SINGAPORE - Life has not been easy for sisters Elysha Haris Fadzillah, 11, and Asyiqin Haris Fadzillah, 10. Their mother ran out on them when they were young, and their father has been in jail for about six years.
For the past five years, the girls have been living with their grandmother, who has been struggling to support them on a freelance masseuse's salary, and their grandfather, who works as a cleaner.
On Monday (Nov 27), however, the girls and their grandmother, Madam Noorma Abdul Rahiman, 59, received a rare treat on a luxury ship.
The girls were among 60 children who are beneficiaries of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) to enjoy a day out on the Princess Cruises' liner Sapphire Princess.
The children are from Lakeside Family Service Centre and Beacon Primary School.
They got the chance to board the ship before anybody else this home-porting season, which is when the ship leaves its home port of Singapore.
Said Madam Noorma: "It was good to take the girls out and show them a good time. Normally, it is quite hard because of money. It is also our first time on a cruise ship."
Elysha, who is in Primary 5, said: "After seeing this (ship), I would like to go on cruise one day, and I would take my grandmother and grandfather."
The day for the children and their accompanying family members commenced with a tour of the ship, which was docked at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre. They also played games and had a buffet lunch.
Ritika Ganesh, 11, said: "I'm really excited because I'd never been on (a ship) before. The best part was getting to be outdoors and feeling the ocean breeze... I also loved the cake they served us."
Said Princess Cruises' director for South-east Asia, Mr Farriek Tawfik: "I'm from Muar, in Johor, and when we have a big occasion like a wedding, before inviting everyone, we would get children to come in and enjoy first, because they are a blessing to us.
"I'm happy to have brought that tradition to Princess Cruises. Whenever the home-porting season starts, before the ship sails off, I invite the children. I hope it will bless us with safe sailing."
This is the fourth event Princess Cruises has hosted for children, in line with its corporate social responsibility programme, and the second year it has been done in collaboration with STSPMF.
STSPMF supports underprivileged children with pocket money for school expenses. It supports more than 10,000 students a year.
Mr Tawfik said he hopes to continue the collaboration between Princess Cruises and STSPMF.
The ship, which is able to accommodate up to 2,670 passengers and 1,000 crew members, set sail for Port Klang in Malaysia from Singapore just two hours after the children left the liner on Monday.
Correction note: An earlier version of the story said the STSPMF supports more than 1,000 underprivileged children. It should be 10,000. We are sorry for the error.