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!