90’s fans rejoice, we’ve got something special for you! Back in May, our contributor Ellen took a trip to Europe to go on the Backstreet Boys cruise. Read about her experience and watch her vlog about her trip below!
I am so excited to finally be writing about this, even though I’m about 3 months late (it took me that long to recover from this massive party, ok??). On a serious note, I know what most of you are probably thinking: “What in god’s name is a Backstreet Boys cruise?” “The Backstreet Boys are still around?” “There are actually people who want to go on something like that?” YES. Let me break this down for you real quick. The BSB have been doing cruises since 2010. This is a one of a kind experience for only the biggest and truest BSB fans. Believe me when I say there is NOTHING in the world like a Backstreet cruise. It’s packed with exclusive events with the boys and countless memories. This is a chance for fans to hang out with the Boys and interact with them like no other time. They throw insane theme parties every night on the ship where everyone dresses up in ridiculous costumes. And must I mention the most obvious perk? YOU ARE ON A BOAT WITH THE BACKSTREET BOYS FOR 4 DAYS STRAIGHT. This was something that I have wanted to do for years now, and I could not be more happy that I finally got my chance to experience this. Keep reading for my day by day journal!
Ok first off, let me just say actually getting to Barcelona was quite an experience on it’s own. My sister and I spent about 10 hours on a plane from Winnipeg, to Toronto, then finally Paris. From there, we then took an overnight bus to Barcelona. This took another 15 hours. 15 HOURS. This was definitely the worst part of my entire trip. But finally getting to Barcelona was more than worth it. Now, my sister and I have never done anything like this before. We had no idea what to expect. But we got pretty lucky as we met 2 girls at our hotel the night before the big day who were fellow cruisers. We ended up hanging out with them that night and through them we met three other cruisers and these people ended up being our little cruise family. I didn’t really expect to go on this trip and make actual friends, but these people made the whole experience so much more enjoyable. This was when I realized just how special this really was. I mean, think about it, you’re spending 4 days on a ship with thousands of people who are all there for the same reason you are: the love of these boys. It’s truly something amazing.
Ok now lets get to the good stuff.
DAY 1: BARCELONA, SPAIN
I will never forget the feeling I had when our cab dropped us off at the cruise terminal. I was so full of excitement and I knew I was in for something I was never gonna forget. After the surprisingly quick and painless check in process, we made our way onto the ship. Now, this ship is absolutely mind blowing. It has everything you could imagine. Everything from a movie theatre, a full Vegas style casino, a rock climbing wall, a mini golf course, a basketball court, a nightclub… the list is endless. Not to mention the ship is completely decked out in BSB fashion. I’m talking major Backstreet overload. Everything from the elevators, to the tables, to the panels on the deck – everywhere you look there were the boys staring back at you. As if I needed to be reminded that they were there too, right?? We were welcomed with official BSB cruise beach bags in our cabins along with itineraries. After the mandatory boat drill, it was time for the sail away party. Everyone packed themselves onto the pool deck as the boys came out on stage and raised a toast as we set sail. They spent about an hour taking pictures and mingling with the crowd. After this, it was time for the first official cruise event. BSB game night is an event that has been part of every Backstreet cruise so far. It sees the boys verse a group of fans in a series of different games. The past cruises have included “Are You Smarter Than a Backstreet Boy?” and “Jeopardy”. Five fans were chosen at random to go up on stage and compete with the boys. The first game was a version of charades, where each team was given a topic (Batman and Harry Potter) and had to act out different words related to their topics. Game number two saw the teams guessing TV shows by only using a limited amount of words to describe them. The last game was more of a pop quiz, and definitely proved to be the most challenging one for the boys. It was a test of naming the capitals of different countries, and both teams failed miserably. I mean, they didn’t even know the capital of Canada??? Come on guys. I guess there’s a reason these dudes are in a boyband. Needless to say, game night was definitely one of the most entertaining events of the cruise.
One of the most anticipated parts of a BSB cruise is always what the themes of the parties are going to be. BSB cruise parties are known for being epic and absolutely insane, and it was definitely what I was most excited to experience. Each night on the ship, the boys throw a massive deck party, each following a different theme. Past themes have seen everything from PJ night to bachelorette night, anything but clothes night, and neon night. The theme for night one this year was In A World Like This. This theme was voted by the fans and saw the boys and fans dress up in outfits that represented where they were from. Unfortunately it poured rain the first night and the “deck party” turned into an indoor party. But not after the majority of us were soaked of course. Everyone packed themselves into the atrium and spread out on all 13 decks. Traditionally, the first night’s party usually involves a 1 hour open bar courtesy of the boys. But with the party moved indoors with a bar only on the main floor, we had to settle for waiters and waitresses walking around with trays of wine. Not that I was complaining. I mean, when am I ever going to get another chance to drink endless amounts of free wine paid for by the Backstreet Boys? Each night also had a drink and shot of the day, always related to either the theme night or just BSB in general. Night one’s drink was “Shape of My Heart” and the shot was “In A World Like This”. Do you know how cool it is to walk up to a bar and ask for a drink named after a BSB song? As the boys started to spread themselves out and wander the ship to mingle with fans, the crowd around the atrium also spread out. At one point my sister and I moved to the other side of the deck we were on and found some chairs right across from the stage where a couple of the boys still were. As we were sitting there, Brian was looking around the room and looked up at us and waved to me. I was thinking “ok there’s no way he could possibly be waving at me” as I looked behind me expecting someone else to be there. When I realized it actually was me, I awkwardly waved back as he waved again. I remember Don’t Stop Believing was playing over the speakers and all of a sudden him and my sister were air guitaring back and forth to each other. I just remember thinking “is this actually happening? Is a Backstreet Boy really noticing us right now?!” After having my fangirl moment, we decided to explore the ship a bit. We started on the top deck and started working our way down. When we were about halfway down, we ran into AJ meeting fans in the hallway. Now if you knew my sister and I at all, you would know that AJ is number one in our hearts, so you can imagine how I went into panic mode. Also, I just want to point out the fact that at this point it was 2:30 in the morning and he was STILL meeting fans and taking pictures. Like how great is he?? After standing there and admiring our fave Backstreet Boy for a few minutes, we finally decided to call it a night and head to bed, with day one being a success.
DAY 2: CANNES, FRANCE
Our second day onboard brought us to Cannes, France. During the day, we were given the opportunity to get off the boat and explore the city we were ported at, yet another incredible perk of this trip. My sister and I used our time in Cannes to take one of those sight-seeing tours. It was a one hour trolley ride that took you to all the best spots of Cannes. We happened to be there on the same day as the Cannes Film Festival, which was incredible. Our tour took us by the legendary Hotel Martinez where all the stars stay when they’re in town for the festival. There were already tons of fans and photographers waiting outside to try to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars. We also went by the red carpet as it was in the process of being set up, it was such a cool experience. It was definitely the closest I’ll ever get to actually attending the Film Festival. I was so blown away by the beauty of Cannes and I’m so happy the boys made this a stop on our adventure.
Every booking on the cruise includes a meet and greet and photo opportunity with the boys. Not that you don’t have a million chances to take pictures with them already, but this is a guaranteed chance for you to get your time with the guys. Day 2 was Group B’s meet and greet day. When we got back to the ship after exploring Cannes, we only had a few hours until our photo session. My sister wanted to nap but I was way too nervous/excited for that. Instead I laid in bed watching BSB TV, because yeah, that’s a thing. It’s literally a channel on the TVs on the ship that plays nothing but BSB music videos, concerts, old movies and documentaries… All Backstreet. All the time. Basically, it’s every fan’s dream channel. When it was time to start getting ready and preparing myself for what was about to happen, this old video of the boys’ Orlando homecoming concert in 1998 came on the tv. My sister and I used to watch this concert over and over and over again when we were younger. Our mom recorded it on VHS for us the first time it aired (I still have the tape as a matter of fact). It’s probably one of the things I remember most about being a kid. We literally knew every word spoken and every dance move made on this thing. When I heard it come on I remember thinking “wow as if this is on right now as we’re getting ready to go meet them”. It was super coincidental and as I was getting ready it just made me think of all the years this group had been a part of my life. Before I knew it, it was time to head up to meet with our friends from Germany that we met the night before the cruise. Each picture is done in groups of 4-5 people, so here’s a tip: make some friends early on and form a group with them so the people in your picture aren’t complete strangers. After standing in line for probably a good 45 minutes or so, we were finally making our way close to the boys. When we were only about 3 groups away, I suddenly felt sick. I realized what was about to happen and I’m not even gonna lie, I was freaking out inside. I mean, THESE WERE THE FREAKING BACKSTREET BOYS. I felt like I had been waiting for this moment my entire life. I was watching them with all the other fans and growing more and more nervous the closer we got. All of a sudden it was our turn. I remember walking up to Brian and he hugged me as he asked where I was from. I replied “Canada” and he asked “Oh, what part of Canada?” Again, my one word answer, “Winnipeg.” He was the sweetest person and was definitely making an effort to have a conversation but I was literally so nervous I could not make words come out of my mouth. We posed for our picture and the next thing I knew AJ McLean was wrapping his arms around me and calling me sweetheart. A DREAM COME TRUE. I was internally screaming. But I played it cool. I think. Everything after that moment is pretty much a blur. Insert the happiest looking picture of me to ever exist here:
The theme for the second night was A Night At The Cinema to go along with us being in Cannes at the time of the film festival. Everyone got to dress up as their favourite character from a movie (the boys chose the Star Wars cast, Nick as Princess Leia, of course). We had much better weather the second night and the deck party was fully on. I was so excited to finally experience my very first BSB deck party, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. This party was INSANE. Let’s just say this: there ain’t no party like a Backstreet party cause a Backstreet party don’t stop. Seriously though. There were twerking contests, Nick Carter rapping, people jumping in the pool fully clothed (including AJ)… it was wild. Not to mention it literally went on all night. My sister and I ended up turning in around 4am, but this thing was still in full swing at that time. One of the best perks about this cruise ship was the 24 hour room service. By the time I got back to my cabin that night, I was, let’s just say, a little more than tipsy, and all I wanted was some pizza. Now, pizza at 5am after a night of drinking is always great, but let me tell you. The pizza on this ship was INCREDIBLE. I’ve never had anything like it before. It was the perfect ending to night number two.
DAY 3: LIVORNO, ITALY
Day three was spent in the beautiful country of Italy. We ported in the town of Livorno, located between Pisa and Florence. My sister and I only spent a couple hours in the town, but I got to do the one and only thing I had on my list for Italy: eat real Italian gelato. Yup. That was the top of my bucket list. I mean, when else am I ever gonna get the chance to have authentic gelato, right?? And yeah, it totally lived up to my expectations.
Back on the boat, the first event of the night was Mix It Up With Howie D. I actually went to this one alone, as my sister took a much needed nap. I had absolutely no idea what this event was going to be before it started, but it was pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Everyone crowded onto the pool deck to watch Howie learn how to mix different cocktails from a trained bartender and pass them out to the crowd while dancing around the stage. He also pulled a fan up on stage to play beer pong and flip cup with him and some crew members. At one point he said to the crowd “you guys only like me because I give you alcohol!” to which everyone cheered of course. If there’s one thing I learned about Howie on this cruise, it’s that he definitely knows how to party.
That night, it was my group’s turn to watch the performance. Every year on the cruise, the boys perform a full concert on board. But this isn’t just a typical Backstreet concert. The songs that they perform on the ship are voted by fans, so often you get to hear songs that are rarely performed otherwise. This year, they decided to do something a little different. They went completely acoustic for this performance, and they played a ton of old songs that haven’t been performed in years, if ever. For starters, they kicked things off with “Let’s Have a Party”. This song is over 20 years old, and hasn’t been performed at a BSB show in probably about the same amount of time. I never thought I would get to hear this song live, so when the boys walked through the crowd making their way to the stage singing this, my jaw dropped to the floor. And it only got better from there. We heard songs like “Darlin'”, “Back To Your Heart”, “Spanish Eyes”, and “Just To Be Close To You”. And of course, they finished off the set with an incredible version of “Backstreet’s Back”. I’ve seen BSB a few times before, but I had never seen them like this. It was raw, it was intimate, and it was so, so special. It was definitely a show I will never forget.
Night number three’s theme was Casino Royale, and probably my favourite of them all. Everyone got to dress to the nines in beautiful gowns and suits, it was extremely classy. The party ended up being inside again due to extremely high winds, but it was still an incredible night. As you entered the party area, you were given playing cards with a picture of the boys on them to go along with the theme.
The boys came out dressed up in full James Bond attire, and let me just say, I have never seen girls go so crazy before. I mean, we knew these boys were handsome, but throw them in a couple of fancy suits and they’re on a whole different level. About an hour or so into the party, we witnessed something truly special. Kevin had called up a guy from the crowd and given him the microphone. The gentleman went on to invite up a special lady and gave a beautiful speech about her before… yep you guessed it, proposing to her right there on stage. You hear about this kind of thing happening at concerts all the time, but I had never actually witnessed this before. It was the cutest darn thing I had ever seen. And I mean, this girl’s boyfriend literally went on a Backstreet Boys cruise with her, and then proposed to her on stage WITH the Backstreet Boys… she literally lived my, and I’m sure every other girl in the crowd that night’s, dream. After all the excitement calmed down a bit, my sister and I made our way into the casino. All night all I had been saying was that I wanted to buy a martini so I could take the classic Casino Royale picture with a martini glass. Mission accomplished, by the way:
Now, I had never had a martini in my life before. My sister kept telling me I wasn’t gonna like it, but I was committed to getting this picture. So I went to the bar and got one. I remember the bartender asking me all these questions like “how do you want it?” “olive or lemon?” and I of course had no idea what he was talking about. I ended up with a vodka martini with lemon. Can I just say, this drink cost me $15 AMERICAN. Ok, that’s like $20 Canadian. I had one sip of this drink and I immediately regretted my decision. Of course right after, my sister orders a water and asks for it in a martini glass…. lesson learned there. As I was sitting at the bar waiting for her to get her drink, I glanced around the casino. There was hardly anyone in there, as most people were up in the dance club enjoying the party. But I saw one little crowd of people surrounding the craps table in the corner of the room and in the middle of all the girls, I saw one tall blonde dude. I said to my sister, “hey, that guy looks like Nick!” Then after a couple seconds it hit me, “THAT’S BECAUSE IT IS NICK”. I went over to join the crowd watching Nick gamble for a bit while my sister went to do her own gambling. I eventually got bored so I went back to watch my sister. Just a few minutes later, another crowd of girls rushed in, following none other than Brian and his beautiful wife, Leighanne. They sat down at a blackjack table near my sister and played for a while. How was this real life??? I was literally sitting in a casino with 2/5 Backstreet Boys, just super casual, like nothing was even happening. But you know I was crying on the inside. Eventually my sister and I wandered upstairs to the dance club, where we found Howie and AJ hosting the party. “The One” was blasting over the speakers (which just happens to be my favourite BSB song) as AJ started a crowd chant of “WE LOVE HOWIE D”. Like I mentioned earlier, Howie is definitely the partier of the group, and he proved that once again that night in the bar. There is nothing in the world like a drunk Backstreet Boy, yet another thing I never thought I would ever witness.
DAY 4: DAY AT SEA
Ah, the final day on board. This was such a bitter sweet day. I knew it was the last day of this wonderful trip and that I would be having to say goodbye to a ton of amazing memories, but at the same time I was so pumped for the final events. We spent this day traveling from Italy back to Barcelona, so it was the only day spent fully on the ship. The day was jam packed with plenty of events involving the boys to keep everyone busy though. First up was The Friday Tease With AJ. Sounds intriguing doesn’t it? Don’t get your hopes up, it wasn’t at all what it sounds like. AJ spent some time on the pool deck previewing some of his new songs on his upcoming EP for us. It was a cool little intimate experience, and I mean, I got to stare at AJ for 45 minutes, so no complaints. Next up was Feed The Body And Soul With The Littrell’s. Brian and his wife came out on stage to host a mock cooking show where they fried up some omelettes to pass around the crowd. In between cooking, they also brought up 5 fans who had previously won a contest that consisted of them writing a poem/song using Backstreet Boys lyrics, or their own lyrics to the tune of a BSB song. Each of them came up on stage to perform their creations, and there were some pretty entertaining ones in there. After that, it was time for One On One With Kevy Kev. Kevin had previously chosen some fans from another contest prior to the cruise to come up and sing a duet with him. Oh yeah, and there was ANOTHER PROPOSAL. Honestly, how do these girls get so lucky and where can I find a man who will do this for me?! There were a couple more events following this, which I unfortunately missed (it was nap time ok), including BSB Behind The Scenes, which was a Q&A session with the guys, and also Just To Be Close To You. That one was an attempt at breaking a world record of fitting the most nationalities into a hot tub at one time, which they ended up accomplishing. Later that night, we got to attend a Q&A session with Nick followed by a screening of his movie Dead 7.
The final theme night was the Fifty Shades Of BSB Leather And Lace Party. This was probably the most anticipated theme among fans. And yes, it was EXACTLY what it sounds like. We were encouraged to dress up in our sexiest leather and lace outfits. This was a wild night. Everywhere you looked, you saw chains and whips and masks and handcuffs… and things my eyes are way too innocent to have witnessed. Let’s just say there’s a reason there was an early curfew for the children on the boat… People definitely went all out for this one. But not as much as the boys themselves. During the party, they pulled some fans up on stage for some freaky fun, which included a game of “Which Backstreet Boy is Touching You?” The lucky girl chosen for that one was extremely good at this game, I must say. I pretty much watched the entire time with my jaw dropped and partly covering my eyes. I felt like I had suddenly walked onto the set of Fifty Shades Of Grey. They sure wanted to go out with a bang. After downing about 2 bottles of champagne (go big or go home right?), we made our way back up to the club on the top deck. That’s definitely where the party was that night. I ordered myself a few of the Leather & Lace shots, like I really needed any more to drink, and made my way to the dance floor to enjoy the final hours of this incredible trip. Here’s the thing. I don’t dance. I don’t go to bars, I don’t go to clubs, and you will literally never catch me on a dance floor. But that night, I danced. And I danced HARD. That’s the thing about this cruise. The atmosphere is so incredible, you feel completely carefree and everyone just lets loose and can feel comfortable. It really was like one giant family for those four days, and the most incredible experience of my life.
To sum it all up, this was definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life. It genuinely was one big 4 day party. I think it’s so cool that the boys have something like this for their fans. They’ve created this place where their fans from all over the world can come and get together and bond with each other over their common love for this band. For a few days, it felt like I was back in the 90s where BSB was the biggest band on the planet. My only regret on this cruise was staying up drinking until 4am when I had to be off the ship at 7am the next morning, but you know, I’m alive. On a serious note though, if you consider yourself a Backstreet fan, this is something I highly recommend doing at least once in your life. It’s truly something I feel every fan of this group needs to experience. It was such a surreal event in my life, to this day I still don’t even feel like it actually happened. But you can bet I will be on the next one. And to the Boys, thank you for giving me and every other fan the coolest memories to carry with us forever. KTBSPA.
See my vlog of the cruise and some pictures below!