Monday, December 22, 2014

Scavenger Hunt: Chrissy's Coffee Date with AJ


Since I'm being so slow getting my full review up, I'm taking a brief break to feature a guest blogger. I'm so happy to have my most frequent guest blogger back and sharing her most exciting post to date. Chrissy is the biggest Brian girl I know, but today she wants to share an AJ story. This is her tale on winning the AJ scavenger hunt and the super amazing prize that followed. Be sure to check out the rest of her cruising adventures on her blog, From the First Day, or follow on her twitter.

Anybody who has followed the link to my blog from this blog knows that I am a huge Brian Littrell fan.  But what happens when each cabin only had to choose one guy when we were presented with the Backstreet Boys Scavenger Hunt and I was rooming with an AJ fan?  What do you do when that AJ fan is a single mother of two young girls and rarely gets to attend Backstreet events because she lives in Oklahoma where the Boys never visit?  The answer is simple…we go for the AJ clues in the Scavenger Hunt!  

Actually, my roommate (Cory) and I read all of the clues first to see which might be the easiest to find.  We knew right away where the first clues for all five guys would be hidden and we decided we would, in fact, go for the AJ clues.  We had no idea how this Scavenger Hunt was actually going to work.  Would there only be one clue when we got to the destination so whoever found it first would actually be pretty much guaranteed the win if they found all of the clues?  Or would there be several clues so that multiple people would have to battle for the prize?  We had no idea and we didn’t want to waste any time once we got on the ship to start looking for these clues in case there was only one clue.

Our first clue read:
“Clue #1 - We all know AJ is covered in body art.  Since the ship knew we were coming they wanted to honor him and display a picture close to his heart.  Find this piece of artwork and you could be the one to make AJ twerk.”
We knew that where we had to go to find this clue was right there when the ship is first boarded and we were lucky that we were one of the first groups to board the ship.  As soon as we boarded, we headed to where the first clue was placed.  However, we didn’t see the clue at first.  It wasn’t until a second sweep around the location that I spotted the “picture close to his heart.”  And underneath that picture….an envelope with the Rose Tours logo!  We quickly opened it up and read the second clue:
“Clue #2 - AJ loves to bet and roll the dice and some may call it a vice but it is really one of his special trades.  You will find the next clue on his favorite card the Ace of Spades.”
We took off to where we knew the next clue would be.  We later found out that we were able to take the whole first clue and not just the envelope.  When we went back to see if the “picture close to his heart” was still there, we were disappointed to see that it had been taken.  I guess we weren’t sure if the envelopes would be replenished or not as people came to find the clue and we wanted to waste no time in case they were and we weren’t the first to find one of these said envelopes.  We even walked right past Howie going up the stairs to our next location.  It would have been the perfect time for photos but all we did was say “hi” and just kept on going.  We wanted that one on one experience with AJ.

We knew exactly where we needed to head for the next clue and went straight there with all of our luggage still in hand.  We weren’t going to waste anytime going to our cabin first to drop it off or to eat lunch even though my tummy was rumbling.  We started searching the next location and there appeared to be a Carnival staff meeting occurring as we were searching.  One of the staff members saw that we appeared to be looking for something so he asked if he could help us.  We explained that we were doing a scavenger hunt and showed him the clue.  The staff member went into a Carnival Office and came back out with an Ace of Spades and a stuffed Big Bird.  He gave us the Ace of Spades and told us that the Big Bird was our next clue.  Well that clue was a bit more vague than the previous two clues but we immediately associated the toy with children.  We knew that there were several children’s clubs around the ship and suspected that was where we were going to find the next clue.  Truthfully, we had no idea how many clues there were total for each guy and how much longer we would be searching.  For all we knew, there were twenty more clues we still had to find.

 
As we were walking to the first location to find the next clue, we walked right by the arcade where we just so happened to notice a slew of Big Birds just like ours in one of those claw machines.  It seemed like as good of a place as any to start our search for this next clue.  We searched all over that arcade with no luck.  Maybe it was in one of the kid’s clubs after all.  There were three of them on the ship due to each of them serving a different age group.  We looked in the first and found out that because there were really no children on this cruise, these rooms were being used as storage space for Rose Tours.  While trying to find the second kid’s area (or maybe it was the third, I don’t remember now), we somehow ended up in the Spa area.  And who was standing there?  Mr. Nick Carter.  There was not another single fan around and it would have been a perfect time to get that elusive photo with him that everyone attempts to get on the cruise.  But, we continued on with our scavenger hunt search instead.  After finding nothing in the second and third kid’s areas we made our way to the back of the ship and the water slides.  Nothing there.  We rechecked the arcade where we originally saw the Big Birds but nothing had changed…there was still no clue there.

That was when we decided to head back to the original location that Clue #2 had led us.  On the way, we ran into the Rose Tours staff member who seemed to be in charge of the Scavenger Hunt.  After we showed her what we were given as the next clue, we discovered that these were fake clues!  The Carnival staff members had nothing to do with this Scavenger Hunt so this staff member that gave us Big Bird had sent us on a wild chase to search for non-existent clues!  I was really afraid by that point that someone else had happened to stumble upon the real Ace of Spades we were supposed to have been searching for this entire time, especially since we searched and we searched and we could not find anything.  Apparently, fellow cruisers that walked by picked up on the fact that we were looking for something and they decided to do some looking of their own, even though we found out that they had no clues of their own to have had led them there.  It was at that point that we figured out that there was really only one set of clues for each guy and as long as we could find all of them, we were going to have a special event with AJ.  I can’t even tell you how long we spent at that location looking for that clue.  I think we even gave up a time or two and just left the location because we were frustrated.  We were getting tired of carrying our luggage around so we decided to take a break and drop our stuff off in our room.  

It must have been much easier to search for clues without our stuff in tow because once we returned to the location, Cory found that dang Ace of Spades card!  Attached to it was an envelope with our next clue:
“Clue #3 – You are well on your way to winning but now let’s take a break and maybe grab something hot to drink.  Just relax and maybe you will even find some new FRIENDS, you never know!”
We knew where to go right away and made our way there.  This new location was much smaller than the last so we thought we would have a much easier job of finding this next clue.  However, there were more people in this much smaller place than in the last and we wanted to be careful with how we approached our search.  The clue wasn’t anywhere obvious so when we started to lift chairs to look under, we were given strange looks and asked what we were doing.  We were truthful and explained that we were looking for the next clue for AJ’s Scavenger Hunt.  Once again, we couldn’t find the clue.  

Cory and I were taking a moment to rethink the clue when we were approached by Laura and her cabin mates.  They told us the exciting news that they had just won the prize for Kevin’s Scavenger Hunt!  Because they were already done with theirs, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask for some help in completing ours.  And it is a good thing we did because I’m pretty sure Ana found the clue in the first place she looked.  So now it was time to open the envelope and find out where we were going to
be sent next….  
“Clue #4 – Last year AJ was so excited for this event but the rain caused it to FLOP.  Go where the event was supposed to be held and look for the sign from it and the final clue will be on top.  You might want to get close but be careful not to fall in.”
My first thought was, “Is this clue really where I think it is?  Where pretty much everyone on the ship is right now eating or getting ready for sail away?  It has to be long gone by now!”  So we went outside in the rain and attempted looking for the clue.  There were so many places it could be hiding.  Were we looking for a sign specifically from AJ’s Belly Flop event or were we looking for a sign for the location that the event was supposed to occur?  And then Laura pulled through for us!  The sign for AJ’s Belly Flop competition with a soaking wet envelope attached to it. 

 
Because of how wet the envelope was, we took the greatest care in opening it so that whatever was inside it would not be destroyed.  Based on the number of clues that the Kevin group had received, this envelope was supposed to be the announcement that we had won the prize.  Sure enough…   


“Congratulations!!!  You are the winner of AJ’s Scavenger Hunt.  Please come to the Rose Tours Hospitality Desk located on Promenade Deck 9.”
We had won!!!!!!!!!!  The trip hadn’t even officially started yet and we were guaranteed a personal event with one of the guys!  And we were the only ones that were going to get this prize for AJ.  We went to the hospitality desk and turned in our clues to collect our prize winning envelop that would tell us everything….except all it told us was when and where we needed to meet a Rose Tours staff member to take us to our prize and we had no idea what it was.  So of course, we spent all of our free time speculating what it might be.  


Our original event was supposed to occur on Sunday night but when it was announced that the itinerary was being switch, we assumed our event was then changing to Saturday night.  So, on Saturday night we headed down to where we were supposed to meet Rose Tours and shared in the excitement of our event with the girls we knew who had won the Howie Scavenger Hunt and were also waiting for their event.


Because we are very used to Backstreet time, we didn’t think a lot about the time once 6pm came and our Rose Tours person wasn’t there yet.  However, fifteen minutes later took us to the Hospitality Desk to find out that our event was still going to be on Sunday but that there was no set time yet.  Apparently, Rose Tour had been trying to call our room and had left several messages for us.  

Seriously, who is ever in their room during a Backstreet cruise???  And even though our red message light was on, when we tried to check them, it said we had no new messages.  We never did figure out how to get those messages.

This meant that our event would be after the beach party on Sunday and we figured we would maybe have to leave a little earlier from the beach than we normally would to ensure that our wait for the tender would not keep us from getting back to the ship to prepare for our event.  This was especially the case since we still did not have a concrete time for our event when we set off to the island on Sunday morning.  

Once we noticed that the Boys were kind of all doing their own separate things at the Beach Party (and after we got our photos with AJ by the stage), we decided to make our way back to the ship to start getting ready for our very special event.  First, we had to take a small detour when we saw Brian and Nick playing volleyball.  After a quick game or two with them, we finally made our way to the tender.  By that point, I was really getting nervous about our event.  We still had NO idea what we would be doing with AJ.  

We finally got our call from Rose Tours to establish a time when we were in the cabin getting ready.  That had been one reason we wanted to get back at a decent time.  Because we could never figure out how to check our messages, we wanted to miss nothing associated with the event….including what time we were going to have to be there.  5pm was the established time so it gave us plenty of time to finish getting ready and then having enough down time to really start freaking out about doing something with AJ.  A few short minutes later, another call placed to us stated that AJ wanted to push it back to 5:30 (during the event we found out it was because AJ had been taking a nap).  That would give us even more down time to get our fan girl minds going about what we were about to have in store.  It also meant that I knew we would only have about 30 minutes with him since our documentary preview event was at 6pm.  The Kevin girls had done their event the previous night and had said that their event was also about a half an hour so I guess it wasn’t a total surprise.
We were tired of waiting in the room so we made our way to the meeting spot early.  We saw a Rose Tours person approach eventually but he was the guy for the Howie girls, who weren’t quite there yet.  Finally, our guy came and told us that he would be right back.  At least we knew that we had not been forgotten but we had no idea where he was headed.  

That was when we saw him walking back….with AJ!  AJ was personally coming to meet us for our event!  There weren’t a super huge amount of girls around in the meeting area but we got a small glimpse of what the guys might feel like as they stand there and girls are just looking at them.  I felt a little bit like a celebrity as girls tried to get his attention and he graciously told them that he could not take photos at the time.  His attention was now 100% on us.  That was when we told us that we were going to go have coffee with him.  I loved it!  It was something in which we could just relax and didn’t have to focus on doing something. 


We introduced ourselves as we walked to the coffee shop and he kept repeating our names over and over again.  He said that “Chrissy and Cory” sounded like it could be a TV show.  He also apologized to us if he forgot our names later.  I knew the feeling exactly because I am awful at remembering names, as well.

Now, I will begin this next part by saying that our group talked about a lot of different things and the conversation jumped from topic to topic pretty quickly.  So specific details may have been forgotten.  There are also some things that Cory and I would like to just keep to ourselves because we feel like they were more private moments among the three of us.  I will say that AJ has absolutely no filter on some of the information he was sharing with us.  Basically, I am not guaranteeing that everything that was discussed during our time with AJ will be covered here.

We arrived to the coffee shop with AJ and was placed at our table.  AJ turned his back slightly to the main concourse so that it would be less likely for fans to recognize the fact that he was there.  I was actually quite surprised that more fans didn’t gather around the coffee shop during that time but security did a really good job of keeping fans moving so that they wouldn’t gather around our personal time with him.  Thankfully, Laura was able to get some photos for us since Justin was not at our event like he was at the Kevin event.  The first order of business was ordering.  AJ joked around about how the most expensive item on the menu was the bottled water, other than those “spiked” coffees which he specifically stated that he had to stay away from.  I was so proud of him. 

 
AJ was not shy one bit about the amount of stuff he ordered….iced cappuccino, a vanilla milk shake, and a cookie.  Then later Jodi (for those of you who do not know who Jodi is, she is Leighanne’s best friend) came by carrying a huge piece of carrot cake.  AJ decided he wanted a small piece of that too.  He was told that it was already sliced and that only the very large pieces were available.  I told him that I wouldn’t mind having some (I love carrot cake) so we shared a piece.  Yes, I ate off of the same piece of cake as AJ McLean.  


So here are some of the things that were discussed:

Future BSB Cruises:  Before this cruise, I had heard rumors that there might not be any future cruises because out of the four that have occurred, only one has sold out.  However, AJ mentioned “the next cruise” as we were walking to the coffee shop because he explained how each cruise became more and more difficult to top themselves.  So this information tells us that there might be another cruise but it might not be next year.  

New BSB Album: AJ mentioned some of the producers/songwriters that he would like to work with on the next BSB album.  The only one that I recognized was Ed Sheeran.  I feel like he said that they would start production at the end of this year/beginning of next.

New AJ McLean music:  AJ is working on releasing an EP.  This way, between his last album and this new music, he can give a two hour show, rather than a one and a half hour show like he would have had to do if he would have toured for his last album.

AJ’s Jewelry Line:  We all know that AJ seems to start things and not finish them so we asked about his so called jewelry line that he had hinted about but never followed through.  He mentioned that he is actually working on starting a clothing line first, then a children’s clothing line, a sunglasses line, and then the jewelry line will be released.

AJ and Drinking:  I asked AJ if he ever felt the pressure to drink on these last two cruises because he is surrounded by alcohol.  He stated that now that he is a father, he really has no desire to drink anymore.  

AJ and Friends:  AJ obviously chose coffee as his event because of his love for FRIENDS.  They even had the Central Perk sign displayed on the TV’s in the coffee shop during our event.  AJ explained that one of the reasons that he loves the show so much is because it is one of the “things” that Rochelle and he share.  He stated a “thing” that each of the guys might share with their wives and this happens to be his.  That was how he had to explain it to the guys when he first became a fan of the show.  He talked about each of the characters and what he likes/disliked about each.  It was at this point that we brought up Laura’s FRIENDS themed door and he stated that everyone kept telling him about this door and that he had to see it.

Halloween Night: According to AJ, it was his idea for the Wizard of Oz costumes on Halloween night.  He explained that it had come down to Nick and Kevin as Dorothy and that the final decision was based on the fact that Nick was younger.

Scavenger Hunt:  AJ also stated that the Scavenger Hunt was his idea.

Cruise Concert:  We told AJ how much we had absolutely loved the concert the previous day and the reasons why we loved it.  AJ started a bunch of songs that they wanted to sing.  He said that some songs they couldn’t do because they couldn’t get good quality audio files for them.  I thought that was very interesting.  He talked about how the concept came about because they didn’t want to spoil the “In A World Like This” show for those who had not seen it yet (he had asked if we had seen it and when I told them I had six times, he seemed impressed) so they wanted to mix the show with some other stuff.

AJ was given the signal that he had to wrap it up and we were able to get some things signed.  As Cory was having AJ sign Big Bird, we had to quickly explain how the Big Bird came about.  He seemed to get a kick out of that one.  I had him sign the Belly Flop sign that our last envelop had been attached.  Then we got our photos with him.  We were each able to get an individual photo and a photo of the both of us.





Once we were off the ship, the Backstreet Boys Instragram posted the photo of both of AJ and us.  Thanks to some comments by some friends that we were the one’s in the photo, BSB then actually tagged us in the photo and then they followed us on Instagram!  That made me even more happy about the event overall!  

So, was it worth it going for the AJ event instead of the Brian event?  Absolutely.  It was an amazing experience and while I was sitting there I almost forgot that I was having coffee with a Backstreet Boy.  It was just as if we were three old friends getting together and having coffee.  I’m not sure if they are going to do anything like this in the future, as I know a lot of people were unhappy with the way that it was implemented.  If they do not, I am happy that I was one of the five luck cabins to get this opportunity.  If they do it in the future, I am sure it will be much more competitive and the chances of me winning again won’t be as high so I am glad I got this opportunity when I did.  

I want to thank Rose Tours, Backstreet management, and AJ for giving me this opportunity - an opportunity that I never imagined happening 16 years ago when I became a fan and an opportunity that I never imagined happening even at this point in my fan career.  This event is just another reason why I will be a Backstreet fan for life. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Recap 2014: Day 2 (The Howie & Kevin Interlude)

This whole post takes place from 7:45-8:45, and it the craziest hour in my cruising career, so bear with me on this one.....

Anne Marie, Ana, and I went to the piano bar early and saw some staff members getting the piano set up. At this point I really started freaking out, speculating that Kevin is going to play the piano and sing to us. If that happens, I wouldn't know how to handle myself! Seeing them set up the piano made me think "Howie, who?" Ha! We were so excited for our special event that we accepted the fact that the tournament with Howie wasn't going to happen. I was content with the decision.... or so I thought.

Waiting for Kev. Why is that the 2 Kevin girls look so composed and I look like a nervous wreck?
We get chatting with the member of the Rose Tour staff, as we wait for Kev to arrive, and try to glean more info about the event. Basically just make small talk. We also share how we were also supposed to be in the blackjack tournament at that very moment. Well....she cuts us off and then walks away and makes a few calls on her headset. I don't think much of it, but she comes back over to us and says "Alright, girls, we're going to hold Kevin off. You both go upstairs and do the blackjack tournament with Howie."

She barely finished her sentence before Ana and I bolt upstairs to the casino. There was already a huge crowd surrounding the table, so we squeezed through the crowd and then they started going over the rules. The dealer told us how the event was going to run:
  • We would pick our seats in order that we placed in the earlier tournament. Meaning I would pick last.
  • She would then explain the rules to us.
  • Howie would come out and she'd explain the rules again. (I have no idea why she couldn't just explain the rules once)
  • Then we play 7 hands
  • Whoever has the most chips at the end of the 7 hands, wins. 
I just made it!
Simple enough. So things start happening as she describes. I quickly realize that everyone else at that table clearly knows what they're doing, and I am so freakin clueless. I am NOT a gambler, by any means. I think maybe one of the other girls was in the same boat as me - in that our primary reason for being at that table was Howie. Not the blackjack. But I didn't really care.

After the dealer explains the rules, Howie comes out and takes the middle seat. I had to pinch myself that this was actually happening. Especially because it was almost taken away from me! He makes some small talk, but I sadly can't remember what he talked about because all I was focused on was the fact that I was playing blackjack with Howie. I know, I'm the worst! There has to be a term for this....Backstreet amensia??

So no sooner than Howie sits down and I start getting settled into the game, I see this same lady from Rose Tours pop up in the crowd and she motions "Hurry up, Kevin just got here."...............Oh you have got to be kidding me! We didn't even start the tournament! At this point, I am beside myself. I know we only have 7 hands, but I also know what I'm missing.

The game gets under way and it's going a lot slower than it was previously, which makes sense because its a full table and people are getting fancy and taking time with their bets. And in any other situation, I would've tried to slow down the event and savor my time with Mr. Howie D. But unfortunately, my head was in such a fog. I don't remember what Howie was talking about. I don't remember the cards that were dealt. All I remember is how anxious I was.

On hand #4, Ana had lost all of her chips so she just gets up and leaves. So now I'm really sweating bullets. It's probably been a good 10-15 minutes. And for all I know Kevin could have come and gone. By hand #6, we're now approaching 15-20 minutes. I keep looking over to Hal Roseman, who was watching and knew the situation. But all he did was shrug. Oye! I am literally dying on the inside.

I made up my mind. I can't stay a minute longer. I'm done with this tournament. I don't want to miss Kevin!

Random picture of the BSB-themed blackjack table because I don't have any pics of me at the event :(
So I decide to get up and leave. Little did I know, you're not allowed to leave in the middle of a tournament. The dealer tells me I couldn't go. Seriously, now? Are you kidding me? I feel like I'm on candid camera.

I'm not sure she would've physically restrained me or anything had I continued to try and leave, but I clearly wasn't thinking straight. So I sat back down, and everyone yells, "Go all in!" Of course, why didn't I think of that sooner?! So I go all in hoping I lose...

....and of course I somehow manage to win that hand. So let me just pause here and recap the situation.
  • Playing blackjack with Howie on a cruise in the middle of the Caribbean
  • Never played blackjack for money in my life
  • Beating a bunch of professional players with a huge stack of chips in front of me
  • Also beating Howie
  • Howie sees me squirming, and trying to leave the entire time he was there. What he and everyone else must've thought of me....I'll never know
  • I'm simultaneously standing up Kevin in that exact moment
Not even in my wildest dreams could I have ever painted this picture. I'm having a mild panic attack just reliving this!

So now we have one hand left and I'm actually doing semi-well so I figure I have to stick it out one more hand. At this point the dealer decides to stop the game and count up everyone's chips. All I was thinking in my head is "C'moooooooooon! Lets gooooo!"

Well, after the 7th and final hand, I quickly scanned the table and saw that everyone has busted out of chips except for Howie, myself, and 1 other person. So I knew I had come in at least third place, but I didn't waste another second to see if I had won. My watch said 25 minutes past and I feared the worst - I missed the entire Kevin event. I sprinted SO fast back down to that piano bar. If you happened to be in my path and saw a crazy girl sprinting from the casino to the piano bar, my apologies. Now you know why. I knew I had this man waiting for me...

Kevin getting his laptop set up for us
I push past a few fans waiting outside the piano bar, and enter the room to find it empty. My heart sank. But then I peered over to the corner and saw Keith sitting there. I asked if I missed it and he motioned over behind the piano. I turn my head around to see Ana, Anne Marie, and Kevin sitting there tucked in the back, corner booth. My heartbeat returned.

I made my way back to join the trio and apologized profusely to Kevin for being late. He seemed to largely understand, but made a comment like they shouldn't have scheduled them both at the same time. I agree!

Catching my breath, I mentally scolded myself to try and forget about the stressful situation, and to just enjoy the time left I had with Kevin. As soon as I sat down he asked my my name and where I'm from, which was nice. One of the things I love about Kevin is how engaging he is and being genuinely interested in what we have to say. That proved to be true this evening as well. No sooner than I shared, he informed me that we would be taking a shot of tequila. I guess it was everyone else's second shot, my first. He went on to explain that this particular tequila was really good quality and goes down nice and smooth.

Kevin pouring tequila and I guess that's me visibly shocked at the thought of doing a shot? Ha - I have no idea what I was doing!
My response to him, "I haven't done a shot since college, only for you!" Which was the truth. He poured us all shots and I couldn't turn down a shot from Kevin! Before I took the shot, I turned around to see if there was anything I could use as a chaser, even water. I'm such an amateur. There was nothing around except for a piano. I just remember mentally telling myself 'please just keep this down.' Luckily, I did. Last thing I needed to add to my night was vomit tequila all over Kevin.

Shots with Kevin
After our tequila, he graciously caught me up on what I missed. He had his laptop there with him and he explained how he was playing songs off his upcoming album, which will be called 'Cover Story.' He played maybe 4-5ish songs? I can't quite remember. He gave a lot of background on the genesis of the album and the meaning behind the songs. You all know Kevin, he likes to talk! So he probably spent 5 minutes on that. It honestly was a lot of what we heard the year prior at his Cover Story event on the cruise. He shared the John Lennon song that was written when he left the Beatles, and how he he could relate with everyone calling him crazy when he left the group.

One of the most special thing about this event was that he played these songs for us that no fan has heard yet. Yes, we heard some of these songs last year performed live. But I don't believe any other fan has heard these recorded versions. For me to sit here and say I've heard his music months before it gets released to the public, is super special. And just the fact that he had his personal laptop out, sharing his music with us. Its very surreal and indescribable how that feels. Its like we were old friends just hanging out and sharing music. It's something I'd do with my friends, scrolling through my iTunes to find a good song to jam to.

Anyway, he basically told us a little background about each of the songs, and then he'd play them. He also shared that he intends to release his album next year as well as tour. He said he wants to do intimate 200-300 person venues. I was so excited to hear this! I really hope that happens, especially with an anticipated slow BSB year. I will gladly take me some Kevvy Kev on tour. At one point I remember Ana looked over at his laptop and requested Back to Your Heart. Kudos to Ana on that one! Before he played it, he went on this mini-technical rant about which key he recorded the song in some of the challenges with recording it. It honestly went over my head.

Group shot with Kevin
So we talked over his music, and chatted about a little bit of everything during our precious time together. We shared how much we love the cruises and hope that they continue to do them in the future. He again confirmed what many of us have heard - that they want to do a cruise in Europe, he mentioned a Scandanavia cruise, but logistically it's a big challenge. He also mentioned that they've kicked around the idea of doing an all inclusive resort instead of a cruise.

Ana, Anne Marie, and I were all fortunate to have seen the full documentary so we wanted to share with him our thoughts on the film. I don't want to get into specifics and ruin any surprises, but we discussed some of the sensitive material that was brought up in the film. So that was another highlight of this event to me. I felt like we were talking about real, personal issues. And in typical Kevin fashion, I think he got choked up twice during this segment of the convo ;)

We also talked a little about his family. He shared a super cute story that Kristen shared with him, while he was away, about their kids. He even said, "My son, Max." To me it shows how humble he is...just because we obviously know his sons' names. Hearing about his kids was another highlight of our time, just because as much as I love getting inside scoop on some of his solo projects and the BSB stuff, hearing him tell stories about his family are things I don't get to hear at a sound check party. It didn't feel like an interview type question, but again, just hanging out with a friend.

I swear we were just getting going, and then Keith came over and said "last song." Boo! Granted we were still chatting for a while after the song ended. You know how Kevin likes to talk, so we milked that for a few more minutes. But sadly, all good things must come to an end. So before we left, we had Keith take a few pictures for us.

Me and Kev

I'd say the event lasted around 25 minutes. I later found out from Anne Marie, that I maybe missed the first 5 minutes or so. Turns out it took a while for them to set up the speakers, and with Kevin being the perfectionist he is, it took some time. I was incredibly relieved that I didn't miss that much of it.

After Kevin left, the 3 of us stood there still in disbelief that this happened. If Justin wasn't there to take pictures, I wouldn't believe it myself. I composed myself, and headed back up to the casino. I was still kinda afraid to go back up there, I felt like I was retuning to the crime scene or something. But I went. The dealer told me that I ended up coming in second place, and won $250. I just sat back and had to laugh. I was not in this competition for any monetary prize. Playing with Howie was the only prize I wanted. Of course I was absolutely thrilled, as I was able to put that back into my cruise fund.

Reflection

That hour was the most hectic, intense, amazing, and special hour of my Backstreet life. I look back on it with such mixed emotions. I'm so happy I was able to do both events, and finally have not 1, but 2 super amazing, unique moments on the cruise with the boys. But at the same time, I feel like I short-changed both of them. I wasn't 100% mentally present at either of them given the situation, especially Howie's. I also feel like I was incredibly rude to both Kevin and Howie - running out on one of them, and being late for the other. I hate that the most. Not that they'll remember. But I will.

I don't regret anything, but I don't think that Rose Tour staff should've told Ana and I to go play in the tournament when there clearly wasn't enough time. It was the one time I really needed Backstreet time, and it failed me! I don't want it to come across that I'm complaining in any way, because I'm so grateful.

Shameless Request - As you probably realized from above, I don't have a single picture of me playing in the blackjack tournament. If anyone out there has a picture of this tournament, or knows someone who might have a picture, I will be eternally grateful! Please feel free to email me or post below. Thank you, times a million, in advance.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Recap 2014: Day 2 (Part 1)

I woke up the next morning on the early side and per usual, couldn't fall back asleep. Too much excitement to sleep! So I grabbed some breakfast and then decided it would be a good time to walk around and look at cabin doors while it was still relatively quiet on board. I was probably only 5 minutes into my door viewing adventure and met another fan wandering around and so we explored the rest of the cabins together. It's moments like that which remind me why I love the Backstreet cruise - it's so easy to meet awesome new friends.

Anyway, I found there not to be a whole lot of doors decorated this year and as a whole it seems people didn't go as extravagant as they have in years past. Here are a couple of my faves...

Buzzfeed type door with top 10 lists

A wall of CD lyrics
After roaming the halls looking at door decorations, my roommates and friends were waking up, so that meant it was breakfast time! Food always tastes better when I don't have to cook it. And tastes even better than that on a cruise with the Backstreet Boys.

An uneventful breakfast (other than spending some quality time work my girls) was followed by a trip to the casino. I had signed up to participate in the blackjack and poker tournaments but decided to forgo my spot at the poker table. Partly because of how early my assigned time was, and partly because I wasn't super confident in my skills and I didn't want to completely throw my money away.

Howie's Blackjack Tournament

I was going to try my luck at the blackjack tournament. I am by no means a gambler, in fact I really dislike the concept because I feel like these games are designed for you to lose. But when there's a chance to win some quality time with a Backstreet Boy, I'm down. Plus I was feeling a little bit more confident this year, having played last cruise and knowing generally how the tournament works.

I heard that the tournament was running way behind, so I just headed to go to the casino when I had a rare moment of downtime, and they told me to just grab a seat. Well, no one else was there at that time so it was just me and the dealer. And my friends watching over my shoulder for good luck.
Well, I dont remember the exact hands I got dealt, but I do remember asking the dealer for lucky cards because the best prize ever was at stake - Howie D!

Sure enough, after my 7 anxiety-ridden hands, I actually managed to place on the board at spot #5. Holy crap, I was so proud of myself! I knew I still had a couple hours left in the tournament, so the odds of my name still remaining on the board were low. But I was just pleased that I had made it that far. Oh, and the other exciting part is that my roommate, Ana, was #2. So I knew if for some crazy reason I were to play, at least I'd have her by my side and she actually knew what she was doing.

Me being the blackjack queen at #5!
Meet & Greet

So after I played blackjack, it was time for pictures! Yayy! My girls and I decided to do a 'huggy pose' wih us all on the same side of the boy. Meanwhile I was strategically rehearsing everything I wanted to say to each guy, knowing fully well that I wasn't going to remember it all by the time I got up there. It's nerve-racking enough. Am I right?
The line moved relatively quickly and I finally made my way up to the front of the line and I managed to have a few "conversations" with some of the boys. And I use the word 'conversation' very loosely. So I approached Howie first and I was being overly optimistic and excited about my recent blackjack placement so I told him I won the blackjack tournament and would be playing with him later that night. Hoping I wasn't going to jinx myself in the process. He seemed excited though.

Next down the line was AJ. I knew this was the only guaranteed face time I'd have with him, so I had to mention our Friends door and told him he's gotta come check it out. I feel like he barely processed what I was saying, but that's okay. I think by this point he must've heard about the door several times over, and I didn't want to be overbearing about it. I was just happy I accomplished what I wanted to say. So many times I approach them and what I intended to say completely flies out my head.

Next down the line, admittedly was a bit of a blur. In a strange turn of events, I didn't have much to say to Nick. I think it was Kevin or Brian who asked me if I was having a good time. Well, duh! Though I certainly appreciate that he tried, especially because we were near the end of the line. I honestly question how these boys do it. And yeah, that's pretty much it! So another amazing meet and greet added to my list :D

Huggy poses with the boys
I'm super happy with how the picture turned out. AJ was the fail, though. We almost had everyone in the right poses....AJ just HAD to throw his other arm out. Oh well! As I always say - any picture with a Backstreet Boy is a good picture.

Down Time
By this point, over an hour had passed since I last checked the blackjack board. Sure enough my roommate and I got bumped down one spot. So now I'm last, at number 6. I definitely had mixed emotions because I was thrilled my name was still up there. But I also knew it was just a matter of one other person bumping me off. I was trying not to get my hopes up, but it's hard not to let myself get excited at the idea of playing with Howie.

I needed a distraction in the form of food. So up the lido buffet for lunch. It was a very anxious meal, as I was just counting down the time until the tournament closed and I'd find out whether or not I won.

I'll just fast forward ahead to the anticipated moment after the tournament finally ended. I was almost too scared to look, but sure enough, the tournament had officially closed and next to spot number 6 it read 'Laura D'.  I was soooo excited!!! I couldn't believe how incredibly lucky I was. I actually would be playing blackjack with Howie D. And even better that my roommate, Ana, also won. This is just not real life!

Our moment of excitement was short-lived, as we came to the epiphany that the final tournament with Howie was at the EXACT same time as our scavenger hunt prize with Kevin. Both at 8pm later that day........ I couldn't believe our good and bad luck at the same time. Two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities at the exact same time. How on earth are we supposed to choose? Believe me, I realize how incredibly spoiled and fortunate I was to have this problem. But, it was a problem, nonetheless.

So Ana and I were on a new mission to find some staff who could potentially help us out. After 2 failed attempts with Rose Tours staff, we both looked at each other and realized there is likely only 1 person on that ship who could help us and that was Jen. We knew that the boys were still wrapping up pictures, and Jen was in that room with them, so off we went to try and talk to Jen.

Thus we waited outside the room where the boys were taking their pictures, ironically not for the boys. Fortunately we were able to nab her and explain our situation. She also appreciated the fact that we were both incredibly fortunate to have such a "problem," but told us we would ultimately would have to pick one of the events. I'm not gonna lie, of course I was upset. I know I was lucky winning both of these amazing prizes, but the truth is that I earned both of them and I wanted both of my prizes.

Part of me was secretly hoping one of these boys would be on Backstreet time and we could pull off both, but of course we picked Kevin's events. And semi-resolving that situation, we headed to Don't Forget the Lyrics.

Don't Forget the Lyrics

My mind was already highly anticipating the events of that evening, and the fact that I would be getting 1x1 time with Kevin. But we still had a super fun activity that afternoon, which was a new one! I just like that it was something new and different. Similar to karaoke, but at least it had a new twist to make it more enjoyable. I also liked that they incorporated fans into the event.

The girls and I waiting for the event to start

The game was pretty self explanatory with the boys competing against fans on who better could complete the lyrics. Here are some of my favorite moments:
  • Nick singing along with Bang Bang. It was just cute to see him continually get the wrong answer and then blame Brian for it
    Nick being Nick
  • AJ singing Justin Bieber's 'Boyfriend'

  • Howie making this face when he had to sing Frozen's, 'Let it Go'
    Best. Face. Ever.
  • AJ's reaction to Howie not knowing 'Frozen'....
    "If you have kids, you have to know that song. Or you're the worst parent ever." - AJ
    (Poor Howie!)
  • Brian singing Nsync and proclaiming, "I'm gonna be sea-sick ladies!" Me too, Brian. Me too
  • Kevin rapping and being Snoop Dogg
    Snoop Kevin
  • Howie's rendition of Enrique Iglesias' 'Hero' singing "You can't take my breast away."
  • After 'Like a Virgin', Nick excitedly jumps up and asking, "Ok, raise your hand if you're a virgin........why didn't any one raise their hands??"
    Oh Nick.....
Ok, so basically this whole event had a lot of highlights. Overall I'd say it was a success. Nice weather out on the deck. Backstreet Boys goofing around, singing. Really can't go wrong here.

After the event, once again I happened to catch Jen leaving. So I briefly spoke to her again and told her we chose to do Kevin's event. Thanked her for everything she does. And I also thanked her for tweeting out my blog a couple of times. She paused for a moment, trying to process what I was saying, and then came a look of understanding on her face. So she actually seemed to know what I was talking about. That made me super happy that she actually knows of my blog, and presumably reads it. I honestly never dreamed that this little blog I started as an outlet, mainly for myself, would grow into something so appreciated by the BSB community and even read by their management. That definitely made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And I get that same feeling when you all approach me and ask 'Are you Laura?' I had a bunch of you gals stop me to say hi. It honestly means the world that you all still read this even though I haven't been as diligent about updating. I just wish I had more time to spend with each of you, there just isn't enough time in 3 days!!

Sorry, got sidetracked there! Back to the cruise...

My roommates and I snuck into early dining because we had the Kevin prize scheduled in the middle of our dinner. This meal was even more anxiety-ridden than lunch. I don't know how I managed to even eat anything. All I remember from this dinner is that our waiter kept trying to talk to us, and I know I was being rude to him but not really responding. I was hoping he'd take the hint, because my mind was only focused on the fact that we had our 1x1 time with Kevin in less than 2 hours! My head just kept spinning at all the possibilities. We had no idea what the event would be or how long it would last. All we knew is that it was Kevin and the 3 of us. That's all we needed to know :)

And before I knew it, dinner was over and we headed off to the piano bar to meet Kevin...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Recap 2014: Day 1 (Part 2)

(First off, sorry this review is taking me forever to get up. Grad school is kicking my butt. I promise I'll get the rest up quicker!)

Sailaway Party

The sailaway party was moved indoors this year, and while I had a great time, I think this event is really better suited to be outside. Of course the weather was out of anyone's control so we all made the best of it!

AJ, Brian, Kevin, Nick and Howie made their grand entrance wearing their lovely sailor suits. They kinda goofed around a bit and played with some streamers. The highlight being when Nick accidentally shot one off backwards, right into AJ and himself. Kevin also shared that the pictures plastered around the ship, and seen in the banner hanging from the atrium was taken at Nick's wedding.

BSB during the sailaway party


During the sailaway party they also did a toast- to those who were going to be up late partying, no kids, and no sleeping this cruise. I also mentally added no work and no school to my toast. The boys made their way around the atrium mingling with fans. Pouring champagne into mouths and spraying us with champagne as well. Fortunately I was out of the splash zone.

I had a spot on the bottom level and was lucky to have 2 Backstreet Boys make their way in my general area. Brian was the first to slowly inch his way in my direction. I just kept hoping he'd continue towards me and not turn around, which he did! So I was able to snag a picture with Sailor Brian. Yayy!

Me and Brian
Why is it that Brian is always the first Backstreet Boy I get a picture with every year? I suppose its just because he's super awesome like that.

Nick was the next boy to head my way. He wasn't doing pictures but rather pouring champagne in fans' mouths. He literally ran out right in front of me. Though to be honest I was really okay with that. I didn't exactly want a bottle in my mouth that had already been in like 30 other mouths. 

That was pretty much the end of the sailaway party. Another great kickoff to what I knew would be a fabulous cruise.

BSB Loves the 90's Game Show
I was in group B, late dining, thus next on the to do list was the game show. I really loved this event, and thought it was quite well done. The basic format was trivia plus some funny challenges in between.

BSB doing the typical 90's pose
Some of my favorite moments:

  • Kevin coming to the epiphany that the categories have nothing to do with the corresponding questions
  • When the boys started getting really into singing Gangster's Paradise
  • Brian having too much fun with his buzzer and partner
  • AJ & Brian playing a noodle toss/catch game and all the sexual innuendos that came up as a result.
  • This conversation:
    Kevin - "Measure the thickness."
    Jen - "Only Nick Carter would say that."
    Nick - "That was Kevin!"
  • Kevin using 2 bottles worth of whipped cream to smash in a fans face
  • Kevin embracing the 90s with his hilarious dance moves
  • Brian's furby impression
  • The boys quoting Forrest Gump
  • Howie losing the game Simon after 3 rounds
  • AJ's story about his run-in with Leo DiCaprio (even though I've heard the song before) 
  • Nick sharing the fact that him and Brian used to play Mario Kart all the time back in the day (<3 Frick & Frack)
  • Nick reverting back to a boy playing Mario Kart crossed legged
  • AJ getting his butt kicked in Skip-It. To which Nick replies, "Really, AJ? What the f*ck man?" and Kevin chimed in "I think we can all agree AJ got his vagina kicked."

    AJ playing Skip It and the boys playing with a jump rope
  • All of the boys (sans Brian) trying to figure out how to do double dutch. I mean, was anyone else really shocked that Howie wouldnt be a jump rope pro?
  • Nick so eagerly chiming in to answer the villain in Ninja Turtles and seconds later realizing he can't remember his name
  • When Straight Through My Heart came on and Kevin blurted out this gem, "I know that shit. I did my homework. I watched youtube. I learned the words on youtube."
As much fun as the game itself was, I actually found watching the boys who weren't participating more entertaining. They were having WAY too much fun with all those toys on stage.

Nick and Howie playing with a water tube thingy

Nick and Kevin playing with the metal pin toy
Nick upset that the metal pin toy didn't hold the shape of his face

Brian being goofy
Not pictured:
  • Nick playing and chewing bubble gum tape
  • Nick playing with a slinky and wearing it as a bracelet
  • AJ trying to make a slinky go down stairs
  • Nick playing catch with fans 
So after the game show it was time for dinner. I had a lovely meal with a bunch of different friends so we decided to do a little "game" over dinner. We all went around and shared our favorite Backstreet memory. This ended up taking up a good chunk of our dinner and we had so much fun. I loved hearing everyone's different memories as well as sharing my own.

Also during dinner I decided to sneak out and do some merch shopping - where every year I willingly hand over an absurd amount of money on some overpriced BSB gear. But I just cant help myself.

Shopping with Rachel
Studio 54 Night

Oooh the first theme night. I was a little upset that they had to move this one indoors, but of course all I could do was make the best of it. So I put on my very un-disco themed outfit. I decided to go more typical 70s and I saw many other with the same exact outfit, which was no surprise considering I shopped at a Halloween shop.

My girls and I getting our disco on


I think these theme night can be summed up in just 2 words: funny accents. To be honest, really not a whole lot happened during this theme night because I think it was literally 2 minutes after they arrived that AJ said they want to come and hang with us. Which I'm certainly not complaining about!

My view of Kevin on the bar from above

Nick playing with bubbles
I was up on the second level and the majority of my evening was spent watching most of the Backstreet Boys visit all of the floors. At one point I was tempted to go upstairs to try to grab a picture with Nick, but I didn't feel like battling that herd of girls. So I was attempting to be patient and finally AJ visited our level. Yayy! Sometimes being patient pays off. I was getting more and more anxious as AJ made his way closer to me. Partly from AJ getting closer and partly because the mob of girls around me increased.

AJ finally made his way up to me and the first thing he does is grab his disco ball necklace, and touch it to my disco ball necklace and says, "Look our balls are touching." I had to pause for a moment, and I actually blurted out the exact thought that was running through my head, "Well that's a phrase I never thought I'd hear a Backstreet Boy say to me." He chuckled. I wish I was able to come up with a witty reply, but when does my brain ever function properly around AJ?

AJ and I <3
And that pretty much concluded my noteworthy moments of the day.