But Richard Collins, who recently took over the ownership of the Horizon cruise yacht that is docked in the Weehawken harbor as part of the Yacht Charter Network, didn't know anything about the Christmas cruise for the kids of Weehawken.
"I received a phone call from someone at Roosevelt School who said that we did this trip in the past and could we do it again," said Collins, who took over the management of the Horizon yacht last summer. "I looked in the files and there was nothing in the computers about the trip. But I wasn't about to tell these people that they couldn't have it this year. I have six children of my own. I know the last thing I would want to do would be to disappoint a bunch of fourth and fifth graders. I would never take anything away from the children."
So last week, the fourth and fifth graders got their annual cruise around Manhattan, courtesy of Collins and the Horizon cruise yacht.
The students were treated to the trip along the Hudson while getting a nice luncheon as well, all free of charge, courtesy of Collins. There was music and dancing, as well as a visit from Santa Claus.
"It's just a fantastic treat for each and every one of us," said Roosevelt School Principal Anthony LaBruno. "The students get an opportunity to travel on a luxury yacht and had a free lunch, but it's more than that. The festivities are great. Everyone gets in a festive and happy atmosphere. It's perfect for the holidays. I know the students all look forward to it."
Fourth grade teacher Dina Khani said that she didn't want to announce to her students that they were going on the cruise too soon.
"I knew that they were all so excited about it," Khani said. "When I told them that we were going, their mouths were open. I think it was a whole new idea to a lot of them. I know three of my students were never on a boat of any kind at all before. They were a little nervous about it. But one of them told me that it was the best trip he had ever taken."
Khani said that there was a little history and learning involved with the trip.
"I showed them the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge," Khani said. "We're also learning about oceans and they were all asking about high tide and low tide. I was very impressed with that."
But there was more fun than learning.
"We were all singing and dancing," Khani said. "It was a very nice time."
Roosevelt School music teacher Piero Romano performed with his choral group, who sang Christmas carols. "When I came here to teach last year, I was totally floored to know that they gave us a free cruise," Khani said. "It's certainly not like taking the ferry. I know the kids are all still talking about it."
Fifth grader Alexis Moro had a great time.
"It was a lot of fun," Moro said. "I was so glad to see the front of the Statue of Liberty. I really liked the food and the dancing and singing. I was very impressed that these people did all this work for us. It really helped me to get into the Christmas spirit. It was much better than last year."
Fourth grader Joseph Fucci agreed.
"It was a great day all around," Fucci said. "I had a lot of fun. I didn't know what to expect. But we were singing, dancing and eating. It was great."
More than 190 students were treated to the free day.
"We definitely benefit from their generosity," LaBruno said. "It's wonderful that they're willing to give back to the community and give the kids a day like this. We're very appreciative."
So much so that LaBruno presented Collins with a plaque of appreciation.
"We didn't have to do it," Collins said. "We wanted to do it. The real reason why we do it is to see the children smile and have a good time. I looked at these kids and realized that not all of them come from a family that could afford a day like this. This is what Weehawken is really made of."
Added Collins, "You don't always get a chance to make contact with the future. The impression we can make on children is so important. We'll get a chance to see how they turn out. If everyone can do a little something to help them, then we're giving them a tremendous gift. In doing something like this, you know you're doing the right thing. Maybe now these children will extend themselves to do something nice for someone in the future."
Collins said that it was just the beginning of a good working relationship with the people of Weehawken. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help Weehawken," Collins said. "I met Mayor [Richard] Turner for the first time and he seems to be a very nice man, more than just a politician. I want to help. I know our staff on board had a good time working with the kids, maybe as much fun as the kids had. The kids were so gracious. It was a great time and a good feeling to see all the smiles. We're going to continue to do this for as long as we can."