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New Kids on the Block summer tour sets sail

MIAMI — The little girls who made the New Kids on the Block a boy band sensation in the late 1980s and early 1990s are all grown up, and now they’ve got disposable income.

So what better way to show their love for Jordan, Jonathan, Joey, Donnie and Danny than spending three days with them on a Caribbean cruise?

About 2,100 women, most in their 20s and 30s, paid more $1,000 each for a sold-out, three-day Carnival Cruise Lines trip that left Miami for the Bahamas on Friday. The voyage kicks off the band’s summer concert tour, when they’ll dust off hits like “Hangin’ Tough” and “Step by Step” along with songs from their 2008 album.

Fans squealed and giggled as they boarded the boat, angling for a glimpse of the New Kids. Some wore buttons and T-shirts with their favorite band members’ names and photos. Others kissed cardboard cutouts.

The band will perform twice during the trip, allowing half the passengers to come one night and the other half the next. Other events include meet and greets and photo ops.

Concert cruises provide a nice bump for Carnival which recently lowered its earnings forecast because it’s had to slash prices to maintain its bookings. John Mayer and Lynyrd Skynyrd have done recent cruises and an upcoming voyage is Elvis-themed. Barenaked Ladies took its fifth “Ships & Dips” cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line in February.

Fans like the concert cruises because they’re “a more intimate experience than you would have in a typical stadium or concert venue” said Cherie Weinstein, Carnival’s vice president for business development.

New Kids cruiser Shannon Wright 32, of Syracuse, N.Y., was hoping to get up close and personal with her favorite New Kid, Donnie – as in Wahlberg, older brother of Mark Wahlberg who started out as rapper Marky Mark and is now a respectable film actor – but said she’d probably faint when she did.

She might get the chance if she aces a poker tournament on the cruise itinerary for Sunday – the winners play Wahlberg at midnight.

Wright says her husband is “a little jealous of Donnie, but otherwise he’s OK with it.” She just got over seeing the group in concert a month ago, and now she’s got them cornered on a boat.

Emily Vance of Dayton, Ohio took the cruise with her mother, Debbie Kingham, and friend Jenny Duncan. They wore matching black tour-branded tank tops and gushed about their favorite member – also Wahlberg, who was known as the “bad boy” of the group.

Kingham and Vance remembered their first concert in July 1990. When Vance went to their reunion concert this October, she cried.

Vance and Duncan said their husbands think they’re crazy, but they don’t care.

“We’re the only ones who understand,” Duncan said.

After 20 years, band members say it’s flattering to still have screaming women at their feet.

The confined spaces of a boat make it harder to get away from obsessed fans, but they said they want to spend time with people who are still loyal.

In between jokes about wearing Speedos on deck and making the entire boat breakfast, band members talked Friday about why they decided to continue performing.

“Our fans have come out since Day One, and we’ve just tried to answer the call,” said Joey McIntyre at 36 the youngest member of the group. “It had to be fun and it had do be challenging, or we wouldn’t have done it.”

The New Kids “Full Service” summer tour begins June 4 in Atlanta.

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