Tuesday, January 18, 2011

S.O.S – Sailing on the Seas with NKOTB -PART ONE

(Note: Keeping new friends’ names private until I have permission to use them.)

Last year, I "came out of the Boy Band closet" to friends and family as a mild to moderately obsessed New Kids on the Block fan. When I left off, the boys were back, I had it bad, and I was looking forward to the 2010 cruise to the Bahamas with them. You’ll notice, however, that I never wrote about my cruise experience. In truth, I needed to stew on it for a while. 

The word “Stew” might lead you to think it was a bad experience – it was not. It was an experience that fulfilled all of my expectations. But there’s a strange phenomenon I’ve experienced after their concerts that I experienced tenfold after the cruise - the day after detox. “Day After Detox”, like rehab detoxification, feels like crap. Everything I looked forward to all year was now suddenly behind me, resulting in a sadness akin to a breakup – all I wanted to do was listen to songs that reminded me of my ex, lay around in my sweatpants and eat large quantities of Rocky Road. 

After the cruise, I was excited about the new friendships I’d formed, but otherwise, I didn’t really want to tell anyone my stories yet. It was too soon – I just wanted to curl up, catch up on sleep, and binge on all of the things I’d denied myself pre-cruise. Knowing that I’d probably experienced one of the best vacations of my life, and might not have the opportunity to do so again, made Day After Detox worse.

I’ll back up and start at the beginning. 

Because I wasn’t on the first cruise, my best chance to get on the second one was to pair up with a past cruiser. (I’ll spare you the lengthy explanation on why.) Since I didn’t know anyone going, I had to find someone – and I did this on the New Kid’s official website (www.nkotb.com), in the forum. I met someone pretty quickly, found out we were close in age, with the same first names, and she was a past cruiser. Good enough for me!

At this stage, some of my non-“Blockhead” friends thought I was going a bit overboard – no pun intended. They thought going to another country, on a big ass boat, without knowing anyone but New Kids on the Block (using “knowing” loosely), and rooming with some girl I didn’t know, could somehow be a bad thing!
In retrospect, I suppose my choice could be seen as a bit nutty, but I prefer to see myself as adventurous. There were also a few things I knew that they didn’t:
  1.  I love to cruise, and I don’t get seasick.
  2.  My husband can’t cruise, and he gets seasick in the bathtub.
  3.  I knew I’d love the entertainment on the boat!
  4. The boat would be filled with lots of girls my age with the same interests
  5. I enjoy my own company. I can go days without talking to anyone else if I’m so inclined.
  6. Lived with a girl from Korea I didn’t know for 2 years in college. She could have been psycho, too.
I met my cruise mate a week before the boat sailed. We each drove 4 hours halfway to meet at a restaurant. Had I discovered at that point that she was an ax-murderer, stalker, or really a man - it would have been a bit late to do anything about it. Fortunately, all went well –she was several hours late, but whatever. She didn’t have a glass eyeball, communicable disease or anything else that would make me feel uncomfortable.

Let’s skip to Miami. My roomie, J, and I decided to share a hotel room the night before the cruise in Miami Beach. We changed into our bathing suits and cover-ups practically the moment we stepped off our planes. Staying at the beautiful Palms Hotel, we kicked things off right eating and drinking under a straw umbrella on the beach. I realized pretty quickly I’d best forgo future eating in Miami when I saw my quesadilla appetizer was $25. Better to spend my money on over-priced drinks on the boat than food on land. Later, we took drunken naps and then worked on our door decorations, between fluttering around the hotel room nervously and exclaiming how we’d never be able to sleep.

My roommate slept. I know this because she snored like my father. I slept about two hours. It wasn’t really the snoring that kept me awake – neither J nor my father can hold a candle to my husband – I was just too keyed up. Notably, I survived the night intact and roomie turned out to not be an ax-murderer.

It was a mad rush to the Port of Miami, despite the fact that we left in plenty of time. The cab driver clearly felt a greater urgency to get there than we did – a tough feat considering we were pretty damn eager. I alternated between clinging to the door and nursing my arm that was still in a soft cast from recent wrist surgery.  We experienced another trauma when we got there, because J didn’t have a passport. She had a birth certificate which she was 90% sure they would accept. Since she wasn’t completely confident, she was 90% freaking out, too. 

Accepted – all good – got to the terminal. Waited forever for boarding, made much more agonizing when the guys came through, waving at us from above as they crossed to the ramp, because now we could see them but not get to them. 

On the boat, I immediately ran into a married couple I’d met at the Detroit airport. We sat down for food, knowing it would be a while before suitcases made their way to the cabins, and J went off to find the guys. I had vowed not to be a stalker and waste time fruitlessly searching for the guys, so I was a bit bummed (for myself) when she returned 10 minutes later beaming. She’d run into Jordan already! 

It suddenly came crashing home – I was on a boat with the New Kids on the Block and I could potentially bump into them at any moment. Onset mild panic attack. The best way to deal with this was drinks. And more drinks. (Later, I would learn that our cabin was on the same floor as the guys and that they would be passing by our door regularly. More drinks!)

Fast-forward to the Sail Away party! This is a little deejayed hello that the guys do to kick off the festivities. It took place on the Lido Deck, and because J and me were lucky enough to have our mustering station be the Lido deck, we were among the first there after our mandatory safety drill, lining up around the stage to wait for the guys. And lucky for me, I maneuvered my way in front where I could safely put my injury out of the way of the packed crowd directly on the stage. During the Sail Away party, I proceeded to get many great pictures and signatures from all 5 New Kids on my cast.

The best signature of all was from Danny – mostly significant because of how I got it. I happened to make eye contact with Danny’s daughter, Chance, who had introduced herself to me outside my room earlier while she was checking out our door decorations. At the party, I waved at her, and then pointed at her Dad. She took one look at my cast and sharpie and mouthed, “I’ll hook you up!” and gave a little thumbs up sign. She grabbed her dad and pulled him over to me. So sweet! I love networking. ;)

Other memorable Sail Away party moments:
  1. Joe climbing on the railing to say hello to people and giving me a heart attack.
  2. Singing happy birthday to Danny. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsRCahIegmA
  3. Enjoying Jordan lying in front of me on the stage while he talked to the girl next to me (who he seemed to know) for about 10 minutes. I was eye level with his unit the whole time. Yup Yup.
  4. Seeing Jon smile. (My vid of Jon during Sail Away: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez_P7sRHy3c)
  5. Getting a raging sunburn on my hair-part.  
Later that night was the “Game Show”, which was really a trivia contest between some lucky fans and the guys. Once again, we got fortunate with our cabin choice, because its location determined our seating for this event. I remember the guys dominating the game because they knew MOST things about themselves, at least one girl getting kissed by Donnie, a scavenger hunt in the audience for animal print bras, Donnie proving his superior math skillz, a few malfunctions, and lots of laughter.

The boat was divided into three groups, and dinners and events were alternated, so the Game Show would pretty much occupy the guys for the evening. This was a good thing, because at the end of our Game Show, they had called 2 names as winners for VIP tickets at the cocktail party that night, and J recognized the name of one of them as someone she knew from last year. We met up with them after, and that’s when I met V and P. We decided to join them for dinner – enter E (V’s brother and P’s son) and S and M (a married couple, not a sexual philosophy). My new cruise besties!

Don’t remember a ton from dinner, except we all got along like we’d known each other forever, we pretty much ordered one of everything because we could, the waiters danced to NKOTB songs, and our head waiter sort of seemed to like me and insisted on cutting my meat for me because of my cast. 

Because the theme for the night was Casino Royale, we had to change clothes. I wore a black lace vintage dress that I adore. J and I helped V and P get ready for their VIP, too. They were freaking out. I was sort of freaking out for them! At one point, I remember grabbing V in the hallway and forcing her to breathe. I thought she was going to pass out. We walked with them as far as we could and then sent them off to the veranda deck with hugs and best wishes. I knew they were feeling some pressure to try to get us up there with them, and I tried to quash that as best I could before we parted. I was so excited for them – and I really just wanted them to get up there and enjoy every second, not waste time trying to talk someone into more bracelets. It’s hard to explain how I could feel that way for someone who I had basically just met, but I was picturing how I would feel. I knew it was a once in a lifetime experience for them and I wanted them to be in their moment fully. 

I can’t remember what we did while we were waiting for the Cocktail Party at Midnight, but I’m pretty sure it involved drinking cocktails. I do remember trying to throw cigarettes and lighters up to V, and P and everyone taking lots of pictures. (I'll post when I get permission from cruise friends to share images of them.)

At this point, I should interject a note that the cruise was 4 days (the last day being solely packing up and disembarking), and I slept a TOTAL of 6 hours. So, some of the details are going to get shaky as we go. It was that good - and I was that into it. 

The cocktail party consisted of the guys dancing and singing along to music from the veranda while we screamed and danced below on the Lido deck. I think there were shots. I know there were over-priced frufru drinks for $9 each. I had bought myself a Coke card (unlimited soft drinks for a set, per-day fee) and so M bought some liquor from the duty free – and that was the end to the frufru drinks. Also the beginning of the end when it comes to my memory, at least for that night, because now I was drinking REAL drinks that were barely tan in color. 

Roomie disappeared, and then eventually S and M disappeared too. I found out S and M were up on the Veranda in the VIP. (One perk of bringing your hubby on the cruise – males not with the entourage are rare and tend to get special attention for being cool enough to come on the cruise.) A while later, the two of them peered over the side and waved at me and E, and then suddenly a flashlight shined on us. We flipped out because it meant we were getting invited up by the VIP God, Jason Fowler. 

We looked for my roomie, couldn’t find her, and hurried over to the stairs hand-in-hand. When we got there, I was informed that E could come up but that I couldn’t go with him. I was disappointed but told myself not to let it get to me. I came on this cruise knowing that I didn’t know anyone, right? So what was the big deal now if I had to dance alone? Okay, so it was kind of a biggish deal. Honestly, I was feeling like the odd man out. I put my head down and danced.

I danced alone for maybe an hour or so, and then looked up to find V and P in front of me. They were tired, and God bless them, were going to give their bracelets to me and J on the sly. I couldn’t believe their generosity, and V explained that it was because I told her not to spend time trying to get me up there that she wanted me to have hers. She had enjoyed every minute of her time up there, and when she’d gotten her fill, she wanted to pay it forward. I still remember that as the best moment of the cruise. Not getting up to VIP, (which I did with J somewhat illegally, after we found her in the room), but HOW I got to VIP. One of many examples of the vibe on that boat – it was all about sharing the experience, with NKOTB and with each other. 

By the time I got up to VIP, only Jordan and Donnie were still circulating. The guys were wearing tuxes for the theme night and looked absolutely edible. I desperately wanted a picture with Donnie, but I didn’t want to ask. I’d met Donnie once before in a Meet & Greet and never said a word, and I was pretty sure if given the opportunity, I wouldn’t be able to say anything again. 

I walked up near him, freaked out inside, and tried to walk away. E was there, grabbing me, ushering me back, and practically forcing me not to chicken out, like any true friend would. I started to say something, saw I had gained Donnie’s attention, and couldn’t get anything to come out. He said something like “Oh, did I miss you?” and put an arm around me. We stood there in the wind for a long moment, and finally E admitted his camera wouldn’t work. Donnie said “Sorry”, kissed me on the cheek and left. I was glowing. I got an arm and some lips and I never had to say a word. Added bonus:  I hadn’t completely embarrassed myself by saying anything stupid. 

We stayed up there all night, in the wind, enjoying the couches and each other. 

Memorable moments from the VIP:
  1.  Jon coming down to sit by us (one couch over)
  2.  Donnie leaning on the rail next to me for a bit while on his cell phone
  3. Me and M trying to light a cigarette in the wind for an hour.
Ok, kind of lame recollections, I know. But it’s hard to explain – just being up there, how I felt part of the “in crowd” for once. This isn’t to say those not up in VIP aren’t in the in-crowd. Or that I’ve never been in a VIP. It was more about the people I was with and feeling grateful that I’d found a home on the boat. 

Wow – okay, so I’ve only gotten through one day so far! Let’s call this Part One, and I’ll pick up Part Two in another blog so I’m not trying to post a novel on Blogspot!

To be continued….

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