Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Let Me (Maybe) Upgrade You

Congrats to Linda (@DEWz_pingpong) and Steph (@OMGstephWTF) for getting upgraded to a 6E cabin today! They had originally tried to book a 6E during the pre-sale on August 4. When they weren't able to get a 6E, they put themselves on an upgrade wait list minutes later.

Linda says Rose Tours is filing up wait listers for upgrades but she and Steph were last on the list for what was available today (RT didn't mention how long the list was altogether). Linda asked about suites, and Rose Tours told her "NO SUITES" for sure; there is no wait list for them.

@JKsGrownNSexy also talked to RT about a suite upgrade and was told the wait list for a suite is SO long that the whole ship would have to cancel to fill it. They also said that people that requested suites at time of booking are being filled first. And @ATLangela heard from Rose Tours that there would be NO upgrading to suites unless you indicated at the time of booking.

From Anonymous: "I talked to RT today and they told me 6E wait list goes in order of the time you requested it that day. I requested super early and we are high-ish on the list but she says there haven't been many 6E cancellations (shocker - LOL)."

Personally, I also was trying for a suite when we booked. (Had a category 11 all picked out and then it crashed when I got to the payment page, but we all know that story.) Like Linda, I immediately emailed Rose Tours on August 4 asking to be put on a upgrade list. I never heard back, so I'm not sure if such a list exists or not. While it would be hard to turn down a suite if somehow there is a list, I'm secretly on it, AND I get a call, I'd hate to switch rooms now. Somehow without planning I'm between @DEWz_pingpong on one side and @wizbiff on the other. Party in our hall!

In other news, two more regular wait listers were placed in cabins today. @VivaTheBlock talked to RT this morning, and they said only two more cabins were made available today and they were filled. I'm guessing the rash in recent cancellations has something to do with the fact that the cancellation penalty goes from 25% to 50% on January 1.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Regular waitlisters starting to get placed!

Just wanted to get this up quick because I know we've all been waiting to hear: the priority wait list has been cleared and regular wait listers are starting to get calls!

Thanks so much to @Jodis_Tweet for breaking the news to me. She was wait list #2411. Rose Tours offered her a choice of either a 4B or a 6D cabin. Jodi chose the 4B, so that means at least one more cabin was available. She was placed with her roommate.

Make that TWO regular wait listers! @soaps3 also just got her call. She was wait list number #2412 and was also offered either 4B or 6D.

As I was writing this, I saw from @Carrie713 that she was on the priority wait list and did not receive a call. I'd suggest calling or e-mailing Rose Tours to check on that. I know that Jeannie is out of the office right now for the holidays, but they should be placing you guys first!

Please keep me updated (here in the comments or on Twitter) if you hear more wait list news! Congrats Jodi and Erin!

Update: I heard from @luckee13 that wait lister #2408 was called as well, so it sounds like they made several placements. Those with numbers in the low 2400s, keep your phones close by!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

10 Best of 2009

I feel funny calling these the "best" posts of 2009. A more accurate title would be "posts that are the most relevant as we get closer to the cruise," but that's not real catchy. Anyway, here are my top ten picks:
I've got a few topics still up my sleeve for the coming weeks, but if there's anything in particular you'd want to read about, please let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading in 2009!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Seating to be assigned this year?

Last year on the post-cruise survey, the ONLY thing I listed under "Needs Improvement" was controlling the queueing for events. Sure, you didn't have to spend time in line, but most of us did. We all know by now that BHs are champions at queueing.

Now, from BlockBeerGirl, some excellent news on ning!
I talked with Rose Tours when I made my 2nd payment and the lady said seating goes by order number: meaning in order we got our cabins and not by price...of course minus the 6E cabins.....they get 1-6 but they also go in order they were purchsed 1-6... hope this makes sense!!! =)

This year, we will have assigned seats according to what order we booked our cabins so we will never have to wait in line like we did last cruise...she said we will have the same seat for every show. YAYY this makes me excited since my last cruise was spent almost entirely in line!!!
NO lining up for events?! Can you imagine?! I don't even know what I'm going to do with all the extra hours in the day. I hope it means I get to meet and talk with more of you. Or, maybe this year we will get that promised Speedo Fun on the Sun Deck.

The suites/6E part of BlockBeerGirl's post may be a bit unclear. I'm pretty sure that the suites go first, and then the 6E will fill in behind, regardless of whether the 6Es booked before the suites.

I don't know how exactly you know what order you booked in, but I'd guess the confirmation number gives some indication. The lower, the better. I think they started at 1000.

Also, the concert is presumably standing room only. I don't know whether the suites/6Es will all be placed in the same area or split into two groups. And if they don't break up the rest of the deck, I can see some out-of-control queueing for that. Everyone on the boat will be jockeying for a great view. Let's hope they figure out a zone system or something. (Do you ever think, "I am so glad I'm not the one that has to figure this stuff out because if BHs don't like it they will come after me with pitchforks?" I sure do.) Anyone have a good idea on how the deck arrangements could work?

On a personal note, I'm bummed that ALL of the Minnesota and Seattle girls that I had such a great time with last year either couldn't book or have had to cancel their reservations, including my roomie Katie. I will miss them bunches. On the plus side, this means I get to room with Malina again! We had a great time together in 2009 and I know we will again in 2010.

Anyway: assigned seating! Yay!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Much more than 10 days later, PWL still being filled

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I had been holding out for the PWL finishing off and the first regular wait lister getting a call, but that still hasn't happened. On the plus side, as of Friday, PWLs were still getting calls.

Two posts of interest on ning. First, from Sarah:
When I talked with RT they told me that there was still several PWL people left, that there was several below me. But a lot of them aren't going anymore. 2 people out of my group of 4 decided not to go. The bad thing is that since I had 4 people in my group I can take 3 others with me...even if they aren't in my group. Like only 2 of us wanted to go but we were able to put a 3rd person that wasn't on the PWL in our room or the two of us each could of booked a 2 person room and taken 2 no PWL people wth us....so find a PWL person that has roomies that have backed out and get on with them. That could possibly be faster!
If I'm reading this right, it's good news and bad news for wait listers. On the plus side, PWLers are backing out. On the downside, apparently PWLers can take whoever the heck they want if the person they were on the wait list with originally no longer wants to go. I suppose that's no different from the people that find their own replacements for cancellations, but probably not what PWLers want to hear.

Second interesting post from Michelle:
I got my call from RT last Friday that I was on the boat. Got my email confirmation and everything! Well, yesterday Mary called me again and I told them they already called me and put me on the boat. I asked her if everything was OK and she assured me it was. So, I guess that means they still have enough open spots that they're trying to give me another one! HAHAHA!! So, girls, stay close to the phone over the next couple of weeks. I have a feeling that RT has alot more openings than they want us to know about.
My guess is that they have enough rooms to clear out the PWL, but it's taking them much longer than 10 days (obviously) to get through everyone.

Any PWLers still out there who haven't gotten a call yet? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Priority wait list will be cleared within 10 days!

Last Friday, several PWLers started getting calls after many on the boat failed to make the second payment. Calls continued into this week and are still coming through today.

My best guess is there were around 35-40 pairs on the PWL. A few had gotten placed here and there in the last two months, and others got on finding roommates on their own. Since last week, I had heard of 12-14 more pairs getting calls. Now it seems the PWL is nearly cleared.

From @Shesha12:
"I'm on the boat. Mary at Rose Tours said only rooms available right now are inside and 2 oceanviews: 6B and 6C. She let me pick [from those three room types]. I was on PLW but I'm sure it was near the bottom."
From @JKsGrownNSexy:
"I just got off the phone with RT - she said all PWL's should be all set within the next 10 days, at most."
Regular wait listers, while it's probably impossible that all 1000 on the list will get placed, I expect an even higher number will drop out around the third payment on April 1, which is the biggest yet. The payments so far of $300 and $400 seem insignificant compared to the $1100 or so some of us will have to pay in the spring. That won't give much notice for shopping and prepping (especially if it takes a few weeks after the payment date for the calls to come in, like this time), but it's a spot on the boat!

Regular wait listers, do you know anyone who has gotten a call yet? Are you saving for a spot or have you given up? If you get a call in mid-April, do you think you'd take it? Let me know!

(Happy Thanksgiving!!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rose Tours calls have started again!

A few weeks ago, Rose Tours said they would be calling people from the wait list at the end of November, and what do you know, they are!

From Jaime (@HereWeGoAgainJM):
"Rose Tours called a friend of mine today, and she's now on the boat. Some people didn't pay their second payment."

Soon after, I heard from @randaogden that her friend @jennifer_benson also got a call!

Update: I've since heard of at least two other pairs of roomies who received calls today, so that's a minimum of 6 people who joined the boat!

These were priority wait listers. I wonder at this point how many priority wait listers are still in limbo. Anyone have an idea?

By the way, totally unrelated, did you all see this post from Jared on ning?
"Let me assure ANY fan that attempts to re sell cruise cabins on the secondary market (ebay, craigslist, etc) will be VOID. We have alerted Rose Tours to look out for these instances."
This came on the heels of someone putting a cruise vacancy on eBay that sold for $2050 (at least $500 over the value of the room). Several people reported the listing to eBay as unauthorized. I never heard what became of it. I'm also not 100% sure what the best action to take against these listings is. Report on the listing site? Post on ning? All of the above?

Will keep you updated if I hear more on wait list placements. If you've gotten a call today, know someone who has, or are on the PWL and still waiting, please leave a comment!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Beware: scammers trying to take advantage of those wanting to cruise

I suppose it was only a matter of time before some lowlife figured out that they could use the cruise as a way to scam money out of BHs.

From a post on Ning by Yolanda:

"There was a girl on here just a couple of days ago saying she had 2 spots open for the cruise. When I contacted her about the tickets I asked her what type of room does she have and what is the cabin number. She wrote back that they don't give you that info until day before take off. Which I knew right then she was a scam. I know they give you the room number through your email confirmation page. If anyone wants your CC info tell them you will call Rose Tours to give them that info. Now she is no longer a member of this website, she disappeared." 

In the excitement of seeing a cruise opening and the sense of urgency that goes along with vying for an open spot, it's not hard to forget to be thorough, but please be careful. Here are some tips.

  • Ask questions about the cabin type and room number. Ask for a confirmation number and compare against people you trust who are cruising.
  • Check the seller's ning profile page or Twitter account. Do they have friends? Are they interacting like a normal BH? Of course, fellow BHs could still be scammers, but if someone seems odd, that's a red flag.
  • Never give anyone your credit card or bank account information. You only need to give it to Rose Tours.
  • If you pay someone, use PayPal or another trusted service. Get a receipt. Use a credit card with buyer protection.
  • Check the room category and price the seller is advertising against the price list at www.nkotbcruise.com to make sure they aren't inflating the cost.
  • Ask for your name to be added to the reservation before money changes hands, and confirm with Rose Tours directly before you pay the individual.

Good luck ladies!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Live from the cruise: KT-TV

My husband has done some pretty cool techno-geek BH stuff for me in the past (made me a personalized Joe Mac app, put Hangin Tough Live on our HTPC, loaded The Block onto the PS3), but this may be the best yet.

Last week, we picked up our Droid phones. And last night, husband installed on mine a beta client called Qik. Qik on the Droid works like UStream on a PC. Two clicks on my phone and whatever I'm doing is streaming in live DVD quality video on the internet. Plus, it has a live chat feature so I can see what you're replying while I'm filming.

You know what this means? I could be at the NKOTB cruise sail away party next May, phone in the air, and you could be seeing everything as it's happening. HOW COOL IS THAT??

My 2009 roomie Malina asked last night if there was a limit to how long a video could be. I don't think so. What will limit me, though, is that I'll be using the ship's $0.50/minute wi-fi, so I won't be streaming hours of coverage. But every now and then (from approved video-friendly events) you could get a live peek of the cruise.

Qik automatically starts a video feed when I start filming, so I envision that weekend you can leave a browser window open to www.qik.com/ktsummer with the volume on high, and randomly throughout the three days, the noise of live video will scare the pants off of you. Don't worry if you miss one, because videos are stored on my channel so you can watch them anytime.

(Because it is so easy to go live, I'm a bit worried that husband will swipe my phone and start streaming things like me brushing my teeth, but let's hope not.)

Here's a sample video we did last night of the most exciting film subject in the house: our cat.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Priority wait listers may hear more news this month

It's been a LONG time since we've heard anything on the wait list, hasn't it? Here is a tiny morsel of news, posted on ning by Kathrin:
"We will start to clear some of the priority wait list the end of this month. After they are all cleared, we will start with the regular wait list.

Thanks and have a great day,
Jeannie Gearhart | Office Manager"
I mentioned in my last post that I had only heard of two people in the last month or so who had gotten placed from the actual waitlist. I'm sure there are more, but it definitely seems like the vast majority of those who cancel are finding replacements on their own. (As we've seen, that comes with its own problems.) Maybe that will change at the end of the month.

Also, the last two payments have been pretty reasonable. The big payment for many people will come April 1. Think of how many rooms were over $1500. That means without an intermediate payment many cruisers will owe $800, some even $1200. And, at that time, people will really have to start booking flights and making final arrangements. Cancelations will keep coming.

So what haven't I heard? Have others from the wait list gotten calls? And on another note, have any roommates been matched yet? Rose Tours had said November for that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Too many name changes can put everyone's spot at risk

This morning I got a tweet from @DJ4Wood with some rather alarming news:
"I emailed Jeannie at Rose Tours because we had ANOTHER name change and I am now the lone survivor on the original booking. She let me know: since I am the last original passenger, if I cancel, the girls in the cabin are canceled out. They would have to pay the cancellation penalty but the $100 name change fee would be deducted from their penalty. They would be able to fill out a wait list reservation; however, that list is very long."
In other words, DJ4Wood has found new roomies on her own who have successfully registered and paid at least $700 each toward the room already. But because her previous roomies canceled, should DJ4Wood need to back out, all her replacement roomies will get the boot too!

Now, I think this is only an issue if you have only one person from the original reservation left on the room. For a 4-person room, the chances are probably small that all 4 people would cancel. But what about for a 2-person room? If the second person drops out, does the new cruiser get kicked to the curb too?

Has anyone else received the same information from Rose Tours?

Speaking of cancellations, I didn't see as many as I expected to around the time of the second payment. But I think it's because almost everyone is finding replacements on their own. I have only heard of two people actually getting spots from the wait list (and Rose Tours is still trying to place priority wait listers). Have you heard of more?

p.s. Don't forget, you can subscribe to this blog by e-mail so that you get all new posts automatically. Sign up is in the sidebar on the right.

p.p.s. Why does "canceled" have one L, but "cancellation" has two? English is weird.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Here We Go Again

Here We Go Again
by JoeyMcIntyre

Buy this song on 11/16!

Lyrics transcribed by @mashia6:

I found it hard to pretend
that this has come to an end
Just when I thought I was out they pulled me back in

It always happens like this
Just when I start to forget
I try it on all over again and it fits so perfect

Back in headlines, in the papers
Hangin on ? he's such a loser
When is that kid ever gonna grow up?
No, I don't wanna grow up!

Here we go again
I'm a man on a mission baby
Here we go again
Are you gonna be there for me now?

Here we go again
La La La love
Here we go again
Hey Hey Hey Hate

Here we here we go again
Here we go again
Oh, here we go again

I don't know if this is for me
Am I at the wrong party?
If I am, I'm not gonna leave
Cuz it's screamin my name

Back in headlines, see what he did
Comin up he's such a cool kid
No that boy won't ever give up
I never give up

Here we go again
I'm a man on a mission baby

Here we go again
La La La love
Here we go again
Hey Hey Hey Hate

Here we here we go again
Here we go again
Oh, Here we go again

I think it's time to get out of here
No one seems to know me now
then you pull me back and you push me forward
to where I wanna gooooo

Hey hey hey ya ya ya!

Here we go again
I'm a man on a mission baby

Here we go again
La La La love
Here we go again
Hey Hey Hey Hate

Here we here we go again
Here we go again
Oh, Here we go again

Repeat chorus

Here we go again, repeat x3

Monday, November 2, 2009

Second payment due today. Or this week. Or sometime. . . whatever.

Like many of you, the first thing I did this morning was check my credit card charges to see if the $400 payment had been taken from Rose Tours. Last year, the payments went through at midnight on the dot, so I expected to at least see a "Pending." I didn't. And 12 hours later, I still haven't.

Turns out most of you haven't either. I heard of only three people today that were actually charged. I also heard from @colettebett, who had made her payment early only to be charged another $400 today. She got an apology email saying the payment would be refunded, but it will take a few days for the refund to clear. Colette says she was assured when she made the payment that the automatic payment would not go through.

But what about the rest of us that actually do owe money but haven't been charged? Varying answers. On Ning, @InLuvWithJon wrote:
"Talked to RT about half an hour ago [5:30 pm EST]....they said since there are so many people who need to have payments taken, it can take up to a few days. They assured me that if there is a problem with the card, they will not cancel any reservations until they speak with you directly."
So somehow we went from midnight on the dot last year to "a few days" this year. But it may be more. @shawnasstoller also called today, and she was told it could be "Friday or NEXT Monday before the payment is taken out."

What does this mean really? It's not a huge deal for most of us if the payment is charged today versus Wednesday or Thursday. But it may change how we decide to make unscheduled payments. I had been planning to pay half my remaining balance in February or so, but I don't feel very confident in being accurately charged come April 1. Instead, I'm going to stash my payment money away somewhere so I have it ready to go on April 1. Or, you know, April 5.

Has this scheduled payment changed your payment plans? Were you accurately charged today? Double charged? Still waiting?

Rose Tours says they're "trying something new" with seating this year

If you read any of my 2009 daily recaps, you got a taste of how much time I spent waiting in line on this year's cruise. In fact, 47% of the respondents to my last poll said they spent more than 4 hours in line during the cruise. Most everyone is hoping for a new seating system this year.

On the splash promo page that was on NKOTB.com before the cruise went on sale, there was a line promising "assigned seating" this year. While that line does not appear on NKOTBCruise.com, it does seem that Rose Tours is making a change -- although they haven't seemed to have worked out just what that change will be.

From Angela on Ning:
"I have called them to ask about long line ups and seating.. I have chronic pain, so even if i wanted to i couldnt stand or sit in line for hours, i am also blind in my right eye so i cant see anything from a distance. I had to fill out a medical form for them and fax it in..So since the second payment was due i called to ask if they have worked any of this out for me. She said no!! I told her i didnt want to make the next payment if arrangements couldnt be made for me and still couldnt give me an answer. She told me not to worry about it (easy for them to say) Anyhow what she did tell me is they are trying something different with the seating and are still working on the logistics of all the seating>.. hmmmm Something tells me they still will be trying to figure it out in May!!"
In the off chance that Jeannie reads this blog, here's what I would like to see: assignments that designate you to a specific booth or section of a row. For example, you could be "floor row 3, left center," "floor row 4, right," or "balcony booth 9." It wouldn't be too difficult to number each booth. Since the rows are quite long, I would want to divide them into at least 4 sections each: split down the center and then divided in half. Otherwise I can envision people lining up hoping to get the aisle seats. We don't need a fancy system; masking tape on the seats dividing the rows and signs with numbers on each table would work fine.

What do you think cruisers? What would your ideal seating system be?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

If you need to reach me. . .

Like many people, I have an e-mail account that I use for things I expect to get spam from. One of these things is the Feedburner system that sends out the e-mails for new posts on this blog. (Yup, you can get all the posts sent to you by e-mail! Subscription box in the sidebar on the right.)

Anyway, I only check this spam account once in a blue moon, and when I last checked it I saw that I had a few messages from readers of this blog, who had replied to the Feedburner subscription e-mails. You probably thought I was ignoring you. Sorry about that!

If you do want to reach me, there are a few ways to go about it:
  1. Send me a reply on Twitter @ktsummer. As long as your profile isn't private, I'll see it. But my profile IS private, so you'd have to be following me to see my reply. (I'll accept your request if you send me one!)
  2. If you're a member of the NKOTB Ning community, send me a message there or leave a comment on my page: http://newkidsnetwork.ning.com/profile/ktsummer
  3. It may seem a bit strange, but you can also send me a message through YouTube. Go to my channel page and either leave a message there on the page or click "Send Message" next to my profile picture. http://www.youtube.com/KatieNKOTB
  4. If you have a question related to a specific blog post, leave a comment here. I see and read all comments and can leave a reply. If you have a question, chances are someone else is wondering the same thing, and it will make the post more informative.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Second payment due in one week! Are you ready?

Cruisers, get your bank accounts ready! Our second payment of $400 is due one week from today. (If you have one of the swankier suites, your payment may be more.)

Rose Tours does not mess around with automatic payments. Expect to see a charge at midnight on November 2.

Some cruisers have already made the payment, but that doesn't mean they are free and clear come next week. Some who have paid already have told me that if you made the payment ahead of schedule, you still have to make sure that you ask Rose Tours to cancel the automatic payment. Otherwise they will pull the payment anyway.

After next week, we don't have another payment due until April 1, 2010, which will be the remaining balance. For some, that could be as little as $200 or so. For others, that payment could be over $1000! Plan accordingly!

Don't forget, you can subscribe to this blog by e-mail so you never miss a post! Enter your e-mail address in the subscription box on the right.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 NKOTB Cruise Day-by-Day: Sunday

So we've covered Friday (and Family Feud) and Saturday in some detail. Let's wrap this baby up with Sunday!

Sunday, which included the photo op, concert, and white night, I most remember as the day of waiting in line. First on our agenda was the photo op, scheduled from 10:30-1:00. The night before, we had planned our group of 10. It was me and Malina, Jennifer and her roommate Lisa, and the 6 girls from Minnesota I'd been hanging out with. As luck would have it, our favorites were evenly split. We decided Saturday night to meet around 9:30 to form our group and head toward the line.

Knowing we had to be cute and photo-ready at 9:30, we got up around 8:00. (Remember I'd gone to bed sometime after 4:00, so I was like a zombie. Once again, thank goodness for room service coffee!) You know that in a cabin, you only get one power outlet, so everyone brings a power strip. What we didn't count on was that at least half the girls on deck would be using that power strip at once. Between hair dryers, curling irons, and other beautifying instruments, we blew out the power! We had lights, but no one's outlets worked. Luckily they worked in Jennifer's room, so we went up there to finish getting ready. This was one of the many points where we really missed cell phones. There's no way to reach all your friends to tell them what's going on unless they happen to be in their rooms.

In any case, we finally managed to get ready and met up with the rest of our group upstairs. I have NO idea why, but some groups had lined up super early for the photo op. It makes sense when you're going for good seats, but why for the photo op? There were 200 people already in line when we arrived. (I know because we were group 20.)

They said no cameras would be allowed in, but what they really meant was nothing other than your room key. I had brought a little wristlet of mints, lip gloss, and a compact, but everything was sent back to the rooms before you were allowed to get in line.

I guess because we were gunning it back to Miami, the boat was VERY rocky Sunday morning. That mixed with hungover and sleep deprived girls was not a great combination. Many of us were pretty queasy. I saw one girl go down and crack her head on the floor. I'm not sure if she passed out or what. It was scary! Medics came in and took care of her.

We weren't the only groggy ones either; NKOTB had not actually arrived to the shoot by 10:30. I forget what time they actually did arrive. I want to say after 11. Anyone remember? First, they took individual pics with all the Blockheads in wheelchairs. Then the line actually started to move. Just before, line wranglers came down and handed us each a ticket with a group number on it. If one of your group was MIA, she had to go to the back.

And things got stricter from there. Repeated over and over as we crept slowly toward the front was "No hugs, no autographs." Knowing there were at least 1000 of us in Group A, I had figured as soon as we got the itinerary that we wouldn't get more than one minute for the photo op. But it was probably closer to 30 seconds. Here's a complete play-by-play of mine:

Me: [sitting on arm of couch where Joe is sitting] "Hi."
Cameraman: "Everyone sit on your man."
Me: "ON your man?"
Joe: "No, you're fine."
Me: [thinking] "Hmph, I haven't eaten THAT much chocolate lava cake."
Camera: Click! (Just once, so don't blink!)
Cameraman: "Next group."
Me: [to Joe] "Ok thank you."
Joe: "Thanks" [wink, smile]
--The End--

Still, we're cute, right? Nice to have a group photo where I know and like everyone in it. You get a free download of your group photo, but split the cost of the $10 download with your group. The quality is worth it.
After our photo, we walked back to our rooms (past some of group B that was already in line for their photo op that started at 2:00 p.m.!) to change into our swim suits. After some more coffee, we spent the next few hours vegging in the sun. Heaven!

The sun out at sea is pretty intense, and there's no shade, so 2-3 hours was all I could take. Even slathering on SPF 30 several times I still got pink. But it was very relaxing to lie there and read with incremental breaks to stand under the sprinklers in the pool.
While we were up there, Jon came around and spent about 45 minutes playing with Colorblind Fish's baby boy. SO CUTE! They'd go in and out of the sprinklers, both smiling and laughing. There weren't many people back there, and we were all chill. I didn't see anyone try to approach Jon. Aside from stealing a few glances every now and then, I mostly continued to read my book. But more and more people began to trickle into the area, and eventually Jon left. It may just be that he had to go back for Group B's photo op.

We'd had enough of the sun at this point, so we went down to the buffet for a late lunch. And then, you guessed it, we geared up to wait in line for our concert that night.

We had blue wristbands, which was 4th in the hierarchy of groups. That placed our zoned seating for the concert in the round booths along the perimeter of the floor. (Personally, I think the people that got front of the balcony had the better seats, but no one asked me to do the zones.) Having had a few events in the lounge by this point, we knew that none of the booths would mean a great view, but some of them would be downright awful. That made us determined to get first choice of the booths.

Group B had their Q&A session at 5:45; our concert was scheduled to start at 9:00 in the same lounge. I asked one of the crew where we could begin the line for the concert, separate from the Q&A, and we plunked ourselves down, first in line.

Now, did we waste our time sitting in line so many hours? Maybe. But I'm not sure what else we would have done. I certainly didn't want to be back in the sun. Group B was having their photo ops that afternoon and then their Q&A, so it's not like we could have been hanging out with NKOTB at that time instead. Shopping? The casino? Meh. The only thing I could have REALLY gone for would have been a nap, and sitting outside the lounge talking and reading wasn't too far off. (There was also a poker tournament going on all day Sunday.)

As the afternoon wore on, we took turns going back to our rooms to shower and get changed for white night. Just as I got to my room, Donnie, Joe, and I think Jordan got on the PA system to make announcements. Donnie said they'd be on deck partying until the sun came up, and after 2 a.m. we were all supposed to "grab the ass of [our] favorite New Kid." Joe said he was about to go have "Speedo fun on the Sports deck." Did I know very well there would be no such thing? Yes. Did I run up to the Sports deck anyway on the 1% chance that I was wrong? Yes I did.

Eventually I did make it back to my room to change. Most people wore their white outfits to the concert. I know I've mentioned this before, but as fun as white night was, it was NOT easy to find a white dress in the northeast in April. So please NKOTB, maybe we can have themes in February or March this year? Pretty please?
Around 8:00 I was getting pretty hungry, so I ducked out to the buffet. But I was also scared about spilling, so I came back with a plate of all white food.
Now, I said we were first in line. I don't know how long we were there on our own. 20 minutes maybe? But it's not like we arrived just as another group did. And we sat with the group behind us for several hours, so we weren't exactly strangers by the time the doors opened. Still, those punks kept trying to scoot up around us to get in first. You know me; I turned around and made it clear that we had been there first and would be going in first.

But do you know what those jackasses did? When the doors opened, and we were going to sit in the booth, they ran up, and climbed over the back of the booth to get in first. There were 4 of us, and they pushed one right off the edge of the bench. (Are you girls reading this? You suck.)

Once the concert started, we got to stand up on our benches so we could see over the heads of everyone in the rows. (Then the booth jumpers started complaining they didn't want to stand and couldn't see over us.)

Even though the concert was shorter than a regular show, it was still awesome. One of the highlights was Troy Kids taking the stage to sing Games. Another was everyone singing Happy Birthday to Jordan while Jon held a chocolate cake with candles. And, my personal favorite, was the attempt to sing "I'll Be There." Security was tight, and I saw more than one person have her camera or memory card taken away because she was caught recording video.
After the concert, we headed up to the Lido deck once more for a quick bite at the buffet and the final party. This time was a bit different because, for one, we were expecting more. Saturday everything was a bonus. Sunday, we expected NKOTB to show up because of the PA announcements. Second, this was, as Donna Summer says, the last dance, last chance. If, like me, you had spent 3 days on a boat with the New Kids and only been able to manage "Hi" and "Thank you," you hoped to change that come Sunday night.

Copied from a previous entry on this blog:
Once again, there were a bunch of people camped out around the stage and more waiting behind the rope to the side of VIP. Since it was the last night, my friends and I decided to see if we could get in. We went inside to where another group was lined up in front of a security guard. After standing there for about two minutes, I felt pretty grossed out because I could see the guy looking us all over (surefire way to send your self-esteem to the basement). But, we were told we could go in. After going through the hallway though, a female guard at the deck entrance told us to leave. So we looped around, were told to go in again, and again were told by the woman to get out.
That was enough VIP for us. We spent the rest of the night on the balcony across from VIP, watching Donnie and Jordan sing along with the music being played on the speakers. And looking down into a sea of white was pretty sweet too!
Eventually the crowd started to thin out and we went to bed. I missed Donnie jumping in the pool, but I needed that few hours of sleep I got.

That was Sunday. Quickly, Monday morning we arrived in Miami at 8:00 a.m. We scrambled to shower, get ready, and pack up. Of course we had packed almost nothing beforehand. Our door decorations were still up and everything. So it was a rush. People were leaving the boat, the stewards were making sure everyone was up and moving, and the hallways were packed. I finally got to take my cell phone out of the room safe and reassemble it (had the battery out because I was very afraid of roaming charges). Since I only had a carry on, I just rolled upstairs to the buffet for coffee and breakfast before leaving the ship and hopping in a cab for the Miami airport.

Before I had even left the port, Jordan was tweeting about cruising in 2010. And by the time I got home that night, I knew I wanted to be on the boat again!

So, that's it. I'm sure I forgot a few things, but I've done my best to give you a good picture of SS NKOTB in 2009. Hope you liked it!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2009 NKOTB Cruise Day-by-Day: Saturday

When we left off, I had gone to bed sometime around 3 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning. One thing I was not really expecting on the trip was how much I would feel the boat moving. Part of it may have been that we were on the bottom deck of cabins, toward the back of the boat, but I felt like I was sleeping in a rocking chair. I WAS expecting that it would be dark with no window. We had a night light, but it's strange to wake up and have no idea if it's 5 a.m. or 2 p.m.

Turns out, I woke up around 9:15, which was good because I had hung out a request for room service at 9:30 before I went to bed. I think it was the sound and movement of docking in Nassau that woke me. There was soon a knock at the door and we had coffee and fruit delivered, which was awesome. I wish that could happen after every night of drinking.

Malina and I slowly came to life, and I mean slowly. By the time we had showered and gotten dressed in our swim suits and cover-ups, it was after 11. We went up to the Lido deck for a real breakfast.

The only thing on our schedule that day was the Q&A session at 8 p.m. We decided to go onshore and check out Nassau, which we did around noon. There were some girls that stayed onboard all day because we had heard that NKOTB would be on the ship, but neither of us had ever been to Nassau and we wanted to take the opportunity to check it out.
Leaving the boat is pretty easy. We had our room keys, and I had my passport. There were shuttles from the boat entrance to the end of the dock, but it was only a two minute walk so I'm glad we didn't wait. Walking through the welcome center, we were offered dozens of excursions, but we decided we most wanted to see Atlantis. Carnival offered an Atlantis excursion for something like $140. Ours was a total of $8, for round trip cab fare.

Atlantis is ENORMOUS. We wandered around the hotel for a bit, then eventually made our way to the beach area. Our plan had originally been to lay on the beach for a while, but the vendors wanted $15 for the privilege of sitting in a chair for an hour, so we just took a walk. The sand was so soft that our feet sunk several inches with each step so it was quite a workout. Both the weather and the beach were incredibly beautiful. I'm sorry to subject you to a picture of me in a bathing suit, but it's the only pic I have of our excursion. Pay no attention to me; look at the gorgeous sand and water.
After walking the length of the beach, we cabbed it back to the port and went shopping in the straw market. If you wanted straw purses, jewelry, or random knick knacks, this was the place to be. Finally we started to get hungry, so we walked back to the ship for lunch.

Herein lies the biggest problem to having early dinner scheduled at 6 p.m. and why I only ate in the dining room once. When you wake up after 9, eat breakfast at 11, then have lunch at 3 or 4, you are not remotely interested in a 6 p.m. dinner. Luckily, the buffet and pizza counter are always available.

Malina went down to the room for a shower. I followed a short while later, and walking back to our room, I had a New Kids sighting when I saw Joe walking around above the atrium. Unfortunately he said he was late for an interview, so he did not have time for pictures with anyone.
Imagine my surprise when I got down to the Riveria deck (where our cabin was) to see a bunch of security guards, lights, and a camera crew only a few doors down from our room. It turns out that Donnie and Danny had been going down the hallway and knocking on the door of everyone with decorations. Had we been only a few minutes earlier, we would have had them in our room laying in our beds, going through our luggage, and taking pictures like they did with several of our neighbors. (Our closest neighbor had been sleeping and got woken up. She wasn't even fully dressed when she answered the door!) Instead, I got to have a chat with Danny's daughter Chance while I waited to be let past. She was a sweetheart. She said she really liked our door, which was nice. Poor Malina was so upset that we had missed them.

After we had showered again, we went upstairs to . . . GET IN LINE! Yes, for the Q&A that wasn't until 8 p.m. But our friend Jennifer had booked her cabin really late, and she knew her only chance to get close to an event was to be really early for a general admission seating, so we wanted to help her out. We were not the first ones to line up, and it really wasn't that bad. For one, the waiters come around to the line and take drink orders (that would turn out to be a bad thing in this case, more later). Plus it was nice to just sit and rest out of the sun for a while. Here's the line.
Since there were three of us, we took turns having one person go get fixed up for dress to impress night while the others held down the fort. Doors were supposed to open at 7:30, and for some reason they didn't. I feel like we got let in very close to 8. Meanwhile the line had been growing steadily since we joined it, and some people had been taking full advantage of the drink service. You know where this is going, right? Well I don't want to talk bad about anyone, but I will tell you accurately what happened.

We ended up getting very good seats once the doors opened, just behind VIP. The guys were sitting onstage on stools, with Jared P. acting as emcee. Before the cruise, we had been asked to submit one question for the Q&A. The questions were written on index cards. Jared would read the name of the person who submitted the question, she would stand up, then Jared would read her question. The first question was something like, "If you were trying to convert a non believer, what one track from The Block would you play for them?" They answered Click, Click, Click.

After that, most of the questions were less interesting, at least to me. It was stuff like, "what five people would you want to eat dinner with," "what would you take with you to a deserted island," etc. Someone in the audience, who had had way too much to drink, decided to answer all of these questions herself with "me!" And when she would shout this answer, she would stand up and start dancing her way from her seat to the center of the theater. The first 1-2 times she did this, the guys were somewhat amused. In fact, when asked "what would you take to a desert island," Danny said "the girl in the red dress." Here's them pointing at her.
Then it got less amusing as she did it again and again. Joe told her more than once that "there's coffee in the back." He did not sound pleased. Jon, meanwhile, turned around and was facing away from the audience. He barely spoke the whole time. Jared tried to keep us on task, but it was harder and harder for everyone to stay focused on the questions. As it went on, fewer of the guys would answer a question, or they would answer it with only a sentence or two. None of them really seemed into it, and I can't blame them because I was getting increasingly annoyed myself. Really, if security has to come over to you twice, that's plenty of chances. To come over more than four times is pointless. By then you need to be escorted out. Abruptly our session ended after 45 minutes. Group B's Q&A lasted a full hour.

Anyway, after the Q&A, I hit the buffet for dinner. I preferred the buffet to the dining room. No tiny portions and I got to see all my options. Plus: a whole table of desserts. As a vegetarian, I ate very well on the trip.

Group B had their concert at 10 or 10:30. The only other event on the schedule was the 11:15 deck party. Unlike Friday night, none of NKOTB was scheduled to appear at this party, and I, for one, wasn't really expecting them to. (Okay, maybe Donnie.) So I relaxed with my girls from Minnesota and had a fantastic time. I also got to meet Wizbiff. Saturday was my favorite of the deck parties.

Eventually, everyone but Danny made an appearance at the party, from the VIP area. As I've said, this left you with the choice of 1) standing at the entrance to VIP hoping to be let in, 2) standing on the deck watching the party in VIP, or 3) mostly ignoring VIP and having your own party. We chose to have our own party. One of our group had such a good time (well, we all did), that Danny's dad became a little concerned for her, and came and told the rest of us to take her to bed. It's still a running joke with us that "At least Danny's dad didn't tell you to go to your room."

Best part of the night was around 3:30 a.m. when Jon came down from the balcony, took the stage and the mic, and sang Happy Birthday to Jordan.

I could have easily stayed longer at the party, but I went back to my room around 4 a.m. I knew we had our photo session early the next morning, and I didn't want to look bleary for my one guaranteed NKOTB meeting.

Whew, I think that's everything for Saturday! If you read this far, thanks! Hope it was worth it!

Did you miss the previous summaries? Here's Friday and more detail on Family Feud.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You asked for it! More cruise 2009 day-by-day detail

After I posted last weekend about my experiences the Friday of the 2009 cruise, several people asked me to post MORE detail about the day. Really! I was surprised too! And what is this blog if not to give the people what they want, so I'll do it.

For the two deck parties (sail away and PJ party), I'm not sure what more there is to say. The DJ played (the same songs over and over), people danced, we drank, we had a good time. I've described each of the evening parties in detail here.

However, I can easily go into more detail on Family Feud because it was one of my favorite parts of the cruise! As I described on Sunday, we didn't line up until 8:30 that night, so we sat up in the balcony. Sidenote: I was worried about being cold in the theater, but I never had to put my jacket on.

Anyway, the stage was set up as you would expect Family Feud to be with two long tables on either side and a big board/projector screen in the center. The teams were named the Red Sox and the Celtics. For the first round of the game, two groups of fans played each other. As far as I know, the fans were picked from the audience. I don't know if there was any kind of special selection process.

There's no way I can remember all of the questions they gave in the fan round, but I remember one was "What is the name of NKOTB's favorite member of their crew?" Another was "What brand of boxers does Donnie wear?" At the end, he called a girl up from the audience to check his tag for the real answer (Hanes). Anyone remember what the third question was?

The audience was shouting suggestions down throughout, some serious, some not. Example audience suggestion for "What's the craziest thing a fan would do for face time?": "Swallow."

While the fan round was going on, I can't tell you what most of the guys were doing, but I CAN tell you that Joe was making his way around the theater and sitting in the crowd. He would sit in one place for only a few minutes and at each stage he would yell something like "This game is a travesty!" So I was paying attention to that at least as much as I was watching the game.

Eventually the Red Sox won, although I don't remember any actual score keeping. The two Jareds were acting as the Richard Dawson, except they were a lot funnier and less groping of the ladies.

Round two was the winning fan team vs NKOTB. I was in Group A so this was the second Family Feud show of the night. From this point, I remember most of the questions and answers.

For "Name something Donnie can do that the other NKOTB can't," one girl said "act." (Me: booo!) But thank goodness for her, because this was Joe's reaction to her answer:

You may ask, "How does his taking his shirt off prove he can act?" The answer is: it doesn't matter. The reason I do not have this clearly on video is because I was screaming and fumbled the camera. My video is mostly pointed at the ceiling.

Another question: What's the craziest thing a fan would do for facetime? You can see all the answers here. They were Zach/the crew, get a tattoo, use their children, stalk the hotel/bus, and flash.

Another question: Name something the NKOTB would have their intials on. This is the only answer that matters. After this, Danny also answered "My balls." In the video, you can hear Malina shouting that Joe is sexy and me telling her it will be on YouTube, haha.

Finally, the last question was "Name something all the NKOTB have in common." Some of the answers were from Boston, big families, they're hot, love their fans, they're all on a cruise, they're all in NKOTB. One of the least popular answers was "they all sing," and the fact that answer was so low was pretty funny.

The guys had their own suggestion for what should be on the list:

I think those are all the question rounds. However, this does not mention what was the best part of the Feud (aside from the stripping), and that was THE FAMILY FEUD THEME SONG. Words cannot do it justice. Enjoy:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tips for finding a replacement roomie or taking someone's cruise spot

Three blogs in three days? I can't help it though; I just got some info from @BrandiLin1202 that will be helpful as people cancel between now and November 2.

We've already established that nearly everyone with a cancellation will find their own replacement and that even girls who booked the Owner's Suite will cancel. But what do you need to keep in mind if you find yourself actually looking for a replacement or, on the flip side, poised to take over a reservation?
  • At least one person from the original reservation must still be in the room for you to be able to do a name change.
  • The fee to change a name on a reservation is $100. Decide who will be responsible for this charge ahead of time.
  • Rose Tours cannot refund deposits. That means if you're taking over someone's spot, you'll need to send her the $300 from the deposit directly. Future payments will be charged to the new cruiser's credit card. Those canceling will need to make sure they can trust the newbie to cough up the $300.
Other things you may want to cover with potential roomies:
  • Does one of you smoke? If so, will it bother the other(s), even if the smell is just on clothing?
  • Is one of you expecting to catch a quick nap around 7 a.m. while the other doesn't want to miss a decent night's sleep?
  • Can you agree on a bathroom schedule? I.e., does one of you need 2 hours while the other can be done in 10 minutes, or do you both want hours of shower time?
  • Is one of you crazy? Yes, I know, million sisters, etc, but maybe ask around, check someone's ning page or tweets, and talk on the phone before committing to sharing a tiny room for three days.
Don't forget, if you do find yourself in need of a roommate, this blog has a bunch of Cruise Wanted ads from a group that is calmer and generally more together than those on other, larger sites. Good luck all!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Does the cancellation policy hurt wait listers?

Several weeks ago, I asked "What would you do if your roommate had to cancel?" The overwhelming majority (something like 88%) said that rather than ask Rose Tours to fill the spot from the wait list, they would find a replacement roomie on their own and have the name on the reservation changed. I'm right there with the 88%. There's only one safe in the cabin, and, as we've seen, there are some crazy crazy blockheads out there. I wouldn't take the chance.

Now, with the second payment date exactly three weeks away, I've started to see more than one person in a room have to drop out for financial reasons. Still, people are relying on Twitter and message boards to find replacements rather than the wait list. Can you blame them? The cancellation policy is such that they have to pay a much steeper penalty to play by the rules.

Here's how it works: switch a name on the reservation and pay a $100 name change fee. In most cases, the person canceling asks the new booker to pay the fee, leaving the original cruiser out $0. With such a demand for rooms, they can easily find takers under these conditions. Name changes are an option as long as just one person from the original reservation remains in the room.

On the other hand, call Rose Tours to cancel your reservation (thus freeing a spot for the next person on the wait list) and pay between $225-600, depending on the cost of your room, as a penalty. After January 2, that will jump to 50% - which ranges from $450 to $1200 - of the room cost. Decide to cancel after April 9, and you lose every cent: $850-2300. (Let's just assume the girls in the Owner's Suite aren't going to cancel.)

I'm not saying Rose Tours shouldn't impose cancellation fees. Can you imagine if they didn't? That could open up a whole messy scalping situation. Buy a ticket even if you can't go, try to sell it for buttloads of money, walk away scot-free if it doesn't work out. (Let's hope people aren't trying to do that already.)

So what's the answer? Raise the name change fee? Those desperate to cruise will undoubtedly still pay it. Make the fees for canceling and changing equal? If it's $300 to cancel, maybe it should also be $300 to change a name. But then what do you do closer to sail date when the cancellation penalties are 50%+? And why should someone in a suite pay more for a name change than someone in an interior room?

I don't have an answer to this. Maybe one of you brilliant readers will.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2009 NKOTB Cruise Day-by-Day: Friday

Back when my husband suggested I create this blog, he came up with the idea of recapping the 2009 cruise day by day. And now, three months later, I'm actually going to do it. I'm hoping that in addition to getting you new cruisers excited for just what happens on board, it will have the added benefit of helping you see just how much and what you need to pack. Since I plan to be thorough, I'll break this up into three parts and plan to do one each of the next three weeks.

Let's get started!

Friday, May 15, 2009
I flew to Miami from NYC early Friday morning. I didn't know about Danny's party when I bought the ticket, and had no compelling reason otherwise to spend the money on a hotel Thursday night. However, this put my wake up time somewhere in the 3:30 a.m. range. Rose Tours' site said boarding would begin around noon. My flight landed at 10:45 a.m. No checked bags for me! I wheeled my way out to a cab and was soon on my way to the port.

About 20 minutes later I was at the Port of Miami, which, if you've never been on a cruise before, is set up like a very small airport. I quickly met up with Malina and Jennifer. Our first cruise experience was indicative of the whole weekend: we got in a very long line. Turns out this line was just for the x-ray machines. After that, we went into a bigger room to wait in an even longer line.
By the time we were fully checked in - which took even longer than normal because they could not find our cabin keys - we had been in line for well over an hour. But finally, we climbed the stairs, had our photo taken, and walked up the gangway.

The first thing we saw on the boat was a giant photo of NKOTB. Everyone wanted their photos with it, so we spent another 15 minutes there waiting our turn.
By this time it was probably 2:00, and we had mandatory emergency drills at 3:30 so I wanted to get to the room to shower and change. Waiting for the elevators was a mess, and when we finally got down to the right deck, we waited another 20 minutes or so to be let into our cabins. I did a quick clean up into a sundress, and we grabbed our life vests and headed off to find the location of our emergency drill.

Jennifer's room was on another deck, so she had a different drill location. Her drill had Joe and Donnie in it! The big excitement for our group was when they said to allow women and children into the lifeboats first and we all laughed.

Next we went back to the room to ditch our life vests. Everything took much longer than it should have because we were 1) lost and disoriented most of the time, and 2) competing with everyone else on the boat for elevators. By the time we got up to the lido deck for the Sail Away party, which was to start at 4:45, the lower level was jam packed. We settled for finding a spot along the railing above.
You've probably already seen plenty of videos of the Sail Away party, which do better than any description I could write.

Points to note:
  • Maybe the second or third thing Donnie said at the party was that they would cruise again next year.
  • Ddub, Joe, and Danny took lots of pics and signed lots of autographs. Jordan may have too, but I couldn't see him as well.
  • Before leaving last, Donnie brought a bucket of beer to the girls in the hot tub.
  • Next time, I'm wearing my bathing suit instead of a sundress.
The party lasted 45 minutes or an hour. Afterward, we left for our 6 p.m. dinner time. (I think Group B had their Family Feud at that time.) Friday was the only night I ate in the dining room. We were told to sit anywhere, and found a long table of 8 or so other girls to join. While the food was good, my most distinct memory of dinner was that the portions were comically tiny. My fruit salad contained the world's skinniest slice of melon, 2 grapes, and HALF a strawberry. It's a good thing they let you order as many dishes as you want. (p.s. Everything you've heard about the lava cake is true.)

After dinner, we headed back to our room to put up our door decorations. I had prepped most of it before leaving home, but we had a few last minute touches to add. Note: Rose Tours will tell you to bring magnets. They are crazy. The door is 0% magnetic. Bring tape.

The theme of our door was things Malina and I had done in the name of NKOTB from 1988-2009.
Around 8:30 we set out to get in line for our group's Family Feud. The show was at 9:45 and doors opened at 9:15 with general admission seating. I'm not sure when the line started, but by the time we got there, we didn't even bother with the main level and got in line for the balcony.

Even though we were in the front row of the balcony, the seats pretty much sucked. For one, the chairs sink practically to the ground when you sit in them. Two, there's a wall in front of you all the way around the balcony. It's plexiglass, but still. And then there are the poles. Sigh.

Anyway, Family Feud was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Again, I can't describe it as well as the videos can. I was sorry for it to be over after only an hour.

Back to our room we went to change for the PJ party that started at 11. Some people didn't like the PJ party, but I loved it! It was easily the best people watching of the cruise, and that was made even better with open bar. Here's me double fisting it in front of a girl wearing high heels but no pants. (By the way, cruise drunk is more fun than regular drunk because you're rocking back and forth in more ways than one.)
Donnie, Jordan, and Joe made an appearance at the PJ party. Donnie wore his regular clothes. Jordan wore the robe out of the cabin closet. Joe actually packed his own silk robe. They mostly chatted and danced onstage, although Jordan and Donnie did a bit of singing along with the DJ's music. Many girls anticipated their stage appearance and had been sitting around the stage area for hours to get the best spots.

One by one, the guys left. I don't remember if any of them went up to the VIP area on the balcony, but I didn't see them after 1:00. For some reason, Malina and I went to the Xanadu nightclub at 2:00. I don't remember why. Blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol.

Friday was my earliest night; I went to bed around 3 a.m. By then I had been awake for almost 24 hours, and as far as I know, I didn't miss anything by turning in. (Did I?)

Whew! Is anyone still reading this? Should I do Saturday and Sunday or does this put you to sleep?

Friday, October 9, 2009

My new favorite travel site

First, in the words of Liz Lemon: "It's not product placement! I just like it!"

Until about a month ago, my travel site of choice was Kayak.com. I preferred it far above any of the commercial travel sites. Now, Kayak has been usurped by the most commercial of commercial sites. But I'm a sucker for functionality.

I'm talking about www.bing.com/travel. It's owned by Microsoft. I know, right? Perhaps you are one who has seen a million commericals about this site. I think I was the last person to have heard of Bing. Thank you DVR and HTPC for shielding me almost entirely from ads. In any case, I finally did stumble upon it (through an ad on this blog of all places!), and I wanted to share it with you all as you watch fares into Miami next May.

Like Kayak, Bing gives you all these handy sliders that let you specify things like you want to depart between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., you don't want to come back to a different airport you flew out of, you don't even want to see red eyes, etc. But the unique part is that it actually tells you whether it's a good idea to book your flight now or wait.

Here's an example of me searching for Christmas flights (I will probably not start looking for cruise flights until February or so):

You can see in the box in the top left it's telling me to wait on this fare. Right now the arrow is orange. Last week it was red and pointing straight down, signaling that fares were likely to drop $50 or more. And it was right; this week they were down $30 and still dropping.

You can get more detail if you click the arrow:
Handy, right? We have enough time before the cruise that we can watch these price charts and buy at the lowest available fares. If you save $40, that's a t-shirt on board (or 5 Rum Runners, whatever you prefer)!

Hope this is helpful. P.S. Microsoft, please send me a check now.

In other totally unrelated news, are you excited about @NKOTBCruise!? Go check out their past tweets if you missed the big announcement on Wednesday. (No revealing comments about this please. Let's see if BHs are able to keep a secret. But eeeeeeee!)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

People still getting on the boat!

Don't lose hope waiting list peeps! Just yesterday I heard of THREE people getting spots on the cruise. I'm not sure about the third, but two were taking spots for people they knew that had to drop out.

Also yesterday, someone posted a vacancy on the ning vacancy thread. She's gotten a flood of replies already, so chances are she'll have filled it, but if you haven't already, turn on following on the thread to get an email when someone posts.

Finally, I stumbled across this thread by Heather posted this morning:
"Me and my friend are on the cruise and got a confirmation number the day it went on sale. We just now found out that even though we are still on the boat, it's not in the room the confirmation number said we were. We don't care what room we are in seeing how we still have a cabin. Just thought I would give you guys a heads up seeing as it sounds like they still aren't even done going through the confirmation numbers for people who did get on it. Have hope and good luck!!!"
That info contradicts what many have been told by Rose Tours, but it certainly would make sense for them to tell people things are finished to put an end to phone calls.

Don't forget the second payment is due November 1, so in a few weeks we'll probably have a lot more openings. (Not that I want anyone to have to cancel, but just something to keep in mind.)

p.s. Are you following (the unofficial, not managed by actual NKOTB) @NKOTBCruise? Exciting things are in the works over there!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Elvis is on to something

Another Sixth Man production, The Elvis Cruise, has some sweet info on its booking site.

Check out how they manage seating for the headlining show:
"The main shows will be ticketed, and you will select your seating preference when you book your cabin. You can either choose an assigned seat within a specific zone of the theatre or you may choose the General Admission Zone. When you select this option, you will select either the early or the late show, but you are not assigned a specific seat. Instead, you may sit in any seat within the zone once on board. In addition to having the flexibility to sit in a different seat each night, guests that choose the General Admission zone will receive a $50 discount per person off of their cabin fare."
Like the VH1 Best Cruise Ever, The Elvis Cruise divides the theater into 20 zones. By contrast, the NKOTB Cruise had nine zones in 2009. If you don't want the security of an assigned seat, you get $50 back! That's pretty sweet. (I'd pick the assigned seat over the money though.)

More helpful info on the Elvis site: pics of the stage from each zone of the theater. The boat is the Carnival Inspiration, not the Imagination that we'll be sailing on, but the only real difference is the color of the upholstery. Should give you a good idea of what the view from each seat looks like.

Overall, I've been a proponent of Rose Tours. I thought they were lovely on board last year and did a great job during the cruise. But after seeing more and more of these awesome Sixth Man events, I would be crossing my fingers for a Sixth Man takeover in 2011.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rose Tours waiting till November to do roommate matches

Thanks to Vanessa (@V_nkotbgirl) for filling me in on her conversation with Jen at Rose Tours today.

Vanessa says that she was told roommate matches won't happen until after the second payment is due in November. According to Vanessa, Jen said that so many people drop out after the second payment, they want to wait for the wave of drop outs before matching roommates.

Vanessa says Jen told her that if you request to be with someone and she has the information, she will make sure she matches those pairs first. If you make payments before November 2, make sure to tell Jen who you want to be paired with.

To be paired, you must have the same cabin category, e.g., inside cabins won't be matched with outside cabins. No more than 2 people to a room.

Vanessa said that Jen also mentioned wait listers will get "lots of calls" after the second payment is due.

I think this is kind of nice. Instead of instantly being paired up with a stranger, this will give single travelers a bit of time to find each other and pair off on your own.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If you missed the boat on the NKOTB Cruise

Maybe this alterna-cruise is for you!

Set sail on the Carnival Elation this December 4-7 from San Diego to Ensenada for the world's first. . . Cougar Cruise!

I'm not kidding; this is a real thing. I just read about it in USA Today's Cruise Blog. From the article: "Singles Travel Company promises three days of singles meet-ups, dancing, and partying."

Prices start at $125 per person double occupancy. Unfortunately, Efron will probably not be on board (or, as some may hope, Jesse McCartney), but I'm thinking for three days on a cruise, a cocktail party, a bottle of wine, and potentially lots of eye candy, it could be a fun girls' weekend.

Here's the travel company's description of the cruise if you want to check it out. Or, if you want a laugh, read the comments on the USA Today article.

(How old do you have to be to be a cougar anyway? Or is it like that episode of 30 Rock where Jenna decides she's a cougar and gets a 10th grade boyfriend?)

Kidding aside, there really is a thread on ning for non-cruisers looking to meet up in Boston the weekend of the cruise.

By the way, if you're not on the boat, don't forget to post your wanted ad in the Looking to Cruise thread. 87% of poll respondents said they'd hand pick a replacement if their roommate backed out, so let them know you're looking!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Carnival's Rumalicious Rum Runner

My 2009 cruise roomie Malina (@anilam18) gets the Carnival e-mail newsletter, and this month's issue included a drink we can't wait to try on board!

Who wants to toast us with one of these? Yum!

Carnival's Rumalicious Rum Runner
  • 1/4 oz. Dark Rum
  • 7/8 oz. Blackberry Brandy
  • 7/8 oz. Banana Liqueur
  • 5/8 oz. Grenadine
  • 1/2 oz. Lime Juice
Blend all ingredients with ice. Serve with a swirl of dark rum on top. Recipe serves two.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To insure or not to insure, that is the question.

This morning, @insearchofnkotb linked to a great article on travel insurance that may help some decide what to get for the cruise.

First, it's helpful to understand the types of insurance available. Contrary to what some believe, insurance will not help you if you decide later that you can't afford the trip.

Here are the types of insurance:

  • Cancellation insurance. This is the most common type of travel insurance and will cover charges incurred if your trip has to be canceled because of a serious illness, injury, or death. If you become too ill to travel, or a member of the traveling party or a family member has died, your expenses may be refunded. This insurance will typically cover the non-refundable deposit and payments that you have already made toward your trip.
  • Delay insurance. This will cover the charges incurred for non-refundable costs if your trip has to be delayed. (Wouldn't help in this case.)
  • Medical insurance. This covers the costs of medical care if you get sick or have an accident while traveling.
  • Medical evacuation insurance. If, because of accident or illness on vacation, you have to be transported by an emergency vehicle or even flown to another country with higher-level healthcare facilities, this insurance will cover those costs.
  • Baggage insurance. If you lose your baggage or other personal items on vacation, this insurance will cover the cost of those items.
  • Supplier default insurance. If your airline, hotel, or other travel vendor goes out of business before your vacation, this insurance will cover costs that you have paid toward your trip. (Let's hope not!!)
Rose Tours offers a cancellation policy for $99. The policy covers you if you have to cancel for the following reasons (from their website): "Illness, Injury, Death, Unannounced Strike, Hijacking, Jury Duty, Court Ordered Appearance or Traffic Accident."

You aren't obligated to use Rose Tours' provider. Google "Travel Insurance" and you'll get thousands of hits so you can compare costs and options. Depending on your situation, the cost may be worth the peace of mind.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cruising Ethics: What would you do?

Imagine that you are confirmed on the cruise and for some terrible reason your roommate cancels. You have two choices. Do you let Rose Tours assign the next person on the wait list to take your roommate's spot, or do you find someone on your own and arrange a name change?

Two people from the wait list got confirmed this week, but I don't know if it was from cancellations. However, I also know of at least two instances where remaining roommates found and selected a person on their own. (One was on the message boards, and some of the responders were offering to pay for both their own spot and that of the vacancy poster. Don't know if they succeeded.)

On the surface, the hand picking seems completely unfair and wrong. You're barely in the room anyway; who cares if you are BFF, right? But on the other hand, this person will have access to all your stuff. There's only one safe in the room. Most people on the wait list are probably not thieving scuzzbags, but do you take the chance?

@knlsmom also pointed out that if you do a name change, you only pay $100, but if you have a cancelation, you forfeit at least 25% of your payment. That seems to discourage using the wait list too.

Please let me know what you think in the comments.

UPDATE: Early poll results show that most people would hand pick. So I've started a thread for people looking for cruise spots to post their wanted ads and tell us about themselves. We're a calmer group, I think, than ning, so please take advantage of this space to find a roomie if you need one.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Uh oh, this doesn't sound good

It's been quiet on the wait list front. After hearing about the two who received confirmation e-mails out of the blue early this week, things seemed to be looking up. But this post by Sarah is definitely not.
"Just thought I would tell everyone I called Rose Tours today -my friends and I are on the priority wait list as well- a few weeks ago a lady there told me that all priority wait list people should get on the cruise and that they should have us all called by the 7th. So I called today b/c we hadn't heard anything and this time a lady told me that the cruise is diffentally soldout that there is no more open cabins AT ALL (she stressed the at all part) but that in Nov there is a small chance that a few cabins will open up from people not being able to pay......which is a totally different story than what I got the last time. I'm a little aggravated b/c the other lady was so positive and was like oh yea all the priority people will get on... we have tons of open cabins from all the people that got double booked it will just take us a few days to get the stuff organized. So who knows what the real story with RT is but that is what I got today."
The news was confirmed by Stacy:
I just called to verify the info and they also told me that the cruise is completely sold out! I am SOOO bummed but hopefully something good will happen for the rest of us!
The only light I can see here is that the stories have been inconsistent, and at least two people DID get confirmed this week, so all cannot be lost. Wish I had better news to report!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Half Moon Cay: How will we fit everything in?

Thanks to @DEWz_pingpong for sending me this video of Half Moon Cay! As she says: "BANANA BOAT! WATERSLIDES! HORSEBACK RIDING IN THE OCEAN?!?!" Bring it on!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another priority wait lister makes it on the boat!

Just when we all thought it would be another two months before wait listers got placed, another priority wait lister gets the good news!

Posted by Erika on ning:
"I'M ON THE BOAT!! Long day yesterday, just checked email. I got an email from RT at 3:54pm est with my statement. I was like WTF, no way?? I checked my CC and the $300 deposit is pending. No call, they just booked me!! Confirmation # too! I need to start my to-do list!!!"
This one is different from anything I've heard so far, because she didn't get a call. She just got the receipt in her email. So keep checking, and don't forget to look in your spam folder just in case!

Erika, if you're out there, don't forget to start following @NKOTBcruise to plot with your fellow cruisers.

UPDATE: A second cruiser got the sneak attack email yesterday! Congrats Kimberly!
"I just made it to the cruise too. I was one of those that on the day of booking my card was charged, but no reservations made. Later RT called to confirm my info and then I got the e-mail yesterday that I was finally on the boat. I got a single match booking.....I can't believe it. "