5.23.2011

Cruising with the New Kids: Part 1

Time to get back on the blogging wagon.

I’ve been away for some time because I went on a dream vacation. A cruise. It took about a week to get ready for it. Then…a week to go. Then…a week to recover. A bit absorbing, you see. But now it’s time for me to get off the boat, in a figurative sense, and get back to this blog.

I went on a cruise to the Bahamas with girlfriends. But it was not just any old cruise. It was a New Kids on the Block cruise.

Now…I will pause, so that you can raise your eyebrows, and blink, and smile politely…the patented reaction I am used to receiving when I tell people what I did. It’s okay, I’m used to it.

It was the third year in a row that NKOTB sold out a boat. And for the third year in a row, I huffed, puffed, scoffed and smirked when tickets went on sale because I knew that other people would go, but not me. Human nature dictates that when things don’t go our way, we downplay the issue. “Oh, I didn’t want to go anyway. I would probably get seasick. A ship full of thousands of catty women? (Oh yeah, that’s real fun). A photo-op with the group that’s so quick I’ll miss it if I blink? Dealing with all my friends’ raised eyebrows? Making arrangements for my kids? Forget it, just forget it.”

But then I got the opportunity to go. And everything changed. That’s human nature, too. Suddenly, a boat full of thousands of catty women became a boat full of my BFF’s, potential seasickness became a non-issue, a 30-second photo-op became more than adequate, and my friends’ raised eyebrows just made me laugh. After all, this was a cruise, and the fact that the New Kids were going to be there too was just gravy.

Throngs of women my age, packing the Carnival Destiny with ridiculous amounts of luggage, boarded the ship in Miami on May 11. The running joke was that there were only about 7 husbands on board, who hung out in the casino most of the time. Cabin doors were decorated with all manner of NKOTB paraphernalia, from then and now, and the hallways had a distinctive “college dorm” vibe to them, thanks to the constant buzz of hairdryers and loud laughter.

The New Kids’ perspective on their first public appearance on the boat at the “Sail Away” party will give you an idea of the teeming crowds. That’s me, in the midst of 2,500 women, over there by the blue awning in the bottom right corner of the screen, waving. See me?

Here I am in that same crowd with my sweet friend, who tolerated my snacking on Goldfish crackers at extremely odd hours of the night:

scanned Jessa and me

And here is my own video of that chaotic but memorable moment:

The weekend was full of ridiculously fun entertainment. This is a picture from New Kids on the Block “Double Dare” (their version of the popular Nickelodeon game show from the 80’s):

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The 1980’s theme night was hysterical. Everyone was decked out in fabulous costumes…

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…and the New Kids didn’t disappoint. They showed up to the party in their infamous ensembles from years ago (a Batman T-shirt, topless hats, ripped jeans, and a mullet wig), and even broke out some of their funny old dance moves. It was surreal. Pic by @atlangela:

guys on 80s night

A day in island paradise on Half Moon Cay:

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Where we luxuriated:

hammock

And sweated to the beat of “Hangin’ Tough” in the blistering afternoon sun:

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Afterward, we were treated to a limbo hosted by Donnie Wahlberg, beach races, and various New Kids riding around me on jet skis. This one is not my picture, but I was in the water. (Didn’t I dream this one time when I was a kid?)

jk jet ski

Quick picture with Donnie in my dorky old-school T-shirt (cringe) that I wore as a cover-up that day, while his people are tugging on his elbow telling him to hurry up:

donnie and me

Jordan Knight led a yoga class (which was no joke), and his shy brother Jon hosted Bingo, in which he tripped over the computer cord and made the screen go black:

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Pink night (for breast cancer awareness) with friends in unintentionally identical dresses made for a great picture:

And one of the sweetest moments was Joey McIntyre’s solo concert that consisted entirely of big-voiced show tunes, which are his great love. He entitled his funny, autobiographical monologue, “How Four Guys from Dorchester Ruined My Chances at Broadway.” In the midst of “Tomorrow” from Annie, I got a bit lumpy-throated, as I pondered the telescoping of years and experience. Little Joey Joe, the object of all my adolescent affection, who was once this…

joeymac

…back when I was this in a band uniform…

band pic

…was right there in front of me, like this, as we all floated on a big ship somewhere out in the middle of the ocean

joeymaccropped

So the combination of all that…and Annie…made for a rather verklempt moment. Joey got a little lumpy-throated himself. You really just had to be there.

Meeting the group was serious business, too. Groups of 10 fans each had to be pre-arranged before going in, so when we arrived at the massive line that snaked through the rotunda of the ship, we were greeted with utter chaos. It felt like an airport. Signs were being held high above the crowd… “2 Danny girls needed! 1 Jon girl needed!” It if wasn’t such a solemn affair, I would have collapsed in laughter at the bizarreness of the situation. But the girl-fight that we witnessed was no laughing matter - one girl was holding another girl’s head over the balcony, while security elbowed past us to get to them. Some of the crazies had to be put on lockdown, we heard, because a boat is no place for the mentally unstable. I don’t want to paint a false picture…most of the people we met were normal and fun. But naturally, the crazies get the most press. Once our group went in, I had about 15 seconds to say hello to Jordan Knight, who recognized me from the NKOTB song re-writes I’ve done, which was a very happy moment, indeed.

The final evening culminated with a formal-dress party up on the top deck, and a dramatic announcement from Donnie that every passenger would receive two free tickets to the opening night of the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys concert in Chicago the following week. The ensuing crowd reaction was so hysterical that I feared some fans might actually jump overboard in their enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I could not use my tickets, not after all of this, so I offered to give them away on twitter, and it took all of 60 seconds to unload them.

After I got home, one of my friends tweeted me that the sweetest thing ever was seeing my husband’s face in the baggage claim area where he picked me up. If he’s reading this right now (and I know he does), he needs to know how grateful I am that he made a way for me to go. I'll never forget it.

I like my boyband, but nobody…nobody…compares to that guy. Thank you, honey. MUAH.

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