Penangite Ronald Tan didn’t realise it but when he submitted a contest entry form to The Star in May, he was about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.
Tan emerged as the big winner of The Star and Heineken UEFA Champions League Contest and his reward was a trip to the Greek Islands to watch the Champions League final on board a luxury cruise ship!
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine winning such a prize. In fact, when The Star called to invite me to the prize presentation ceremony in May, I thought I had won one of the consolation prizes, which was an exclusive Champions League final viewing party in Kuala Lumpur.
(From left) Khoo, Lee and Tan posing beside their ship before embarking on the Heineken Champions Voyage.
“This trip has turned out to be one of my best holidays. We spent one night in Athens and two nights on board the cruise ship and even visited the party island Mykonos. But my favourite part of the trip was meeting my football idol Ronaldinho,” Tan said.
The 36-year-old businessman was joined on the trip by another contest winner Julian Khoo who was accompanied by his best friend Lee Wei Chen, both from Petaling Jaya.
Khoo, 28, won another Heineken consumer contest allowing him to bring along another person, in this case, his friend Lee, 31.
“My brother helped me win the contest but he couldn’t make it for the trip. I was happy to invite my best friend,” Khoo said, adding that it was a one-of-kind experience.
“The entire trip was brilliantly managed, and I don’t think I will ever experience something like the Champions Voyage again. I’m glad that the cruise was held in Greece because it was the perfect country for such a trip,’’ said Khoo, who runs a start-up back home.
The three guys were accompanied on the trip by Heineken Malaysia Bhd junior brand manager Stephanie Chin.
On arrival in Athens, the Malaysians stayed overnight at the Hilton Athens before being transported the next day to the port city of Piraeus.
There, they were joined by more than 300 Heineken guests from around the world to board the luxury cruise ship Celestyal Nefeli, their home for the next two nights.
After the safety briefing, guests were welcomed with ice-cold Heinekens and a ‘sail away’ celebration on three of the decks.
Heineken guests watching the Champions League final on the upper deck of the cruise ship.
The voyage kicked off with the introduction of a surprise celebrity captain, none other than twice-world footballer of the year Ronaldinho. The Brazilian’s appearance was greeted with loud cheers as most of the guests were unaware that the former Barcelona star would accompany them on the trip.
With the ship anchored in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Ronaldinho then joined football fans to catch the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus on a giant screen on the topmost deck under the stars.
The next day, the voyage continued to the glamorous island of Mykonos. En route, guests were encouraged to play various football-related games or just soak in one of the swimming pools or Jacuzzi tubs.
In-house masseurs were on hand to provide mini massages and pampering for the guests.
Guests were encouraged to play various football-related games on board the ship.
The Champions Voyage docked at Mykonos just after lunch and guests were transported to a secluded beach for an afternoon of swimming, football games, sunbathing, dancing and even fireworks.
Coaches ferried the partygoers back to the ship for dinner but the party didn’t end there as the more adventurous guests were shuttled back to Mykonos to party the night away at one of the world’s top 10 clubs, Cavo Paradiso.
Real Madrid supporters ecstatic after their team‘s victory in the Champions League final.
The Celestyal Nefeli set sail back to Piraeus the next day. The Malaysian group and the rest of the Heineken guests were treated to a hearty breakfast before disembarking with memories of their Greek island escapade still fresh in the mind.