New Kids on the Block to Sell 2,600 Tickets to Carnival Cruise Concert

Eighties boy bands are "hangin' tough" on the high seas.

Aug. 12, 2010— -- On Friday morning, Nichole Newerth plans to be in front of her computer eagerly waiting to buy tickets.

No, she's not some star-crazed teenager but a 36-year-old mother of three looking to go on a four-day Caribbean cruise with the '80s boy band New Kids on the Block.

"It's a lot of fun for mommies who need to cut loose," Newerth said. "I know, it sounds crazy."

Forget filling stadiums and concert halls. These days, some bands are finding a second act on the high seas.

The Backstreet Boys, Sammy Hagar, Boyz II Men and Rick Springfield all have upcoming cruises where they play to a boat full of adorning fans.

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But it's not just about the concerts. The musicians also lead limbo competitions, bingo games, belly flop contests and join in karaoke at the bar.

"You think you're going on this cruise and you're never going to see them, but they're out everywhere," said Newerth, who has been on two New Kids on the Block cruises and plans to go on the band's third voyage in May.

On the first cruise two years ago, she got a hug from Donnie Wahlberg before leaving port. Then last year, she was sitting in the hot tub on the deck.

"I turn around and there's Jon [Knight] standing right behind me," Newerth said. "He stuck his hand in and said, 'How's the water ladies?' And I said, 'Climb in, we'll make room.'"

New Kids on the Block Cruise

Hal Roseman, president of Rose Tours, is organizing the New Kids cruise and several others. He charters ships from Carnival and other cruise lines. Carnival operates the ship, food and normal cruise activities. His staff adds in the concert and band-related events.

Typically, 1,500 to 2,000 fans go on a cruise. But since the New Kids last year sold out the entire ship in a matter of hours -- "the fastest selling cruise in history," Roseman said -- this year they got a bigger boat.

Roseman said the 2,600 fans expected on the May cruise will be 95 percent female, with the average age being 32. (Backstreet Boys also get a mostly-female crowd, about 26. Rick Springfield gets a few more men -- about 30 percent -- and brings in a crowd with an average age around 42.)

"You get out on that cruise ship and it's you and all these women who you might not have a lot in common with if you met them on the street," Newerth said. "But all these women love them as much as you do and it's just, I don't know."

Newerth was then at a loss for words before saying: "You always have this image that they're going to stop and talk to the prettiest or the skinniest. But they stop and talk to everyone."

So does she have a favorite New Kid?

"Donnie but I was a Jordan [Knight] girl growing up," Newerth said. "I go back and forth. I kind of like them all. But if you have all five of them in front of me, I would choose Donnie."

She quickly added: "I am 36, and I know what I said."

Ian Drew, senior music editor at Us Weekly magazine, said some acts, like John Mayer, have done the cruises for the novelty of it. Other lesser-known names take part in large VH1 cruises hoping to make a name for themselves.

As for New Kids, Drew said: "They still have the rabid fans who will show up to anything. They have these fans that just won't die and will fill up the cruise ship very easily."

Fans Cruise With Their Favorite Bands

Sure, New Kids might not be selling tons of records these days, but they have sold out some big venues recently, Drew said. Plus a band-themed cruise means big money for the group.

The premium for a trip like this is about $500 more than a regular cruise, Rose said.

"It is very profitable," Drew said. "And they cut into a share of the profit. They aren't just a regular cruise ship entertainer."

Rose said the added price is worth it for the fans.

"People are looking for more than a regular cruise experience. They are looking to get close and personal with the entertainer," he said. "We're offering entertainment that they can't normally get on a regular cruise and they're getting more than they could get from a regular concert."

Sixthman is another company that does music-themed cruises with Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line. Acts include Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Mayer, the Barenaked Ladies and the VH1 cruise.

The company has seen the market for such cruises grow. Last year, they had 7, this year 11.

On a typical cruise, Sixthman brings about 15 to 20 full-time employees, five production assistants, 15 to 25 production staff and sometimes a security crew of five to 20.

Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman for Carnival, said his company loves the cruises. First of all, the bands sell out ships. But second fans fall in love with cruising and come back for their own vacations.

Newerth is one of those people.

"I had never been on a cruise until I went on a New Kids cruise," she said. "Now, I'm hooked on it."