“Princess for a day.” That’s how little Mysha Mustaffa felt when she and her mum recently boarded the Sapphire Princess cruise ship to enjoy a day of activities created for a group of underprivileged kids.
The seven-year old was the youngest tyke at the outing hosted by Princess Cruises, which has become a tradition for the company. The Sapphire Princess was berthed at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre and was kicking off its five-month homeport season in Singapore with the special event.
"I will tell my friends about this,” promised Mysha. She was among 60 children from Beacon Primary School and Lakeside Family Service Centre at the event.
Giving back to the community
Princess Cruises organised the outing as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) outreach in Singapore. This is the fourth time the company has done this, and the second year that it is supporting The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF).
This event was a way to extend goodwill to the local community and it underscores the Princess commitment to caring for the community in which it operates, explained Princess Cruises' director of Southeast Asia, Mr Farriek Tawfik.
He said: “We have celebrated the launch of our homeporting seasons in Singapore each year with a children’s event on board and we are continuing this practice by treating the children to a day of food, games and entertainment onboard the Sapphire Princess. It is truly heartening to see the smiling faces of the children and give them precious bonding time with their families on board a world-class cruise liner.”
Mr Farriek feels that "kids bring a shining light ”. He said that during his childhood years in Muar, Malaysia, children were always the first on the scene at any community event, and got to eat first. "I want to bring this tradition here," he continued.
Organised by the ship’s dedicated Youth Staff and the STSPMF, this event was the first time the invited kids had been on board a cruise liner. “We bring the kids aboard to allow their laughter and smiles to bless the ship and this sailing season," said Mr Farriek.
“We also hope that the kids will be motivated after this to work and study hard, so that they might take such a cruise in future," he added. "It is a different experience that they can tell their friends about at school."
He plans to stage this event for as long as any Princess ship homeports in Singapore.
A bonding exercise
Ten-year old Mohamed Ricky Anaqy Abdullah was not going to let the opportunity to visit the ship to pass him by. While his parents could not attend, he was willingly accompanied by his 13-year old neighbour Amirrudin Nordin.
The 6ft tall Amirrudin and his younger charge added to the “oohs” and “aahs” that were voiced by both adults and children as the group toured the 18 decks of the ship.
Ms Masena Asian, mother of 11-year old Nur Qistina Jumaat, had to coax her shy daughter to attend the event. "I am excited to be here," Ms Masena said.
Mr Farriek believes that the excursion gives parents and children some bonding time. Afterwards, they can reminisce about what they did on the ship.
"This sort of event is better than going to the zoo, for instance," said enthusiastic mum, Ms Aw Bee Luan. She was there with her son, Jovan Ong, 11. "We will definitely remember this for a long time," she added.
During their visit, the guests got to see facilities like the kids club, swimming pool and the massive multi-purpose theatre. There was also a behind-the-scenes look at the galley, where the visitors were impressed by the volume of food that was produced. There, they learned how meals are prepared for the thousands of passengers who sail on the Sapphire Princess.
A few even popped into cabins that were open for a quick look . They; wanted to “peek in, since we can't go on the cruise”.
Fun and games
Captain Paolo Ravera warmly welcomed everyone, chatting and posing for photos with the guests. It was followed by a cake-cutting ceremony celebrating the fourth year Princess Cruises has been sailing from Singapore.
Staff on board were thrilled to show the youngsters around. "I enjoy being with kids. They are so clever these days. They act as translators for their parents!” said Mr Jean Francois Ferat, maitre d'hotel.
With his work schedule taking him away from home on long stretches, Mr Ferat used this opportunity to clown around with the children. "When kids are happy, the parents are happy," he said.
After the tour, a specially prepared buffet lunch was served, catered especially for kids’ tastes and featuring burgers, hot dogs, pizza and, of course, ice cream.
Games time followed, including quizzes and a scavenger hunt. After that, the young charges were given mementos of their visit, including a Princess Cruises' drawstring bag, stationery set, thumb drives, sunglasses, t-shirt, water bottle and photographs of their time onboard.
Exhausted and happy, the group departed the ship, all in smiles.
“I wish I could sail away,” said nine-year old Hritikesh Sivenesan in awe, as he walked off the gangway of the premium cruise liner.