Monday, July 9, 2012

Live It Up

Forget 'Magic Mike.' Put Christian Grey's red room of pain on the sidelines for a few minutes. I'm about to get all girlie about five guys who were the first to make my little heart swoon. 

Yes, this is the continuing saga of the NKOTB Cruise. Go ahead, snicker all you want. 

My third adventure sailing the high seas with Jonathan, Joe, Donnie, Danny and Jordan (NKOTB to all of you) certainly lived up to expectations. Although, it could have been a little cooler, temperature-wise. Let's take it back to where it all started, shall we?

My friends and I flew down to Miami the day before the ship set sail. Friend Number One and Friend Number Two flew out of Providence and arrived a few hours before I did. I flew out of Boston and arrived in Dante's Inferno around 12:30pm. Christ on a cracker it was hot. I met up with them at the hotel and hung out by the pool until our room was ready. We met up with one of Friend Number One's co-workers for adult beverages after she got out of work. This is becoming a very fun, very enjoyable tradition. More of her co-workers joined us for appetizers and drinks. We laughed, drank and gushed about Christian Grey all evening until we had to leave for the restaurant. A very nice young man whose name I'm embarrassed to admit I can't remember offered to drive us to the restaurant. NO, he was not just some random dude, he was the son of my friend's co-worker. In any case, I always enjoy making a grand first impression, so true to form, as I was climbing into his massive, shiny black SUV, I fell. Blaming it on my wedge sandals would be a total cop out, but they didn't help. Neither did all the pretty pink adult beverages I had. Suave, party of one. Clumsiness aside, we enjoyed a rather spectacular dinner at a restaurant called STK. If you're ever in the Miami area, I highly recommend it. 

We went back to the hotel and immediately got ready for bed. We had another date with Destiny in the morning. 
The morning of the cruise arrived and greeted us with more hot, sticky weather. Unpleasant? Yes. But we were hours away from boarding the good ship paradise, so who cares. Arriving at the port is always a good time. The line of girls (women??) is long. Very long. Painfully long. But this year, we had an ace up our sleeves. Friend Number Two knows someone who works for the cruise line. What did that mean for us? We skipped to the front of the line at security. Oh yeah. The glares from the other girls waiting in line were white hot. Sorry (not really). After we got into the main terminal and checked in, Friend Number Two's connection told us we'd be able to board the ship before anyone else. Seriously. We waited for about 15 minutes and were then escorted to the gate. When I say we were the first three people, aside from cruise employees, to set foot on the ship, WE WERE THE FIRST THREE PEOPLE TO SET FOOT ON THE SHIP. The little photographer hadn't even set up the obligatory "get your picture taken as your board the boat" backdrop yet. That's how early we got on. Naturally, our cabin wasn't ready, so we went to grab some lunch. And here's where the real fun begins. 

Inevitably, the rest of the cruisers started to board and make their way to the buffet line. We decided to sit upstairs, away from the crowd. Since our cabin wasn't due to be ready until 1:30, we had a couple of hours to just sit and relax. Another small group of girls snagged a table upstairs near us, but that was it. Friend Number Two went down to get some cupcakes and other various snacks. While she was gone, a barrage of beefy looking men came up the stairs. To the trained eye of NKOTB fans, we immediately recognized them as the security team. What we weren't expecting was to see Donnie, Danny and Jordan with them. Friend Number One nearly had a coronary. She whipped out her iPhone but was immediately shut down by the biggest security man of them all, Earl. Dude could be a linebacker for the NFL. Friend Number Two was fortunate to make her way back to our table, because the upstairs section was now closed to everyone. Unless you already had a table. So there we were, sitting in NKOTB jail. The entire security team was upstairs with us. Intimidating? Possibly. But also very amusing. The boys were served plate after plate after plate after plate of food. To say the servings were heaping would be a gross miscalculation. For skinny boys, they can pack it away. The final two members of the group, Joe and Jonathan, arrived. 

We just sat at our table, talking and laughing. I mean, what else could we do? When the guys finally left, we went to our cabin. This year, we were at the very back of the boat. The room was a tad cramped for three people, but it had an extended balcony. We unpacked and planned our door decorating scheme. Our theme this year was "Fifty Shades of New Kids." We had funny quotes, photos, sparkly stuff and randomness. It was a fun door.

After the 'mandatory' muster station safety drill, everyone scurries to the lido deck for the Sail Away party. This is a significant event for two reasons: I get my first rum drink of the cruise and the guys come out to say hello. We grabbed a spot on the level above the main deck. It's much more comfortable up there. I'm not a big fan of being smushed up against sweaty people in a crowd in 1000 degree heat and humidity. Besides, we were eye level with the DJ and the guys when they came out. 

This year's insanity began with Donnie leading all of us in an 'oaf.' For you regular English speakers, that's 'oath.' In a nutshell, he wanted us all to have a good time and leave behind all our stresses, worries, etc because "WE DESERVE THIS." Then the guys made their was down to the screaming crowd to sign autographs, mingle and in Danny's case, be educated on a certain book. 

Joe very succinctly explained that it was the book his wife was reading next to him in bed, and he'd not benefitted from it. One of them claimed to have 'invented' that stuff. Nice try guys. 

But that's not the best part of the Sail Away. Oh no. You know the saying third time's the charm? Well, it is. While we were watching all the activity below, my favorite New Kid was quietly making his way through the crowd where we were standing. Friend Number One told me in rather colorful terms that if I didn't get my picture taken with him, I was an idiot. Here's a little known fact about me. I'm not shy. I can talk the ears off an elephant if I had to. My career has enabled me to meet and chat with numerous celebrities and sports stars. But put me within striking distance of someone I'm the least bit starstruck over and I'm a mute. Jonathan Knight has that effect on me. It's ridiculous, I know. 

I moved timidly and positioned myself so I could ask him for a photo, if I was able to cobble together a cohesive sentence. Remember the aforementioned rum drink? It was a lifesaver. When he was next to me I asked, very politely, "May I get a photo with you?" I'm so polite, aren't I? He said yes and my life was made. 

For those of you still playing along from last year, you know that each night on the cruise has a specific theme. The first night on this year's cruise was "Red Carpet Affair." Basically, we had to dress to impress. And because we're fabulous, we chose to wear sparkly tiaras with our pretty dresses. That's how we roll kids. 

The first night also includes a show. It was a game show called 'NKOTB Squares.' You know, like Hollywood Squares. Donnie hosted the game show because apparently their fearless leader Jared was too sober to do it. Girls were chosen randomly to go up on stage and form two teams. Since this was a glorified game of tic tac toe, nothing was as you'd expect it to be. Questions ranged from "why won't you let us get a picture, Earl" to "Joe, if you had to, which New Kid would you....." I would have to say the most enlightening moment of the night was listening to Danny try and explain what a trifecta was. If you don't know what it is, I'm not going to tell you. Google it. And no, it has nothing to do with horse racing. 

Once the game show ended, the lido deck party began. Dancing, dancing and more dancing. A good time had by all courtesy of the fabulous DJ Cheapshot. And the guys looked dashing in their red carpet attire as well. 

The next day was the 'Ship Faced' concert at Half Moon Cay. Blazing hot sun included! We slathered on sun screen and grabbed some floatie tubes. Spending the day floating in the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas sounds like a dream doesn't it. It is, for the first hour. We lasted long enough to see the guys arrive and dive in the water. It was so hot though. We did the unthinkable. We got out of the water just as the concert was about to start and left. We were hot, waterlogged and sunburned. (Note to self: REAPPLY THE SPF 100)

That night's theme was my favorite. Pajama night. Or as they called it 'Up Close and Cuddly.' There's no greater feeling than lounging around in your PJs after a day in the hot sun. There was also another show for us to see. This time it was 'Evening Wood' with Danny and 'A Man in Progress' with Joe. Both of them did a great job, but I have to say I enjoyed Joe's show immensely. That kid can sing, and he's a hoot! His performance ran late because it was raining outside, so he just kept telling stories and singing. Although at some points it felt like a big group therapy session....O_o

I will never be able to do justice to this next bit if I try to explain it. Fortunately, there's a video. If you have the time, watch it. It has everything. Togas, inappropriate names and general tomfoolery. 

Day three was billed as a relaxing day at sea. Total nonsense. Day three was photo day. And what better time to have a photo taken with your favorite boy band than ten in the morning after a late night dancing? We gathered our group of ten people and waited in line. Waited, waited waited. I liken the experience to cattle being shoved into a small barn. But whatever. We finally got to photo area, said our hellos and posed next to our favorite New Kid. Over and done in less than two minutes. 

My friends and I took part in NKOTBingo on the lido deck. It was led by some guy with an Irish accent. Meh. We had the rest of the day to do as we pleased. Friend Number One and Friend Number Two napped. I read. The excitement never ends. 

That night's theme was 'In the 90's.' I had the brilliant idea that we should dress up like the Spice Girls. Friend Number One was Posh, Friend Number Two was Sporty and I was the ass hat in the pink baby doll dress with pigtails and a giant pacifier that squeaked. More importantly, it was DDub's Back Rub night. Friend Number One was in her glory. What is the back rub you ask? It's Cinemax After Dark. It's the Red Room before there was Christian Grey. It's Donnie Wahlberg in a silk robe feeding bananas to blindfolded women, handcuffing a girl because she misbehaved, and pouring whipped cream into the mouths of unsuspecting women who have their eyes closed, all while speaking in a seductive tone. Some people think it's ridiculous. Most people love it. My opinion? It's all in good fun. 

So what do you do with roughly a thousand women who are hot and bothered after all that? You go to a lido deck party with special guests Naughty By Nature. I don't know about anybody else, but I was in the ZONE. Hip hop hooray! Tons of old school 90's rap and hip hop blared from the DJ booth. This little white girl from small town New England was in her glory. Best night of the cruise (so far). 

I do have one sort of funny story from that night. Donnie was mingling with the crowd near us. As he walked by, my foam finger brushed against his arm. Totally not intentional. Anyway, he looks at me and my ridiculous get up and grabs my face in his hands. Now, any other girl would love this. However, this man's lips have been too many places for my liking. As he comes in for the kill, I stealthily turn my head to the side so he gets my cheek. You're sweet Donnie, but I'm not going near that mouth. 

(Oh, I forgot about Jordan's concert. Sorry!!! He performed after Donnie's back rub.)

We all call it a night at around four in the morning. The next day is Key West, so there's no rush to wake up early or anything. Wrong. Apparently the fine people from U.S. Customs were only contractually obliged to check everyone's passport in the God-awful early hours of the morning. We dragged ourselves out of bed and went down to show the nice men in uniform that we were indeed legal residents of the US of A. Apparently, one cruiser named Sonia bucked the system and stayed in bed. How do I know this? Her name kept getting paged over and over in everyone's cabin.

Key West is one of those places I heard all sorts of great things about. When I lived in Orlando my friends would always tell me I had to go there. I never did, so while the ship was docked we decided to explore a bit. By the way, if you ever want to know what it feels like on the surface of the sun, go to Key West in early June. Hot is not a strong enough word. We walked around a bit and did some shopping, but we didn't last long at all. Back to the ship we go.

That afternoon was the NKOTB Town Hall. Everyone gathered on the lido deck, in the searing sun, to ask them questions. It was town hall style, like the candidates do on the campaign trail. Nice idea, but they should only answer questions that are pre-screened. Some of the more spontaneous questions were uncalled for. We stayed for a good chunk of the town hall, then went back to our cabin to start packing. Sadness. But we still had one more night to party with the boys. And this party wouldn't end until the sun came up. 

GPS Love Fest started at 11:30pm. Everyone had some article of clothing on or a flag or a sign or something that signified where they were from. 

Yes, we're from New England. Rhode Island to be specific. Biggest little state in the union!

I thoroughly enjoyed looking around the ship and seeing all the different flags and signs people brought. There were girls from Germany, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Brazil, Great Britain, many places! It looked like one giant united nations meeting. Only with better music and a lot more smiling. The party did indeed last until the sun came up. We lasted until 5am. Nobody wanted the night to end. It's safe to say that this cruise ranks pretty high out of the three that I've been fortunate enough to take. Each cruise has it's own special memory or event or funny moment. Even though people roll their eyes at me when I tell them that I go on the NKOTB cruise, I'm not going to stop being a part of it. It's harmless fun to lose yourself in the safe, giddy world of teenage years long filed away. It's also healthy for the soul to remember what it felt like to have the world at your fingertips. Think of it as a way to recharge the batteries. Until next time....