Friday, May 25, 2018

Farewell and Thank You

It’s with mixed emotions that I want to let you know this is my last post. This blog has provided me a creative outlet and been a great way for me share my experiences and tips when it comes to cruising with BSB. Most importantly I’ve met some wonderful friends along the way. That said, I think it’s time for me to move forward and I’m excited to embark on the next chapter of my life.

Thank you to everyone who has read this over the years and I hope the information that lives in this blog will continue to help new cruisers in the years to come.

Happy cruising,

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Post-Cruise Survey

Fellow cruisers - you should've received a survey from Rose Tours in your inbox. I usually spend more time than I probably should on these things, but if nothing else it's nice to think that our voice gets heard. If you haven't filled yours out yet, I always encourage you to keep your comments constructive rather than critical. Complaining for the sake of complaining won't get us anywhere, so really take some time to think about what Rose Tours can actually do to help make our experience better for next time.

I also encourage you to leave positive feedback as well for aspects of the cruise that you enjoyed so that they continue to do things we like.

That said- here are some of the comments I left in my survey in no particular order:

  • Loved the Millennium deck party!! And Fast Times at Backstreet High was also amazing. Go figure we want to hear BSB music on a BSB cruise ;) I’d love to see more of that…themes that lend themselves to BSB music being played at the deck parties.
  • I personally loved the balance of the deck parties this year – I think having 2 theme nights where the boys primarily performed and entertained us and 2 that were a bit more interactive (aka pictures with fans) worked well.
  • Selfie lines! Yes, please! When the boys decide to pictures with fans, lines are the way to go. I think they help so much keeping fans civil and reduce the pushing while keeping things fair.
  • I say it every year, but I wish they did more for the fans who decorate their doors. I’m glad that this year they at least made an announcement. I believe the winners got merchandise but in my opinion they should either have better prizes (like a pic with the boys which would cost them nothing) and/or pick more runners up.  We spend a lot of time, money, and effort on those and a little more recognition would go a long way
  • I'd love to see them bring back the beach party and/or Q&A or some other group event. The beach party is always a fave of mine and I felt like we could've used 1 more group event during the day be it a Q&A, a karaoke type event, etc.
  • Love the solo events – keep on doing those! I also appreciate that they try to switch it up for us year after year and try new things. I also liked that 3 of the solo events incorporated fans and gave more fans a chance for their special moment.
  • I’ll say that we love the to attention to detail that Rose Tours puts into the decoration and it’s a shame that just a few bad fans ruin that experience for others. I hope that doesn’t deter decorating in the future. Perhaps there should be consequences for people who steal the decorations as to discourage that behavior in the future. Ex: No photo session or they can’t cruise again in the future. 
  • Along the same line of thought as the prior comment, I know the Backstreet Boys didn’t necessarily go over the ‘rules’ of the cruise during the sail away party but it may be helpful to have them go over some general guidelines (aka not stealing decorations) and perhaps fans may be more inclined to listen if it comes from the boys
  • Minor point but I wish they didn’t do hoodies in white. I’d prefer other colors.
  • I wasn’t in group A but I heard several complains from fans in that group that the schedule wasn’t ideal…so perhaps take into consideration the flow of events for both groups of fans so that the days are more balanced for both groups
  • I'm not sure whose idea it was, but the fact that the buffet served food besides pizza after midnight was awesome!!! That has been a recommendation of mine for years and I think it made a huge difference. Rose Tours, if you have any control over that, please do that again in the future!
  • I continue to love the concerts that are unique to the cruise where the guys sing more rare songs. Keep on doing that!
  • When I think about the game shows, it seems like the physical challenge type of mini games work better than trivia based questions. Thus in the future I think picking game shows that are more physical are better. 
  • When I think about the game shows, I love Jen, but I do think having a proper host personality would enhance the game show a lot more and keep things on track. It might work well to have 1 of the Backstreet boys host the event or bring on a professional host. I wonder if you could even leverage Carnival's cruise director? But I really felt a difference at Brian's solo event with the guy who hosted his solo event - He had the personality to host a show and I thought it worked well.
  • This was the first cruise after 6 times that I finally had a bad seat in the lounge. Man oh man do I feel bad for cruisers who get those crummy seats. I honestly don't know what could be done to improve that experience on a sold out ship, but to me it's such a shame when we all pay tons of money to be there and some fans literally have a pole in front of them or are in the back corner of the room and cant see a darn thing (aka me this time). Perhaps you could implement 'stand-by upgrade seating' if fans don't show up 15 minutes after the event starts or maybe do it on a rotational basis to at least make it more fair. I understand those aren't the best solutions but trying to think of something outside the box. Hmm....
  • I still love the outfits the boys do for the sailaway parties. This is a nice, fun touch that hasn't gotten old yet!
  • I know we've done both 3 and 4 day cruises in the past and I really do enjoy the 4 day cruise a lot more - I hope you can continue that in the future. That extra day gives us a lot more time to spread the events out and makes a big difference.
  • I loved that Kevin 
    • a) made an announcement on the speaker system. I would love to see you encourage more of this from the boys in the future 
    • b) he went around signing doors. Again, hope you can pass that feedback along that we appreciate that. It goes back to how much time we spend on those doors and its a very nice gesture.
  • I continue to love BSB TV and appreciate that you had new footage this year. Honestly if you sold that footage on a DVD, I would buy it. 

Anything else major I'm missing??

Here is a link to the survey in case you missed it. Make sure to submit feedback!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Post-Cruise Recap

Welcome back cruisers. I'm in the throws of post-cruise depression. Not to mention I'm still exhausted and busy digesting everything that happened the past 5 days or so. But here's some of my quick down and dirty thoughts about this cruise while I catch back up on life and write a proper review.
  • Overall I thought this cruise was phenomenal and ranked right up there as one of the best. I think they really tried to make up for the last one and they knocked it out of the park.

  • Highlight for me was Millennium Night. And funny enough the Fast Times at Backstreet High was also one of the best deck parties but it ended up being completely overshadowed by Millennium Night. I know they didn't end up doing as many selfies but I absolutely loved that about both nights because they sang BSB songs. I felt like we got 2 extra concerts and not just any concert, but freakin the entire Millennium album.

    I would best describe Millennium night as...okay you know when you're hanging out with your friends and you just put your iPod on a Backstreet shuffle playlist and then sing along and tell funny stories in between the songs? Well imagine you're doing that but WITH the Backstreet Boys performing those songs and goofing around with you. And then Nick and AJ decide to spontaneously jump in the pool with you while Kevin is off serving drinks to you. Definitely a deck party for the record books and I hope the boys take note that we want more of this!!

    Millennium Night (Not sure who put this together to give credit to, but I loved it! and think it sums up the cruise)
  • Another highlight for me was the concert. I feel like I leave every cruise and say 'that was the best concert ever' and this was no different. I loved the funny interludes and untold stories that we've never heard before. And I loved the setlist. My fave was Climbing the Walls <3

  • Sneak Peak with AJ and Kevin. AH-MAY-ZING! It makes me feel good that they acknowledge the fans who go on the cruise are superfans and that they trusted us to play new music. This is an example where it seems like fans behaved and didn't try to sneak in cameras (at least i haven't heard about it yet) and I hope that it pays off and they'll trust us to do more of this in the future.

    As for the music - it was almost too much to process at one time but I loved hearing a lot of the new songs. I do hope there is more uptempo songs on the new album because based on what Kevin shared it seemed there were definitely more slower songs. AJ's new music also sounded great and I hope that he can actually follow through and actually release them!

  • I'm not sure who this Nick Carter we got on this cruise was, but I was super glad to have this version of him. Historically he is notorious for being the least accessible but this cruise he stepped up in the best of ways and we noticed! I loved his little game the first day on trying to find him for a selfie and the fact that he did a random selfie line on the third day for hours on end - LOVED IT!

    I thought Kevin and AJ both were also both rockstars in terms of taking pics with fans. They've always been great in the past so I wouldn't expect anything different this time around. Both Kev and AJ were super accessible and stayed out super late on multiple occasions taking pics with the fans with their massive selfie lines. And I find whether you're first in line or 500th in line they are still as nice and engaging.

    Meanwhile I thought Howie and Brian weren't as great about pictures as they normally are or the other 3 boys. I heard that AJ even tried to encourage Howie to start a line and his response was that he'd rather be drinking on stage. Not gonna lie, a little disappointed. And not to say that he didn't do any pictures, because he certainly did.  I think Brian made it up to the top deck on the 2nd night for pictures and did pictures side-stage or randomly around the ship for a bit. So I certainly give him credit, but I suppose when he's always the first to peel away from the deck parties it's easy to see that he's missing from picture time.

  • I think this may have been the only cruise that we had all deck parties outside. And I loved it!! It makes a huge difference and I hope our bad weather curse is over.

  • I can't stop picturing Nick dressed up as baby spice and it makes me laugh without fail. The Spiceboys costumes were epic!

  • Overall I thought the vibe of this cruise was laid back, appreciative, and nostalgic. As far as the fans I didn't personally experience any pushing or excessive amounts of rude, aggressive fans. Now granted I wasn't up front except for 1 event so maybe that was it. But coming off the European cruise, I could definitely feel the difference.

    I thought the boys overall seemed to have their guard down and were just loose and having fun - sharing stories and just reflective of their 25 year journey of how they've gotten to where they are today. I loved it!

  • For me the only negative of this cruise actually came from the fans. I could not believe my eyes that people were stealing the decorations on the 2nd day of the cruise! Shame on you for ruining this for others. I agree with the announcement that "this is why we can't have nice things." I wouldn't be surprised if they don't do those next cruise as a result, and that would make me really sad.

    Similarly I heard that fans were stealing door decorations and Kevin's signatures from the doors. Again, just so disgusting and selfish and I hope Backstreet karma bites you in the ass.

  • And I'll end with... 3 words...

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Cruise Itineraries 2018

Rose Tours made us sweat it out this year, but, better late than never!

BACKSTREET BOYS Cruise 2018 Itinerary
Day One: Thursday, May 3th, 2018
12:00PM – 3:30PM                Arrival Onboard the Carnival Cruise Ship Sensation
3:30PM – 4:30PM                  Mandatory Emergency Boat Drill
4:45PM                                   Sail Away with BSB on Lido & Verandah Decks
6:00PM                                   Dinner Group A
6:00PM                                   Doors Group B                                                                   Fantasia Lounge
6:30PM                                   Double Trouble Game Show Group B                             Fantasia Lounge
8:15PM                                   Dinner Group B
9:00PM                                   Doors Group A                                                                    Fantasia Lounge
9:30 PM                                  Double Trouble Game Show Group A                             Fantasia Lounge
11:00PM                                 Deck Party Groups A&B with DJ                                             Lido Deck 10
1 Hour Cocktail Party Open Bar from 12:00AM – 1:00 AM                         
Tonight’s Theme is “Fast times at Backstreet High”
Other Activities will be added, please check Carnival’s Fun Times for times and locations.
Day Two: Friday, May 4th, 2018 – Day at Sea
11:00AM                                 Photo Session Group B                                                      Plaza Aft Lounge
4:15 PM                                  Doors open Group B                                                            Fantasia Lounge
4:45PM                                   AJ Goes Country & Sneak Peak with Kevy Kev – Group B         Fantasia Lounge
6:00PM                                   Dinner Group A
8:15PM                                   Dinner Group B
8:30PM                                   Doors Open Group A                                                          Fantasia Lounge
9:00PM                                   BSB: Storytellers Group A                                                     Fantasia Lounge
11:00PM                                 Deck Party Groups A&B with DJ                                             Lido Deck 10
Tonight’s Theme is “We Got it Going Con”
Other Activities will be added, please check Carnival’s Fun Times for times and locations.
Day Three: Saturday, May 5th, 2018 –Grand Turk
5:30PM                                   Cinco De Howie D                                                                 Lido Deck 10
6:00PM                                   Dinner Group A
8:15PM                                   Dinner Group B
9:30PM                                   Doors Open Group B                                                           Fantasia Lounge
9:45PM                                   BSB: Storytellers Group B                                                     Fantasia Lounge
11:30PM                                 Deck Party Groups A&B with DJ                                             Lido Deck 10
Tonight’s Theme is “Millennium Night
Other Activities will be added, please check Carnival’s Fun Times for times and locations.
Day Four: Sunday, May 6th, 2018 – Day at Sea
10:00AM – 3:00PM                Blackjack Tournaments                                                                        Casino
11:00AM                                 Photo Session Group A                                                     Plaza Aft Lounge
2:30PM                                   BSB HQ with Nick                                                                 Lido Deck 10
3:30PM                                   Doors Open Group A                                                          Fantasia Lounge
4:00PM                                   AJ Goes Country & Sneak Peak with Kevy Kev – Group A         Fantasia Lounge
6:00PM                                   Dinner Group A
6:00PM                                   Doors open Group B                                                            Fantasia Lounge
6:30PM                                   Game Night with Mr. & Mrs. Littrell & Guests                  Fantasia Lounge
7:30PM                                   BSB Casino Night – Final Tournament Tables                                    Casino
8:00PM                                   Doors Open Group A                                                     Fantasia Lounge           
8:15PM                                   Dinner Group B                                                                   
8:30PM                                   Game Night with Mr. & Mrs. Littrell & Guests                  Fantasia Lounge
10:00PM                                 Deck Party Groups A&B with DJ                                             Lido Deck 10
Tonight’s Theme is “Party like it’s 1993”
Other Activities will be added, please check Carnival’s Fun Times for times and locations.
Day Five: Monday, May 7th, 2018
Day of Debarkation
8:00AM                                   Arrive at Miami Cruise Terminal
Merchandise Store Hours:
The Merchandise store is in the Library on Atlantic Deck 8
Day One: Friday May 3, 2018
5:30PM – 11:30PM
Day Two: Friday May 4, 2018
9:00AM – 11:30PM
Day Three: Saturday May 5, 2018
5:30PM – 11:30PM
Day Four: Sunday May 6, 2018
9:00AM – 10:00PM
Hospitality Desk Hours:
The Hospitality Desk is Midship on Promenade Deck 9
Day One: Friday May 3, 2018
1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
5:00PM – 8:00PM
Day Two: Friday May 4, 2018
4:00PM – 7:00PM
Day Three: Saturday May 5, 2018
6:00PM – 8:00PM
Day Four: Sunday May 6, 2018
6:00PM – 8:00PM
In Your cabin tune into your exclusive BSB Channel 21

My Take
Phew, lots to digest here!

Let's start with the new events. 'AJ Goes Country & Sneak Peak with Kevy Kev'. Given how strict they are with the whole 'no cameras or phones' I assume we'll be getting a taste of new music. Given that I have 2 phones and a camera, part of me wanted to sneak in a device, but they seem to mean business if they're making us go through a metal detector. Yikes! But the other part of me will feel a sense of relief not having to worry about taking pictures and filming the events. Just enjoy some new music from 2 of my faves :) And historically I've loved the solo events where the guys sing. They can do some more unreleased stuff and things we don't normally get to hear.

Next up is Cinco De Howie. Sounds generic enough but it also sounds a bit like his 'Rum DMC' event. I imagine it'll involve Howie and alcohol and more Howie and more alcohol. I wasn't the biggest fan of his Rum DMC event, so hopefully this event will have a bit more to it than watching him play beer pong. Granted whatever he does, I'll be there!

BSB HQ with Nick. So best that I can infer is that this will be based on the popular trivia game/app - HQ trivia. The good news is that I do play that app/game and the bad news is I have yet to win. Grrr. But with Nick hosting and the questions being BSB related, I maybe just maybe will be pull this off.
For those of you who don't know what HQ trivia is all about - its a game show where they ask 12 multiple choice questions where everyone gets to play until they guess a wrong answer. Last ones standing will split a pot of money. If that's what they intend to do here, I love that it gives everyone a chance to play. Of course you never know, so we shall see!

Last but not least is Game Night with Mr. & Mrs. Littrell & Guests. Of course that last word is the most intriguing here. "& Guests," huh? How does one get to be a guest? Hopefully this means fan involvement in some way. This sounds like it'll be a fun time. Anytime you give Brian a mic you know you'll have some good laughs.

Seems like we're getting lots of game shows this year... Double Trouble Game Show being the main game show with all the boys. I honestly don't have any guesses on this one but I'm sure it'll involve some good laughs as well.

Last but not least is BSB: Storytellers. It appears that this will be our concert. From my understanding the New Kids did a concert similar to this where they take about some of their songs with stories and anecdotes, then sing them. I'm honestly thrilled they're not copping out and doing the Vegas set because I was a bit worried they would. I'm glad that they realize they are on a ship with all of their super fans and we don't need to see all their singles we've seen performed hundreds of time. Im happy we're getting something unique.

Of course I don't want to focus on what's not here, but I still can't help but be a bit upset we aren't getting a Q&A event nor a beach party. Those are 2 of my faves and the Q&A seems like such an easy event to put together....but that's okay. Hopefully they'll more than make it up to us with these other events.

Oh boy, cruisers. It's getting real!! See you on board in just 4 days!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

AJ Blackjack Tournament Sign Ups

You know we're starting to get closer to cruise time because the blackjack tournament signups are here! In case you missed it, here is the email that went out:

Ever dream of playing blackjack on the High Seas?
Well, here is your chance.
 AJ is hosting his annual Blackjack Tournament.
For just $25 dollars (payable to the casino host on-board), you can have a chance to play for a cash prize and, more importantly, the chance of beating Mr. McLean himself

The top six chip winners from the qualifying rounds (starting in the casino at 10am) will test their skills in the grand finale.

The three players with the most chips will win cash prizes.

Submit your name, email address and dining time HERE.
We will randomly select among all entries. You will receive a schedule with your table time in advance.

Please submit your request by Friday, April 27th
Good luck!

What to Expect- Cliff Notes
I wrote a post a few years ago on 'What to Expect: AJs Blackjack Tournament' if you want more info. But I'll attempt a cliff notes version here as well. My credentials are that I've played in the tournament 3 times and made it to the finals to play with Howie once.

Basically you need to sign up via the link above. You will likely get an email a few days before the cruise with the schedule on when you're assigned time is. If you sign up, you do NOT have to participate if you choose later not to. Alternately they usually do accept last minute sign-ups as well. It costs $25 to play.

The tournament itself is structured that you will play at a table with other fans first. Everyone starts with the same amount of chips/money and the goal is to be among the top 6 players OVERALL in order to play with AJ, not just at the table. You will play through 7 hands and whoever has the most chips/money at the end will go on a leaderboard and go on to play with AJ. Definitely keep this in mind with your betting strategy.

From my anecdotal experience it seems that you dont need to be an experienced blackjack player to play. A lot of fans just want the chance to play with AJ and that's okay! So don't be intimidated because you don't know how to play. I recommend giving it a try, you never know.

Good luck!

Friday, April 20, 2018

What? You're Going to See BSB Again?

Yes. Yes I am.

As Backstreet fans we all get this question on a regular basis. As we quickly approach cruise #6 I continue to get asked, "Another Backstreet cruise?"

I find I'm met with different types of responses from family, friends and colleagues. Some are supportive of my fangirl life; some even jealous and wish they were just a fraction as passionate about something as I am about BSB; but a good majority of the time I'm met with some sort of judgment. The fact that I'm a grown woman in her 30's and choose to spend my money and vacation time 'chasing a boyband around' seems like a foreign concept to many. Meanwhile I don't judge others who say go to the same beach every year or spend their money on designer clothes or whatever it is that floats their boat.

Well what is the draw of a Backstreet cruise? For me it's the magic, an escape, and the memories.

There's just something magical in the air as soon as you land in the Miami airport. You know you're about to start the trip of a lifetime. You look around the airport and try to spot other fans who also headed to the cruise - needing to freak out with others who just get it. That magic continues to escalate as you reach the port and see a room full of fans who all share the same love as you do. And nothing tops that feeling of when you actually see the boys for the first time boarding the ship. You pinch yourself for reassurance that you are not are in fact going on a cruise with the Backstreet Boys. As you walk up the gangway and get ready to board the ship that moment the possibilities and hopes of everything that's to come over the next 4 magical days is euphoric. It's like a drug.

As I get older and face more responsibilities from work, family life and just general adulthood - I can escape all of my cares from back home. Even though its for a short time, for those 4 days I can be 13 years all over again. I can let go of that day to day stress and completely unplug. Being in the middle of the ocean with 2000 fans and the 5 boys who got me through my adolescence is just such a surreal environment that no one else can understand if you haven't been there. It's unlike a concert and it's unlike any other cruise. It's just a super unique experience and for me - it offers me an opportunity to get away and simply recharge my batteries for life. And everyone needs that.

This upcoming cruise will be my 6th Backstreet Boy cruise. Another question I get asked frequently is 'which was the best cruise?' Well I can find reasons for every cruise being my favorite, but in reality the first will always hold such a special place in my heart because it was the first. Experiencing that magic for the first time was absolutely surreal. 6 cruises later I find I need more and more to get that same 'high' if you will. It becomes harder to top the experiences I've had on each prior cruise. Yet somehow I manage to still have the time of my life each time I go. 

And I'll be damned if I haven't made some of the best memories of my life on board these cruises. Memories with the boys, with my friends, and even just myself. I've taken a shot with Kevin. AJ has come visited my cabin. I've played blackjack with Howie. I've played beach games with Nick. I've had some really good conversations with Brian. And most importantly I've made some of my now best friends. So while I don't know what the future holds if the boys will continue to cruise or if I will be able to continue to go on them...I cherish every single memory I've made on board. Those memories are worth the world to me. And they are what keeps me coming back year after year.

So again, my answer to your question is a resound 'YES', and now I ask, do you want to come?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sail Away with Nick Carter

I don't know whether to be happy or mad that Nick announced this so last minute. Damn you Carter for not giving us more time to plan.

Here are the deets:

Party with Nick before setting sail on #BSBCruise2018!

Sail Away With Nick Carter

Wednesday, May 2
Hard Rock Cafe Miami
401 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132

Two types of tickets will be available:

*Limited quantity
Professional Meet & Greet photo
Welcome drink upon arrival in a keepsake HardRock branded glass
Hors d'oeuvres upon arrival
Custom Nick Carter Branded Sunglasses
Custom laminate
Exclusive VIP area

Entry into the event

Tickets on sale Friday, April 20th at 10am Pacific.

Does anyone else feel that this is a little vague? The only thing that concretely involves Nick is the meet & greet. I wish they would give us just a little bit more on what this event entails. But I suppose my fangirl experiences have taught be to pick apart every word with these things because inevitably we aren't guaranteed anymore than what's listed here. I assume he will be mingling with fans, but of course you never know with Nick.

I also notice that by the time I got to write this blog post they had the prices up at $250 and $75 respectively and have promptly taken them down. Makes me think we're in for a surprise Friday during the pre-sale. Hmmm.

Well good luck to all those fans during the sale on Friday and have fun to anyone going!