Ten kids living with cancer got to spend time in the lap of luxury, aboard the 311m-long cruise ship Explorer of the Seas today.
The group outing, for kids aged between 7 and 13, was organised by charity Camp Quality and participants were literally climbing up the ship's walls, while some got to give surfing a go when they commandeered the sports deck on the 13th level.
This is the third cruise season in which Royal Caribbean -- the cruise ship's owner -- has worked with Camp Quality, an organisation catering for children living with cancer, holding fun days on board vessels in ports around New Zealand.
Camp Quality spokesman Gary Troup said today was an opportunity for the kids and their parents to take a break.
For 13-year-old Orewa College pupil Jackson Howes, it was an exciting chance to give something different a go.
Acting, singing, tap dancing and playing the piano is usually the young man's forte.
But despite a six-year battle with a brain tumour, which saw Jackson go through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy (he is now in remission), he was up the climbing wall in seconds flat, and was one of the first youngsters to try out the "flowrider" surf simulator -- a slide-shaped contraption with a wide jet of water being blasted up its slope.
After leaping onto the jet of water on a bodyboard, and riding the wave for a few minutes, Jackson said it was great -- so great he gave it a second go.
"It was a bit hard -- the water was really powerful, and I got wiped out at the end," he said, with a grin on his face.
The 14-level vessel cruised in to Auckland today, having visited Tauranga yesterday and Wellington, Picton, Dunedin and Milford Sound prior to that.
It will leave for Sydney tomorrow.
Alongside a surfing simulator, on-board ice skating and rock climbing facilities, the mega-cruiseliner has a 1350-seat theatre, a video gaming lounge, a shopping promenade (with jewellery, makeup, liquor and luxury bag stores, plus a pub and cafes), 15 decks, 10 pools and whirlpools and 15 bars and restaurants -- including the three-deck main dining room, which is the largest restaurant in Australasia, seating almost 2000 people at a time.
Last year the ship had a $122 million overhaul in Spain and Royal Caribbean estimates that in its five-month stint in New Zealand it will inject an estimated $23.5 million into the economy in passenger spend.
Explorer of the Seas is not the biggest ship to venture into New Zealand waters -- the Queen Mary 2 is 148,528 gross tonnes and 345m in length.
But Royal Caribbean is bringing what will be an even bigger vessel, Ovation of the Seas, here next summer.