I'm not usually one to plan ahead, but let's consider my Valentine's Day nailed down. Buddy, I've got three words for you, plus a number: Boyz II Men Cruise.
February 11-14: three magical, romantic nights aboard the Carnival Imagination with the greatest R&B vocal group of the 20th century. A small-group photo session with the band. Two concert performances. Free food and snacks. A poker tournament. A gift bag.
I swear to God, I am getting on this boat with Boyz II Men, and my editors are paying for it. They don't know it yet, but they are. This cruise is the crowning achievement of the Alexvanderpoolera: a multi-platinum 20-year career ranging from slow jams to Motown covers to new jack swing. This demands coverage by a qualified music journalist, or by me, since I asked first. Pay up, Phoenix.
Of course, I won't be able to make educated comments on the purported romantic qualities of the cruise unless a lady guest is booked along with me. I won't need my editors to provide one, but I do hope they'll have the good taste to pay the fare of whomever I bring. I suggest the Grand Suite ($1799/person), since a balcony with an ocean view is a practical pre-requisite to lovemaking worthy of an R&B cruise. If that's too steep, I'll settle for any room with a fireplace for getting busy down by, or maybe just some extra pocket money — sexy adult drinks, with the exception of those served at the Boyz II Men Welcome Cocktail Party, are not included in the package price.
And if the paper won't pony up for a companion at all, there's always the Boyz II Men Singles Mixer. My fade is impeccable, my orange blazer is immaculate, and I know all the words to "I'll Make Love to You." I cannot fail.
The whole concept of a music cruise is new to me; the closest I ever got was paying $38 to go out in a rowboat with Big Daddy Kane. (He drank a V8 and told me about some of his sexual encounters.) After a little digging, I discovered that music cruises are a common thing — Rose Tours, the outfit behind the Boyz II Men outing, has a hell of a line-up. The Sammy Hagar Cabo Wabo cruise is predictable enough, since Sammy has that weird hard-rock Jimmy Buffett beach-bum racket going. There are also New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys cruises, but those alabaster twinks can't hold a candle to the Boyz. Pass!
Most baffling of the bunch is a Rick Springfield cruise. Turns out the dude still has a lot of fans, and they love to be trapped on a boat with their favorite singing soap hunk. I found an extensive meet-and-greet photo gallery from Rick's 2009 outing, and it's a devastating window into one man's hell: in hundreds and hundreds of photos, all against a blue yearbook backdrop, Rick poses with an astounding menagerie of frumps, mutants, beady-eyed eccentrics, and human-chicken hybrids. Poor Rick. You can see his enthusiasm cycling from photo to photo, his thumbs-up drooping and his grin slackening into a rictus of barely concealed rage. Then he musters a few more volts for another big smile, another big hug . . . until, a few shots later, it all starts flagging again: Pull it together, Rick. Two hundred to go. Oh, Christ, who am I?