Boat cruises for pampered Singapore dogs
The guests lean over the side of the boat to catch the morning breeze as their catamaran eases off from a jetty in Singapore.
A typical cruise - except for the fact the passengers are dogs.
"Actually, this is their third cruise," said Andy Pe, 43, the owner of two black Labrador retrievers, a yellow Labrador, a golden retriever and two mongrels. "They enjoy the sea breeze and water so much."
From boat cruises and spas to their own obituary section in the leading newspaper, pets are pampered in a big way in Singapore, a city state with one of Asia's highest standards of living.
Boat owner Joe Howe, 48, started the Pet Cruise company last July. His 7.8-metre motor catamaran, which comes with a swimming deck, has a fully-stocked cleaning station and life jackets for dogs.
On weekends, a basic cruise lasting two hours costs S$40 (HK$251) per guest - human or pet - or S$400 to book the entire boat. Howe, a retired broker who now takes out two cruises every week, has even had people bring pet tortoises on board.
"Young couples are having pets before they have children. It's a stand-in, and at times even a replacement [for kids]," he said.
Pe agreed. "They are very much like my kids because I'm single and I have time on my hands," he said as the vessel made its way to Seletar island, where his dogs went for a splash in the sea.
According to official data, there were 57,000 registered dogs in Singapore last year. A densely populated island of 5.3 million people, most of its inhabitants live in high-rise apartment blocks with little room for dogs to run.
Marcus Khoo, the executive director of Petopia, a shop which offers dog grooming services as well as board and lodging, said owners were willing to pay a premium for their pets' well-being.
"People now understand that quality canine lifestyle is not just a roof over their heads and food," Khoo said.