On November 28, Sapphire Princess berthed at Marina Bay Cruise Centre to welcome 100 very special guests onboard.
The group, comprising disadvantaged children and their families from the Ulu Pandan neighbourhood, was hosted for a fun day out.
The corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative was organised by premium cruise line Princess Cruises and held in conjunction with its fifth anniversary of homeporting in Singapore.
To date, Princess Cruises has invited more than 500 children aged five to 15 years old and their families onboard their ships when they are docked in Singapore. This is through partnerships enjoyed with Singapore Press Holdings Pocket Money Fund Scheme beneficiaries, including Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre, Whispering Hearts Family Service Centre and Beacon Primary School.
Children's visits to the ships have also been organised for Beyond Social Services, Child at Street 11, Jamiyah Children's Home, Pertapis Children's Home and the North East District (in conjunction with the North East CDC).
On the sea
This year's event was a collaboration with the Ulu Pandan Stars (UP Stars) programme - helmed by youth leaders from various junior colleges to support children from underserved families in that neighbourhood.
The group received a big beary welcome by Princess Cruises' bear mascot Stanley the Bear at the atrium, before being whisked off to enjoy a programme of specially planned activities.
First up - a tour of the galley to see where meals are prepared. Chef Jerry Briones led the group to show them how dishes are cooked by his team of professional chefs.
On top of exploring the pool, spa and top deck, the group became the first guests to experience Sapphire Princess' brand new furnishings and renovations. These include an upgraded fitness centre, a new LED screen at Princess Theatre and new layouts at the duty free shops.
Family time with a difference
But the highlight of the day for the little ones was playtime at the Youth Centre, which features different rooms for children aged three to 17.
One of the happy faces in the crowd belonged to nine-year-old Noor Iman. Aside from being awed by stunning views of the sea, the swimming enthusiast had an eye-opening experience of life aboard a ship.
He now knows what he wants to be when he grows up, saying: "I want to be a captain so I can walk around and taste food!"
His grandmother and chaperone Mdm Maznah Abu Bakar says:"I'm happy to see him so happy," adding that it was nice for her to be in a familiar environment. She used to work in a hotel as part of housekeeping staff, and says the ship's interiors are similar and remind her of those days.
Meanwhile, siblings Rahumah, 12, and Shahiq, 11, also had an enjoyable time with their mother, Mdm Zaiton. While his shy sister spent time creating a pretty beaded bracelet, Shahiq indulged in games like slot hockey with his newfound friends.
After enjoying a decadent dessert buffet of cake, chocolate, ice cream and other sweet treats, the children participated in games and fun activities organised by the ship's Youth Centre team - a treasure hunt, a guessing game about locations on the ship, and a "Who Am I" quiz relating to various ship-related occupations.
The winning team was presented with prizes, while everyone else received a goodie bag as a memento before walking off the gangway.
Says Shahiq: "I would like to come back and spend time on this ship. I want to stay here for two years. This ship is so big, with many things to do."
Service to the community
This year's event was extra special: it marks the first time Princess Cruises has two ships homeporting here - to meet the increasing demand for both short and long-haul cruises from Singapore.
South-east Asia director Farriek Tawfik says such CSR efforts underscore Princess Cruises' commitment to caring for the communities it operates in.
He explains: "We have celebrated the launch of our homeporting seasons in Singapore each year with a children's event and we are continuing this tradition by treating the children to a day of food, games and entertainment. "It is truly heartening to see the smiling faces of the children and give them precious bonding time with their families onboard a world-class cruise ship."