who just recently battled breast cancer.

What preparations have you made for the ceremony?

I currently have hair and nail appointments scheduled. One of my friends is also doing my makeup for the naming ceremony, so I will be all glammed up!

What do you plan to wear?

I am a New Yorker, so it’s always a challenge to branch out from my black uniform. I have been shopping for dresses and I have been looking at wearing navy, chocolate brown or charcoal gray – that’s as crazy as I get with colors!

Are you nervous/excited about the naming ceremony?

Rosey and I have had the pleasure of attending several naming ceremonies. We’ve been behind the scenes as worker bees, so it will be strange to be in the spotlight this time. On a day like G.I.V.E. Day, I am very comfortable talking to large groups or directing people, but I’m not so comfortable talking about myself or being the center of attention. I am a bit nervous about the naming ceremony, but I’m very excited to meet my Goddaughter – Reflection! I am actually a Godmother of two young girls, my niece, Jane and my roommate from college’s daughter, Brittan. That being said, Reflection is in good company.

Can you tell us about something that is dear to you?

My dogs and my cats. I was never an animal lover.  In fact, I’m allergic to cats! But then, because of my boyfriend, I became an animal mom to two dogs and two cats!

What do you plan to do onboard Celebrity Reflection?

I am looking forward to relaxing with my family! This is the first time that my mom, my sisters and I have been together since my father’s funeral in December 2008, due to everyone’s busy schedules. It will be nice to celebrate and spend time together.

Are there venues or people you are looking forward to seeing?

I can’t wait to sit in a chair at the Lawn Club and enjoy the ocean breeze. Also, Celebrity Cruises is hosting a charity fundraiser for United Way of Miami-Dade on this inaugural sailing, so it will be nice to see many of our community partners. It’s a chance to chat with many friends and neighbors.

Who has been most proud of you receiving this honor?

I know it is my father, who I am sure is looking down from Heaven.  I have his work ethic and his drive to help people and make our communities better. He would be so proud of this achievement. My mom, my sisters and my friends are also very proud of me.