Saturday, January 30, 2010

Starting to feel the money crunch

103 days till we cruise! Eek! It will be here before we know it. Before that, though, will be our final payment, due exactly 60 days from today: April 1. But there's a lot more that has to be budgeted. Keep all this in mind as you plan for the next few months.
  • Remaining balance: The total of your cabin less the $700 we've already paid ($300-1800)
  • Flights: Have you booked yet? (~$200-700 depending on where you're flying from)
  • Transportation to/from FL airport: $30-75
  • Transportation/parking at home airport: $0 if you're lucky, up to $200 if you're not
  • Hotel: One night, split with a roommate, probably $100
  • Passport (if you need it): $100
  • Clothes: Pre-cruise party, theme nights, swim suits, daywear, shoes. . . let's be serious. $200-700
  • Drinks, photos, shore trips, misc on board: ~$150
  • Other (door decor, travel toiletries, pre-cruise mani/pedi, etc): ~$150
Maybe some of my estimates are a bit high. I live in one of the most expensive areas of the country, so I'm rounding up. For example, I know parking at JFK costs a lot more than it does at the Pittsburgh airport. And you certainly don't HAVE to spend anything on clothes or get a pedi before the trip, but chances are you will.

Where does that put our totals?

At the low end: You're in a category 4 room, have a ride to the airport, don't need a passport, and are very good at keeping a budget. $1150

At the high end: You booked a suite, have an expensive flight, and will spend $300 on the perfect theme outfit if necessary. $4000

Did you read that and think, "Katie, you are crazy. NO way I will be spending $300 on a dress. Put me in the $1150 group." Well, I would have said the same thing to you last year. And how much did I spend on my white dress two weeks before we sailed because I was getting frantic to find something white and flattering? $300. (Note to TPTB: If we do white night again, I'm wearing that same dress.)

If only NKOTB-related expenses were tax deductible. . .

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wait list calls have stopped for now

Things were quiet on the wait list front last week, and now we know why.

Danielle called Rose Tours this morning and reported back:
"SO sad...I had to call RT they are filled up as of now with no idea if or when they will call any more ppl off the list. bummer! I was so close. they could not confirm what number they are on. April 1st is what I am thinking as that is when the rest of any hope I have of getting that call. Rose Tours did say they call and email."
This seems to confirm my guess that the boom of wait list calls in early January was due to the hike in cancellation penalties after January 2. Danielle is probably right that the next big wave won't be for another two months, when the next payment is due AND the cancellation fee goes up again.

Meanwhile, calls may be coming here and there. Last I heard, Rose Tours had contacted up to #2440. I haven't heard from #2441 or higher. Please keep me posted!

Monday, January 18, 2010

PSA Update: From the comments

These helpful links were posted in the comments. I personally spoke to the California Department of Consumer Affairs and to the California Attorney General's office. They advised me to file written complaints, which I have done. I also asked if it would be better to file a complaint as a group or for each customer to file independently, and they said we should file individually.

To file a complaint with the California Attorney General: http://ag.ca.gov/contact/complaint_form.php?cmplt=CL

For the California Department of Consumer Affairs, https://app.dca.ca.gov/cru/gencomplaint.asp

To file a FCC complaint, go to http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm

Laws regarding contests and sweepstakes in California: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/u-3.shtml

California Laws and Regulations for Charities, Fundraisers, Non-Profit Hospitals, Raffles: http://caag.state.ca.us/charities/statutes.htm



Note: I removed the comments from this and the previous post after one commenter told me she had received an email from Jenn Harris threatening legal action. I don't want you guys to have to deal with that. I have not actually been contacted about any such action. It would surprise me if I were, since the key to libel is that the statements are untrue, and all of this would have to be investigated to determine if that was the case.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PSA: Don't spend money on Retro Rewind

We interrupt this cruise blog for a public service announcement. For a few months now, I have been silently steaming about this Retro Rewind Gold members business but not saying anything because I didn't want to be blacklisted from contests. But I can no longer watch my fellow BHs hand over their hard earned money and get nothing in return.

I signed up for the gold membership last summer, before it was actually active. As you may remember, the sign ups were available for a month or two before we got log in details. At the time, I paid $89 for a year of service. The deciding factor for me signing up was that it was right after the failed video chat with Joe, and Dave promised that we would be rescheduling the video chat soon, and that would be open exclusively to gold members. Not wanting to miss a chance for that, I signed up. I was also interested in the contests, and I liked that the membership included a subscription to Live 365, because I checked the membership prices for Live 365 and the RR subscription was not much more. I thought it was a good two-for-one deal. The kicker was that during the time I signed up, there was a contest about "Sign up by [x date] and be entered to win a trip to LA." A winner for that contest was never drawn.

The problems started nearly right away. I never received information to log into my Live 365 account despite several requests to Dave and Jenn. Once the membership program went online, they switched from Live 365 to another service, and the Live 365 membership that I never got working anyway was removed from the membership perks. After this switch, it was weeks before I could get anything to play on either my home or work computer. Eventually I contacted the streaming service directly and they were able to assist me.

At this point, the price of the membership dropped to something like $39, and Dave was offering lots of promotions such as three months free. There were other contests to encourage registrations, such as a second trip to LA contest, which also never had a winner. I was very upset that I had paid double the price for the same membership, and when I asked Dave about it he said he would make my membership two years. About a month later, I was randomly charged $42 on PayPal from Retro Rewind. After a few emails, Dave reversed the charge, but claimed it was somehow my fault because of my PayPal settings.

The second video chat with Joe did not happen until December, and when it did, it was open to everyone. We did get some on-demand stuff, but not the unreleased Joe songs we talked about before I signed up. The "Exclusive three packs" during each show never happened as far as I know.

In December, Dave started promoting a contest where winners would have access to a private Joe rehearsal show in California. While there would be a few non-paid winners, he said several times that there would be "A LOT" of Gold member winners.

A selection of tweets:
Donations BEFORE the deadline are up for 15 tix up for grabs. ALL OTHER TIX (numerous, numerous) are for GOLDIES ONLY! from web

RT @4everKnights @RetroRewind How many goldies will win tickets? Can you tell us yet? DH: No exact # yet but it will be A LOT. Trust me

FYI a % of ALL December Gold sales are being donated to LGT.org

Hay gang! REMEMBER u HAVE to be GOLD MEMBERS in order to be picked for the mass of tix to Joe's rehearsal show is LA next month!
from web
And then the story started to change:
I'm still waiting to hear back from Joe on the rehearsal before the drawing. Sorry for the delay but I'll give you LOTS of notice! PROMISE!
December 31, still promising rehearsal show access:
LAST DAY to go GOLD for $39.99 (1/2 price) and to get registered 4 tix to Joe's rehearsal show. http://www.retrorewind.com/members.htm from web
No mention of the contest for a week. And then:
Hey gang. Spoke with Joe today & due to some unforeseen issues rehearsals are closed to the public. We're both sorry about that. SO plan B..

RR is picking winners to fly to Chicago to see the show there. You'll meet Joe & see the show and stay in Chitown. Details 2marra :)

Winners for the Joe Mac Chicago contest will be notified privately via email 1st of next week. No further info tonight.

Happy Monday gang!! Emails are being sent to winners of the contest!
from web (Jan 11)

hey gang. Be sure to check your junk mail folders on ur email accounts for an email from me about the contest.
from twidroid (Jan 11)
For most New Kids contests, it takes us under an hour on Twitter to fish out the winner. And yet, for this contest, where there are supposedly lots of winners, we haven't found one.

Add this to
  1. No winners drawn for either trip to LA contest (said to be due to scheduling issues)
  2. Video chats open to anyone
  3. No HWGA unwatermarked photos or video delivered yet although the shoot was in October
  4. Pushing donations to medical fund of a "friend" related to contests (the more you donate, the more entries you get)
  5. Continually fluctuating membership prices and promised features
  6. Lack of response to questions about any of above
And you get a pretty shady operation. But then it gets shadier.

Dave's twins were born at UCLA Medical Center. (Have been informed it was not at UCLA. Would be happy to correct this if given accurate info. Below is still relevant.) Around the holidays, he set up a page (www.retrorewind.com/jules) asking for donations to the hospital:
What we'd like to ask you to do is make a donation in his name instead. The money will be used to buy toys, clothes, and other gifts for some of the other children in his hospital. I've seen some of the other babies and kids in his hospital and I know for a fact they can use our help.

Please click on the donation link below and give what you can. It’s PayPal and you DON’T need an account with them to donate, just a credit or debit card. With your help we can make things a little brighter for some families this holiday season. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to give back this holiday season!

The PayPal link is paid into GiftShop339, which is the account of Jenn's store KenRico Gifts. It would have made a lot more sense if it had been a link to the official UCLA Medical Center Giving page, which lets you choose the pediatrics department as a beneficiary. (Have heard - unconfirmed - that the hospital was USC. They also have an official donation page.)

Through PayPal, we have no way to know if UCLA received any money. If they did, did they receive everything that was donated? In addition, none of the BHs who donated will be able to claim the deduction on their taxes because it was not paid to a non-profit.

On the same topic, while noble, it seems odd that the family would be donating to a hospital they have said they are suing over issues with their son.

I'm sure there are more things I could mention, but I'll leave it at that. If you have experiences to share, please leave them in the comments. I also realize that by writing this, I'm opening myself up to any wrath Dave can throw at me, and I'm prepared for that. (Not sure what he can do to me really, other than call me names, but sticks and stones.) Dave, if you're reading this, I would LOVE to be proved wrong. Tell us who the contest winners were, send us some pics of all the stuff you donated to UCLA, deliver the video shoot extras we were promised. That would be great. But you can still take this as notice that I'm canceling my membership.

Jan 13 Update: This video, posted June 13, 2009 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_OMJeRIJ-g) describes, in detail, the benefits at the time I subscribed (July 20, 2009).
video


Update: In fairness, I am posting Dave's responses, via Twitter:


As I said, I am very happy to be proved wrong.

Second update: Great news! I heard from a contest winner! She won in early November as part of the Brinley donation contest. (I only vaguely remember it and she doesn't remember much more.) But she will be flying to NYC this weekend to see the Joe show! Her flight and ticket were covered, and she even got a bonus show ticket for her husband. She did pay for her husband's flight. I was very happy to hear this and hope more will come forward.

On the flip side, there are at least three comments below about contest winners that were chosen but never received their prizes, despite repeated attempts on their side to get in contact and make arrangements.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Turns out, there was kind of a lot of stuff on the 2009 itinerary

Blog devotees may recall that in my Sunday day-by-day summary, I said I didn't hate waiting in line because there wasn't much else I could be doing instead. I was very wrong. When I dug out the goody bag last weekend, I found the daily itineraries, and there were kind of a lot of activities!

Check out the schedule (in addition to the group activities, like the Q&A sessions). Not saying everything is a big draw (9:00 a.m. Crosswords perhaps?), but I would have enjoyed the NKOTB Scavenger Hunt.

Yikes77 tells me that the prize for NKTOB Trivia was one of everything of the cruise merchandise. Sweet!

Friday, May 15, 2009
12:00 p.m. Sports Station Opens
1:30 p.m. Bean Bag Toss Tournament
3:00 p.m. Music Trivia Challenge
4:45 p.m. Sail Away Party
8:00 p.m. Karaoke
9:30 p.m. Classic Rock Fun
10:00 p.m. Name That Tune
10:00 p.m. Piano Singalong
1:00 a.m. Late Night Comedy

Saturday, May 16, 2009
10:30 a.m. Super Text Twist, Puzzles, and Sodoku
1:00 p.m. Bean Bag Toss Competition
2:00 p.m. Scavenger Hunt
3:00 p.m. Ultimate Mind Game
3:30 p.m. Win, Lose, or Draw
4:15 p.m. TV Theme Song Trivia
5:00 p.m. NKOTB Trivia
9:30 p.m. Karaoke Kraziness

Sunday, May 17, 2009
9:00 a.m. Crosswords and Puzzles
10:00 a.m. Towel Folding Demonstration
10:30 a.m. $500 Bingo
11:30 a.m. Music Trivia Challenge
12:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Bean Bag Toss Competitions
12:30 p.m. Win, Lose, or Draw
1:00 p.m. NKOTB Scavenger Hunt
1:30 p.m. Pool Games
1:30 p.m. Scattergories Tournament
1:30 p.m. Disco Dance Class
2:00 p.m. Dirty Mind Trivia
2:30 p.m. $500 Bingo
4:30 p.m. Slogan Trivia

Did anyone participate in any of these? What did you think? They seem to love that bean bag toss.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More wait list calls could be coming soon

Good news yesterday for @JenTOR, wait lister #2416, who got a call from Rose Tours.

She was offered a choice of SIX cabin types: 4A, 4D, 4G, 6A, 6C, and 6D. No 6Es or suites of course. From the conversation, she found out that some of these cabin types had multiple rooms available.

Rose Tours gave her two days to confirm if she wanted a cabin or not. That would explain why going through the wait list is such a slow process. Unfortunately, Jen had to turn the offer down, but #2417 @JonsTubeGirl (Tina) is probably very happy she did.

Tina says she and her roommate were offered a choice of inside or outside cabin. When they said outside, they were offered 6A, 6B, or 6D. They have till Friday morning to decide, and at that time each roommate would owe $700.

Update: Thank you anonymous commenter! She was #2430 and she got the call today! There may be three people in her room (one of two 3-person rooms available).

My guess, based on no actual facts, just me guessing, is that there were a lot of cancellations at the end of December. On January 2, the cancellation penalty went from 25% of the cabin price to 50%. When my roomie had to cancel in mid-December, we definitely wanted to get everything sorted out before the end of the year, since waiting would have meant another $400 charge for her.

If you have a wait list number below 2450, keep your phone close by!


On another note, I went through the "Looking to Cruise" post and deleted a bunch of comments from people I know are either now on the boat or are no longer looking for rooms. If you posted there and fit into one of those categories, please delete your comment. There have been at least 4 or 5 cruisers who have found roomies there, and I want to keep it up-to-date. Good luck to all!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Contestants not appearing on stage will receive. . .

Happy new year everyone! Just a little fun for us today.

In all the preparation for the 2009 cruise, I completely forgot about the promised goody bag we were to receive until I made it to my cabin and saw it waiting for me on my bed.

Here's what we got! Click on the image to open it in super enormous full size.

A: Drawstring bag
B: Seating chart for events
C: Rule sheet (Had stuff like "No autographs or cameras at photo op.")
D: Postcard
E: Daily itineraries
F: 12-page glossy program
G: Entry ticket for Donnie's poker tournament
H: Keychain with cruise logo
I: Temporary tattoo
J: Water bottle
K: Pocket-size schedule
L: Laminated cruise pass with lanyard

I'm sure I'll forget about the presents again this year, and it will be another fun surprise when I get in the room. : )