EXCITED chatter filled the air as some 70 children and their families entered the gleaming atrium.
When they saw the three-storey-high grand atrium with ornate golden designs on the glass lifts and polished white spiral staircases, they couldn’t resist snapping photos with their phones.
It was the school holidays and they were on a tour of the Diamond Princess cruise ship for the first time.
The children, aged between seven and 14, were from the Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre and Whispering Hearts Family Service Centre — beneficiaries of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.
Most were accompanied by a parent or older sibling.
They were invited on board by Princess Cruises on Nov 29 as it launched its third homeporting season in Singapore, with the deployment of the Diamond Princess for the first time in this region from last month to March next year.
The cruise company will also extend a fourth homeporting season for the sailing season from next year to 2018.
Hosting under-privileged children for a half-day outing is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility programme and a tradition for the company in Singapore as it kicks off its homeporting season.
Mr Farriek Tawfik, director of Southeast Asia for Princess Cruises, said: “Supporting children has always been close to our heart, and seeing how much fun they have on board makes the experience worthwhile.
“We are focused on bringing memorable and rewarding experiences to our guests, and we hope to extend these family-bonding moments to those who are underprivileged to kick off their school holidays on a high note.”
The children were delighted when ship captain Todd McBain appeared in full uniform. He gave a short welcome address before some of the ship’s guides, comprising an international crew, took the guests on their tour.
The large group was split into two according to the family service centre so that both groups could take the same tour in a different order.
They visited the various entertainment spots of the ship such as The Princess Theatre, where performances are held; the Youth Centre, a playroom with a TV for watching movies and toys and games for three to 12-year-olds; and Club Fusion, a lounge for dance classes and activities, where some of the more eager children made a beeline for the comfortable sofa seats that had a view of the sea.
Said Ms Tan Wen Shi, programme executive from Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre, who was the chaperone: “It is a good outing not just for the kids but for the parents as well.
“During normal days, they have no time to spend with the kids, so this is a chance for them to unwind.”
The pool area on Deck 14, the top deck, was definitely a highlight for the young ones as they toured the indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, as well as the rows of striped deck chairs beside the pool that double up as seats for the ship’s Movie Under the Stars programme at night.
They also visited speciality restaurants such as Kai Sushi and Italian restaurant Sabatini’s.
The Japanese-themed Diamond Princess ship also has a traditional Izumi Japanese Bath onboard, modelled after a Japanese onsen.
Then, it was time for lunch at the International Dining Room.
The children and families had the place all to themselves and joyfully tucked into food specially prepared for them, including Western comfort food such as French fries, spaghetti, burgers and chicken wings.
Creative and talented
After lunch, it was time to get creative juices flowing as everyone headed to Club Fusion for T-shirt designing.
While the adults received plain white T-shirts to design, the children were given white T-shirts with a drawing featuring waves and sea creatures and were encouraged to be as creative as possible with their colours and design.
The grand finale of the day was a fashion show to display their creativity and talents.
The children paraded colourful T-shirts in a variety of styles — some had even cut their tees into fringes or added an extra sash — as each child and parent did their fashion runway walk together.
The top three designs were awarded prizes and each child was also given a Princess Cruises goodie bag to take home.
The day’s programme was planned by Mr Tawfik to enable quality interaction between child and parent as they worked on a project together.
Mr Shaari Abdul Rahman, 42, who accompanied his son and daughter, said: “I have not been on a cruise before and this is the first time for my children too.
Usually, I’m at work and this outing allows me to spend some fun time with my kids during the school holidays.”
His nine-year-old daughter Nur Aisyah Shaari, who was on the tour with him, added that her favourite place was the pool area on Deck 14.
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