Friday, July 29, 2016

Recap 2016: Day 2 (Cannes)

Waking up the second day of the Backstreet Boy cruise was the weirdest experience. You know why?

I was able to sleep in!

Hallelujah. The first time in the history of Backstreet Boy cruises I didn't have to set an alarm. Granted that was because I wasn't doing any excursions, but I was really okay with that. There wasn't anything I was dying to see there, I just wanted to leisurely take my time in getting up. And boy was it glorious.


After grabbing a quick breakfast, I ventured off the ship into the bustling city of Cannes during its most exciting time of year - the Cannes Film Festival. I was immediately taken by all the red carpets and important looking people with badges and cameras. I kept hoping I would catch a glimpse of a movie star, but sadly, I did not.

Me and the gang in Cannes
I spent most of the late morning/early afternoon just exploring the town by foot. At one point we decided to stop and take a carousel ride, because, well I'm a grown up and don't have to explain!

Me and Chrissy on a Carousel
After a couple of hours of exploring we decided to turn around and find a little cafe to grab pastries and drinks. Well on the way back I noticed Justin and Jenn walking on the other side of the street. Then behind them I noticed Nick...then Kevin...then Howie. Eeek! I swear my reaction was that as if I wasn't on a Backstreet cruise and like I randomly noticed the Backstreet Boys on the street.

Now I admit, I was tempted to dart across traffic and risk my safety to go say 'hi', but I quickly remembered (or rather my friends kindly pointed out) that this was their downtime and we should let them do their thing. As much as my heart was pulling me across the street, the better part of reasoning agreed with them so I just enjoyed the view, watching them explore the streets of Cannes.

Justin may have taken this pic, but I swear I was on the other side of the road not too long after this was taken.

The boys exploring Cannes

The interesting thing here,  all the other 'Non-Cruisers' were walking past them and clearly had no idea who they were. That still amazes me. I'm like 'HELLO - Its the Backstreet Boys. Why are you not freaking out like I am!?' haha

After our Backstreet run-in, we found our little cafe and I enjoyed some pastries and a beautiful view of Cannes.

Enjoying some delicious pastries in France. Yum!

Photo Session
We had to get back to the ship at a decent hour so we could start getting ready for our official picture with the boys. We have 4 girls in 1 cabin with 1 bathroom. It takes time and coordination!

So I've been super duper fortunate over the last several years to have had the opportunity to meet the boys on numerous occasions, yet it still never gets old. The butterflies still don't disappear as I wait in that line that wrapped the length of the ship. The same thoughts pop through my head "Do I look okay?" "Do I have anything in my teeth?" "What do I say" "Holy crap I'm meeting the Backstreet Boys"

Random picture of me waiting to take a picture. Gotta love the irony.

Once I got closer to the front of the line, I saw how good the boys were looking in their sailor suits. Yum! This is one of those things that will never get old! My cabinmates and I work so well together because we all have different favorite boys. We have a Brian girl, AJ girl, Kevin girl, and me - the lonely Nick girl (believe it or not!). I really am fortunate to have no Nick competition. Though to be honest, at this point I really couldn't care less who I stand next to.

When it was finally time for our meet & greet...damn it goes by fast! I briefly said hi to all the boys and gave them quick hugs. Surprisingly the only one who really engaged me in a "conversation" (and I use the term loosely) was Nick. He asked me if I was having a good time. I think I muttered out "of course!". But who really knows what sort of nonsense I said. For crying out loud - it was Nick Carter in a sailor suit!

I know these photo ops go super quick, but it was still very enjoyable, as always. I'm also happy with how our picture came out :)
Nick and Kevin sandwich!

Next up was dinner. It proved to be a nice time to sit and relax with my all my friends. Pour over all of our stories from the day and analyze every little interaction and event. After dinner I was just too tempted and wanted to go press my ear against the theater to see if I could hear the other concert going on. And sure enough, I wasn't the only one with that thought. Even though I couldn't be in there to enjoy the concert, it was still nice listening to a few songs from outside. I tore myself away from the door after hearing maybe 4 songs because I didn't want to spoil any more. Just from the little pieces I did hear, I knew this was going to be an AMAZING concert!!

Before long, it was time to get ready for 'Night at the Cinema'!!

Night at the Cinema
So my roommates and I wanted to do a group costume and we came up with the idea to go as the cast of Inside Out. I picked last and got assigned 'Anger', which is very NOT me. But it was still fun to play the part.

My roommates as the cast of Inside Out (sans Fear)
We found ourselves a spot upstairs and away from the mob pit, as I already got my fill of pushing the night prior. Of course after a long wait made even longer with Backstreet time, the boys finally emerged.....

May the Backstreet Boys be With You (Sorry, I couldn't help myself)
I'm not super into Star Wars, but thought it was a fun theme. I loved how Nick apparently drew the short straw again and somehow got assigned as Princess Leia. I'm really starting to wonder if he's actually volunteering to dress as a woman.

As far as deck parties go - they did their typical spiels. AJ brought some fans on stage to do some 'real dancing'. Nick was also very engaged that night on the stage.

This deck party had to be my favorite. It was the only one we had outside and I just felt so much energy from the guys and the fans. I loved all the costumes because I think the fans were really creative and seemed to have a lot of fun with it. I enjoyed spotting my favorite movie characters from across the pool deck. Just overall I had a really great time.

See, Brian's having a great time too :)

My Night of AJ

Hopefully I've intrigued you enough with my subheading here, but I swear the rest of the night was all about AJ. Nick, Brian, Howie, Kevin who??

As the deck party went on, I found myself letting my guard down and not worrying so much about hunting the boys down for a picture. But I swear no sooner than that thought crossed my head AJ was heading upstairs right my direction. Well, shoot. If he's coming right towards me you bet I'm going to try and get a picture. He stayed and did a good number of pictures and I inched my way closer and closer. Then the dreaded words, "Sorry guys, I gotta go."

So close but so far
Blah. Just got my hopes up and off he goes. But before he runs off he says, "Don't worry, I'll come back. And you know me; I mean that." This is true. He is probably the best doing pictures with fans so I reluctantly watch as AJ runs across the deck.

After that adrenaline burst, I shift gears and get back into the party. More singing, dancing, and having fun with my roommate, Cory. The usual deck party drill. Then I ran into another friend and...well yadda yadda yadda, my friend and I ended up getting a wristband into VIP.

Yes, I know. I yadda yaddaed the best part. Just want to thank my friend for that hookup!

Any who...Cory and I decide to go check out the VIP area. I wanted to see what the deal was because in years past they had free drinks so it was worth investigating. Well what we got ended up being better than free drinks, we got AJ! I just had to chuckle because I just can't seem to get away from him (not that I'm complaining!)

It was very chill in that VIP area because there weren't that many fans there. We were able to have a brief chat with AJ and take our pictures.

Anger (AKA me) and AJ
 After the pictures, he's still chatting with us but we see him taking his shoes off. Of course I'm thinking to myself, uh AJ, why the heck are you taking your shoes off? And almost as if he heard my thoughts, he told us that he was about to go jump in the pool. Then we tease him that the shoes are of course the most important thing he can't get wet. We all know AJ loves his sneakers.

Now Cory and I are in prime spot to and get ready to watch AJ jump in the pool.

AJ jumping in the pool

Oh gosh, I felt so bad for AJ because I was super cold without being soaking wet, and now he must be freezing and keeps getting stopped to take pictures.

At this point Cory and I are ready for a break and head to the buffet to grab a snack attack around 2:30. Got to eat when you can because the buffet closed at 3. We're just relaxing and eating and then we hear AJ come over the intercom...

Um AJ, why are you telling us good night, but then want us to go out and party?

Ding, goes the intercom again.

Good, AJ realized his mistake.

Folks, I've been wanting the boys to make announcements on the PA system since before the concept of a Backstreet cruise even existed. I write that suggestion every year on my surveys so I was super excited that they finally listened!!

My Night of AJ Continues
Next I decided that since it was so cold out, I wanted to go down to the cabin for a few minutes, grab a sweatshirt, hit the little girls room, and just rest a bit before going back to the deck party. So Cory and I head to our room and do just that. 

When we get there we notice that the cabin steward made up our bed wrong and only set the room for 3 of us instead of 4. I felt awful having to call them so early in the morning, but what else are we supposed to do? So we call them and they said they'll send someone up shortly to fix our room. Ok, cool. No biggie. Problem solved.

I'd say about 5 minutes later Cory and I hear some rustling outside our door so we assume its the cabin steward coming to fix our room. Thus Cory opens the door to let her in and it wasn't the cabin steward. 

IT WAS FREAKIN AJ!!!!! *#&^@Q(&

At this point, I can't even. I just can't even. That moment was so surreal, I can't even put into words. I had been dreaming up this moment in my head for the past 3 years since I initially came up with the concept of doing a Friends themed door. And there he was, looking at the door. It was a mix of shock and pure happiness. I'll never forget that moment when I saw AJ in our doorway.

So AJ is hunched over the door reading our episode, side by sides. And he said, "This wasn't here last year, was it?"

I start to freak out again!! That means he remembered our door from last year and must've seen it, even though I really didn't think he ever got to make it. The fact that we actually had those episodes on our door last year is moot, I wasn't about to correct him.

Stealth shot of AJ chatting with us
We get chatting for probably a good 5-10 minutes. All the while I'm trying to keep my composure. He starts off by telling us about the announcement he just made on the intercom. He said he felt so bad because he meant to just wake up the cabins, and that's what he instructed the crew to do. But apparently it woke up the entire ship, including the crew quarters and the captain. I could tell he felt really bad about it. But hell, I enjoyed it!
We continue chatting, mostly about the show Friends. He asked us if we had a chance to go to that Central Perk pop-up shop, which sadly, I had not. He then launched into this really touching monologue about how much the show means to him and his wife and that it's really a bonding element. It wasn't necessarily new information to me, but very touching and it felt like an intimate moment between the 3 of us as he opened up. 

Stealth shot #2
At one point during the conversation the cabin steward we called comes and interrupts us. I was literally so flustered and couldn't think straight so I asked her to come back. And then I paused for a moment and realized its 3am and this poor woman probably had to wake up to come fix this, so then we let her in the room. I was not thinking straight. But really - what crummy timing!

Apologies, my memory is so blurry on this, but at some point later in the conversation he stops us and asks if he can take a picture with the door. Oh gee, let me think on that....OF COURSE!!

Me trying to get a pic of AJ with our door
So he whips out his own phone. Let me repeat. His own phone! Seriously, I'm already dying. He's trying to kill me! So he takes a picture of just himself in front of our door with his phone. Then he takes one with Cory and I, on his phone. I don't even know how I had the faculties to ask for a picture on my camera....but thank goodness I did. 

I'll Be There For You

There were other fans in the hallway and they were super respectful and let us have our time (thank you if you're reading this!! Also, if you have any pics that would be super cool haha) but then AJ continued on to chat with other fans. 

Meanwhile Jen stayed and looked more at our door so we got chatting with her a bit. Which was another great conversation. We talked for a bit about Friends but then that segued into reality TV since I know she's a big reality fan. And then we moved into talking about the cruise and honestly, anytime you can get feedback to the person that matters - its great. So I totally took advantage. 

She basically shared and echoed everything I was thinking about the cruise. She said she loves planning these cruises, its her favorite part of the job. She said it was great to have the extra day (amen, sister!) but felt a lot more cramped on this ship. Apparently there are a lot less open spaces. She acknowledged the lido deck wasn't great for the cruise because there wasn't a lot of room. She said Royal Caribbean is 10x nicer but ultimately Carnival is a party ship.

Mind you, AJ is still a few feet away talking with other fans. He does a U-turn and heads past our room again. He gives Cory and I a high-five, once again tells us he loves our door, and continues the other way to chat with other fans down the hall. 

Cory and I go back into our room and literally collapse on the bed and freak out together. That lasted for a couple of minutes before it occurred to me that AJ was still in our hall. Why are we in our cabin?? Then we had this cartoon like moment where we stared at each other and bolted back out the door.

Me heading back towards AJ
We let other fans have their moment but figured it didn't hurt to listen in on the conversation. We also noticed that they blocked the hallway off completely by shutting the door. A few minutes later we see our other 2 roommates peak through the door and see them process what is happening. I can't even begin to explain how awful I felt that they missed him coming to our cabin, but I was relieved they didn't miss him all together. Fortunately they were able to get pics with AJ and that spurred a conversation about Inside Out. He said Ava loved the elephant character, but none of us could remember his name at the time (It was Bing Bong). All in all, we probably had another 5-10 minutes of him chatting with other fans down the hall. 

AJ down the hall

Now I'm full of adrenaline and no where near ready to go to bed. So Cory and I wander around the ship trying to process what had just happened. We end up in the solarium just reliving the glorious evening over and over and over. I had so much trouble falling asleep that night. But eventually forced myself. I went to bed knowing that anything else that happens on the cruise is gravy. I could've left at that moment and it would've been 150% worth everything.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Recap 2016: Day 1 Part 2

BSB Game Night (Group B)
After the deck party it was time to go to the game show. First thing I noticed upon entering the theater is that I liked the setup much better than Carnival's because they don't have those annoying cocktail tables in the way. I was fortunate to have a good seat, but from what I could gather there were far less obstructed views than we've experienced in the past.

In case you missed it – the game show was structured by dividing the boys into 2 groups and having fans join each team. Kevin & Brian were on the Kentucky cousins team while AJ, Brian, and Nick made up the Florida team. Once in teams – both sides were competing in a bunch of mini games similar to what you’d see on Hollywood Game Night. Trivia games.

Highlights of the game show
  • A lot of the boys trying to hit each other in their private areas. What else is new?
  • During the coin flip, as the teams were calling it, Nick makes the joke “Howie wants head.” This would be the start of a string of similarly themed jokes. 
  • Jen explains the rules of charades, a very common party game in my opinion.
    Jen - “Does this make sense?”
    Nick (with a clueless look on his face) “Not at all.”
    Only made funnier by Howie and AJ sitting next to him nodding and clearly understanding the rules.
    Nick’s lucky he’s good looking.
    Clueless Nick
  • Nick had a mini outburst that the other team during charades “Are you freakin’ serious!? Why did you give them elementary school words?”
    (I totally agree though. You can’t really compare words like ‘Bane’ and ‘Two-Face’ to ‘frog’ ‘glasses’ and ‘broom’.)
  • After this round – Nick got serious. He rearranged the furniture, took off his shoes, and was uber-focused on winning this round. I found it endearing.
  • Howie trying to act out the word ‘condom’ followed by the word ‘sex toy’ were the highlights of my night. And in context, he is the only one who got dirty words!
  • The boys try to guess world capitals...I suppose they did better than I thought but there were a few gems:
    Brian thought the capital of Singapore was Malaysia
    Nick, Howie and AJ guess every other city in Canada except Ottawa
  • AJ teaches Brian ‘real dancing’
  • Nick logs an official dispute over whether or not King Kong won an Oscar. Gets very heated over the issue. Later in the show a fan in the audience looks it up and says it won 3 Oscars. He proceeds to victoriously jump around the stage yelling it ‘suck it!’

    Nick getting himself quite worked up
  • Kevin shares a story about how the boys backed out of meeting the pope, which prevented Howie from being able to meet him because the pope would only meet them if all 5 boys were present.
    Geez, pope is greedy! I would gladly take any 1 Backstreet Boy no questions asked.
And the most infamous moment of the game show that would later become an inside joke of this cruise. Just watch....

2 Words. Eddie. Murphy

Game Show in a Nut Shell
Since we never did get a survey, I get to let all my thoughts and critiques out here. So buckle up!

My overall take of the game show. It was good, but a few little nits or suggestions for improvement for next time. During certain games we were watching their backs as they acted out things to the rest of their team. And its funny because at one point they even realized that, said it aloud, but nothing was done to fix it. While generally I don't have a problem starting at a Backstreet Boys' back side, we definitely missed something as a result.

The other problem I realized this time around  is there was definitely a language barrier with some of the fans on stage.  I'm not saying that to put anyone down, but unfortunately the games required knowing English and as a result, it seemed like the majority of fans didn't really participate. As a spectator, I didn't overly mind because it meant more BSB. But I think if they were going to do this again in the future, staff needs to be cognizant of this when designing the games or selecting fans who are fully able to participate.

Aside from those 2 minor things, I really did enjoy it. The game show is always good for a laugh and this was no exception. And with that, here's a random picture of Kevin doing some odd dance during at the game show....

Honestly not sure how to caption what Kev is up to here

In a World Like This Deck Party
For this event I didn't put a whole lot into this outfit. I decided to whip out Nick's 'All American' T-shirt and call it a day. Plus, I figure this would be the only place I'd actually wear this article of clothing, so may as well take advantage.

Well, this event was a little bit wet. And by a little bit, I mean it POURED! I felt so bad for the girls standing in front of the stage without an umbrella. I was standing on the upper deck, huddled with 3 friends under the 2 umbrellas we had to share between us. We were using each other to keep warm that night. I kept looking over to the security guard standing near us, trying to get an inclination as to what was going on. If history has taught me anything, I knew it would be moved inside. But he kept insisting that they still intended to hold it outside. Ugh!! So I continued to wait.

I'd say after 45 minutes of standing in the cold rain I finally had enough and started to make my way inside. Well as timing would have it, just as I was headed to my cabin to dry off, I noticed a bunch of fans were scurrying inside and headed downstairs. So I aborted my mission of going to the cabin and was able to find myself 1st row (though quickly pushed back to the 2nd row) in front of the stage in the atrium.

When the guys came out, I was happy to see that they chose to represent their hometowns, as opposed to the last international night we had, where they each chose to dress from a random country. Nick was a Tampa Bay Bucs football player. Howie look like Disney World threw up on him (and i mean that in the nicest possible way!) Kevin wore an Abe Lincoln get up. And sadly it took me waaay to long to realize that Abe Lincoln was born in Kentucky, hence the outfit. AJ wore an Orlando Magic jersey. Lastly Brian wore a US boxer outfit.

So serious, Mr. Lincoln
A few highlights of the evening:

Boys arriving during In a World Like This Night

Brian fighting himself

I got a shot from Nick!
Me and Brian
This night brought mixed emotions for me. It was exciting to be in the front and get a chance to be up close and personal with the guys. Grab a few decent snapshots and videos.


I can't even begin to tell you how uncomfortable I was in the crowd. There was SO much pushing and shoving :( I was repeatedly slammed into the stage and surrounded by a couple drunk girls. One by one my friends had to have the bodyguards remove them from the crowd. Yeah, it was that bad. Given how much time I had already put in....I really wanted to get a picture with Howie and get the heck out of there.

A few bruises later, I was finally able to get my picture with Howie, which I was so excited about! But then I went to look at it, and this happened....

Me, Howie, and a Selfie Stick.....

My motto has always been 'any picture with BSB is a good picture'. But how disappointing that I put myself through so much discomfort to have another fan ruin my picture. Bla! After I got my picture, I had the bodyguards remove me from the mob. I just couldn't handle it anymore and I vowed that from this point on, I' wasn't going to bother trying to get up front. Just not worth it on this cruise. Fortunately this was the first and last time I experienced the crazy pushing this cruise.

At this point I was beat and wanted to go back to my cabin and recuperate a bit. I must've tried 4 different exit strategies but the mobs of crowds and security made it nearly impossible to get back to my room. I kept getting blocked by a Backstreet Boy. (Hmm, well there's something I never thought i would ever complain about! ha!)

I finally made it to my deck but was on the opposite end of my hall. I was struggling to get my bearings because the hall was blocked off because of the boys security. Well as I was standing there talking to the security guard explaining my dilemma, lo and behold Nick walks right up. There were only 5 of us fans there so he stopped and took pics with all of us!! I was so grateful because he is notorious for being tough to get a picture with. Major score!! I just hope he didn't think I was sitting there waiting all night for him. That was pure dumb luck.

Nick and I during 'In a World Like This' Night

I was on a crazy roller coaster of emotions towards the end of the night. Had some great highs getting pics with the boys. But a few lows with all the pushing. Alas I finally reunited with the rest of my roommates and was so disheartened to hear that their night was not going well. Apparently the staff told a bunch of fans that half of the Backstreet Boys would go up to the club and the other half would stay in the atrium. Great in theory, but that never happened. All they got was a 2 minute appearance from Nick. It put things into perspective for me....yes I was pushed all over the place, but at least I got to see the boys.

In efforts to make the best of this night, we all went back out to assess the situation and see what was going on. And by assess the situation, get a GPS coordinate on each boy:
  • Howie in the club
  • Kevin downstairs taking pictures side stage but with a mob
  • Nick - who the hell knows
  • Brian - Probably asleep
  • AJ - Taking pictures with a nice orderly line.
    Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner folks! 
Sidebar - I feel like every hour on the hour my friends and I are constantly surveying where each boy is at any given time..... "Nick was last seen heading to his cabin." "Howie's currently in the casino." "I heard Brian's taking a few pictures in the atrium. Move, move, move!"I know that can't just be us. We need trackers on these boys and just make it easier on everyone!

Anyway, even though I already received a picture with AJ earlier in the day, it really seemed like the best option at time. There really wasn't anything else going on so I hopped in line. I had probably been waiting 20 minutes or so when Robbie (AJ's bodyguard) said that AJ was going to leave in 10 minutes. Noooo! There was no question I was still more than 10 minutes away.

Yet another sidebar - I thought Robbie was super awesome!! He did his primary job to keep AJ safe. But he also made sure to keep the fans in order, which I SUPER appreciated. He made sure that no one was cutting in line and really did a good job of enforcing that. I wish we could have more of this!

Back to AJ!

So when Robbie made his announcement, a good number of girls left the line but I figured I'll stay put. Knowing AJ, he's so good about doing pics with fans. And I definitely made the right decision. I finally made my way up front and got a hug from AJ and got my pic. My roommate, Cory,  went before me and told him about our door again. Another seed planted! So when it was my turn, I thought it would be fun to switch up the poses and I asked him to do a 'Friends' pose. So we did the 'F-U fist bump' or whatever you want to call it.

AJ and I doing a 'FRIENDS' pose

Didn't turn out to be my favorite picture but it's something different :)

In a World Like This in a Nut Shell
So, as much as I hate to say it, logistically - this whole night was a mess. They kept us out in the pouring rain for, what felt like forever. They clearly weren't well prepared to move us inside because the atrium space couldn't accommodate everyone, forcing them to shepherd a bunch of fans to the club. A good number of fans never got to see the boys as a result. Meanwhile those who did stay in the atrium - the space (including the stage) was way too small to do much of anything with.

Personally - I clearly had a lot of luck that night getting pictures and brief interactions with the boys. And for that I'm very thankful!! The boys themselves did a good job of mingling with the fans, but as a result there was no entertainment or anything beyond getting selfies and I think that's partially why I was able to have so much luck. I've mentioned it time and time again but my favorite deck parties are actually the ones where the guys do a mix of entertaining the crowds AND mingling. This party was very heavy on the mingling and not so much with the entertaining. It worked out for me, but still not my favorite deck party.