Celebrity Cruises

Scroll to Info & Navigation

Celebrity Cruises: Q&A with Jovanka Goronjic, One of Celebrity Reflection’s Godmothers

Jovanka Goronjic joined Celebrity Cruises’ AquaSpa staff in 2009 after working with Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity’s sister brand. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, and endured several rounds of treatment. In tribute to her mother and the cause, Jovanka donated her hair for the creation of wigs for cancer patients. With support from Celebrity, she arranged time off to be with her mother at critical times during her treatment. Her mother has since defeated the illness, and Jovanka is now AquaSpa Manager on Celebrity Solstice. We recently sat down with Jovanka to ask her a few questions about the honor bestowed upon her.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born on January 1, 1979, and was raised by my mother. In 1997, I graduated with a degree in Business of Economy, and then continued my studies in the health and beauty fields. In 2004, I started working on ships as a massage therapist. Currently, I am the AquaSpa Manager aboard Celebrity Solstice.

I love animals, and I love taking care of people. I believe that overall well-being is crucial to leading a full and rewarding life. I try my best to be a good listener, while always being available for any advice, support, motivation, or inspiration.

How did it feel when Celebrity selected you to be a ship’s Godmother?

I was delighted, thrilled, emotional, and proud, all at the same time. I’m not sure that it has fully sank in yet, but it will when I¹m onboard for the naming ceremony next month.

What are you most looking forward to with this honor?

I really hope to help the Breast Cancer Research Foundation by raising more awareness and giving support to people that are dealing with the heartache of this illness.

What preparations have you made for the ceremony? What do you plan to wear?

I have prepared a short speech for the ceremony. On the special day, I plan on wearing a formal black dress with pink details, which serves as a small reminder and connection to breast cancer awareness.

Are you nervous or excited about the naming ceremony?

I’m both nervous and excited. My emotions are supercharged about this whole experience. I’m glad I’ll have three other women to share this moment with.

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

As an only child, growing up without my father, I am very close to my mother. Even at the age of 34, while working on ships and being away from home, I would call her every other evening just to wish her a good night, hear her voice, and tell her that I love her.

What do you plan to do onboard Celebrity Reflection? Are there venues or people you are looking forward to seeing?

I am currently on Celebrity Solstice, but I will be transferring to Celebrity Reflection to become their AquaSpa Manager. I can¹t wait to see the enhancements to the spa that are only currently available on this new ship, including the enlarged Persian Garden, the Hammam, and the hot and chilly Sensory Circuit. This career change happened suddenly, but I am so happy to have been given the honor of being one of Celebrity Reflection’s Godmothers.

Who has been most proud of you receiving this honor?

My family, my friends, my work colleagues, and, probably most of all, my mother.

The four Godmothers of Celebrity Reflection will preside over the naming of the ship in Miami on December 1. In true Celebrity tradition, they will be joined by the Godmothers of each of Celebrity Reflection’s sister ships.

Celebrity Cruises: Meet Megan Mathie, Glassblowing Artist & Celebrity Reflection Godmother

Megan Mathie is a glassblowing artist in the Hot Glass Show aboard Celebrity Solstice®, and she previously performed the same role aboard Celebrity Eclipse®. Earlier this year, Megan was informed that both her sister and her mother were diagnosed with breast cancer, and she flew home to spend time with them. As time passed, however, both convinced her to return to the ship and to continue her work. Determined to support the cause, Megan and her team now host a “Hot Pink Glass Show” on every sailing. There, she shares her story with her audience through her artwork, in honor of her sister and her mother. At each cruise’s end, she auctions a one-of-a-kind pink glass creation to raise funds for Celebrity’s charitable partner, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®.

We recently caught up with Megan for more insight into her touching story.

In December, I scheduled my second contract working with Celebrity Cruises for the Corning Museum of Glass. I couldn’t have been more excited to come back and immerse myself in a body of artwork, while sharing the wonder of glassblowing with new audiences. I feel like the Hot Glass Show is a job I was born to do and this opportunity feels like such a gift.

In my life, I have been so, so fortunate.

In March, everything in my life stopped. My big sister Jen, who was just 32 years old, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. It took my family out at the knees. Jen did everything right; she had health insurance, she always had her annual exams, and she was a mom to a five-year-old and a 10-month-old. Her medical team thinks she had her cancer for 7 to 10 years, and we don’t understand how they didn’t find it sooner.

I live in Columbus and Jen lives in Cincinnati, which is two hours away. Upon hearing the news, I dropped everything and started spending four days a week at Jen’s house, looking after my little nieces and taking care of Jen’s laundry, meals, and her home. I left my work, my new house, and my husband to be there for my sister. Jen’s network came together; she found a nanny, and everyone stepped in to love her and our family. Eventually, though, Jen put her foot down and told me to go on my contract on the Solstice, and that she did not need me in Ohio. She promised me that she would be here when I came home. She told me that cancer is something that we will be fighting as a family for years to come, and that we needed to live with cancer and not die from it.

I resolved that I would go. Then, just weeks later, we received another blow. In May, my mom, who had just turned 60 years old, was diagnosed with two types of breast cancer. I was in disbelief and I was so angered by this. I thought to myself, “Mom is a nurse. She does everything right. She has had her annual mammograms like clockwork.” Yet, there we were, less than 90 days after Jen’s diagnosis, and we found out that Mom was sick, too.

I am the baby in my family – the youngest of three girls. Never mind that I am 28 years old, I need my big sisters. I need my mom. I can’t describe to you the fear that this struck in my heart that they are fighting for their lives.  But, they are FIGHTING.

I told my mom that I was going to stay home and that I didn’t want to go on the ship. Then, she, Jen, and my husband, Chris, told me that I had to go. They didn’t want me crying in the hospital. They wanted me to take this opportunity and dive into my artwork. They wanted me to travel and they wanted me to share my stories. I protested, I cried, and they sent me on the ship anyway. I was so scared. I still am so scared. What if something bad happens?

On Tuesday, July 17, Mom had a double mastectomy surgery. That Wednesday, I had lunch with my mom, my dad, and my two big sisters in Mom’s hospital room. On Friday, July 20, I left Ohio for Barcelona to embark on Celebrity Solstice. I was ready to be sad and homesick for three months. I was ready to be lonely. The thing about cancer, though, is that it comes with some pretty incredible gifts. Cancer shows us love. My sister calls it crushing love. And it is. I needed support. I needed love. And from the moment I came on board this ship, I have felt loved.

My family is good, with an ache in the word good, and I miss them so much. Nonetheless, we know that geography has nothing to do with how close we are to one another. Here, on Celebrity Solstice, I also have another family. One that is brand new and full of energy, warmth and caring hearts. This family doesn’t know Jen or my mom, but they are sharing my journey and holding me up. On Jen’s birthday in August, just a week before her double mastectomy surgery, the Ringmasters, our a cappella quartet, sang “Happy Birthday” into my phone at 1 a.m., so that Jen could hear it at 7 p.m., in Ohio. When we received scary news about Jen’s cancer-fighting drugs damaging her heart, my dear new friend stayed up with me all night while I cried and processed my fears. My Solstice family hugged me and held my hand when I saw a photo of Mom with no hair for the first time. My Solstice family also has a celebration and a toast with every cancer milestone: when Jen finished chemo, when Mom started chemo, when Jen survived her surgery with clear margins. They follow Jen’s blog and they follow Mom’s blog. They ask about Mom and Jen every time they know I have had a phone call home. The friendships came fast, but they are real and they are loving.

My glass team has a Hot Pink Glass Show every cruise, where I get to make a special vessel that tells my cancer story through my artwork. I get to talk about my family, talk about how important it is to be vigilant and look for this disease, and I do my very best to embody living with cancer and not dying from it. I invest so much love into that artwork. I literally shed tears while making each one the most beautiful glass I’ve ever blown. I do it for Jen and I do it for Mom. At the end of each cruise, I get to auction that pink vessel away for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has a partnership with Celebrity Cruises.

The best part is that when I share my family’s cancer journey, I make connections. Every cruise, there have been people sharing their story of survival or loss with me, and more and more people loving Mom and Jen. Crushing love.

Here I am, so far from home, but helping. In a real way. A way that will keep them alive, healthy and beating cancer for years to come. The medicine in their lives is so essential, and I get to contribute funds so directly.

The doubts I had about whether I was meant to be here on this ship went away when I learned that I would get to make this glass, tell this story, and help fight this fight. I get to be an artist who’s surrounded by loving hearts at sea, I get to feel my family loving me from across the ocean, and I get to fight cancer.

In my life, I am so, so fortunate.

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.