Without a doubt, the hit television show The Love Boat, which ran from 1977 to 1986, jumpstarted the cruise industry and did wonders for Princess Cruise Lines since it was their ship, the Pacific Princess, that was the real star of the show. I remember as a young kid watching the cast and the endless list of famous guests every Saturday night, travel all around the world visiting exotic ports. There’s a very good chance that this show was responsible for giving me the travel bug, because it was so exciting that I dreamt of doing something similar. And by the grace of God, hard work, and some luck I’ve been able to, too.
So when I received an invite from Princess to join them in Fort Lauderdale with all six of the original Love Boat cast members, who played the roles of Captain Stubing, Gopher, Isaac, Doc, Julie, and Vicki for them to christen their newest ship, Regal Princess, I jumped at the chance … and brought my dad as my guest.
The Regal Princess was brought out of an Italian shipyard in May and it sailed around Europe before making its North American and Caribbean debut, which begins officially today (November 8). But on November 5, they had a cruise christening (followed by a three-day preview sailing) that I doubt could ever be topped. I know … I said something very similar last year after attending Regal Princess’ sister ship christening, Royal Princess, in Southampton, England when Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was the Godmother on her final public appearance before giving birth to Prince George.
The ceremony officially launched the golden year anniversary celebrations for Princess Cruises, which will celebrate five decades of operation throughout 2015. The actors didn’t just include Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing) Fred Grandy (Gopher, the chief purser), Ted Lange (Isaac, the bartender), Bernie Kopell (Doc, the ship’s doctor), Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie), and Jill Whelan (Vicki, the captain’s daughter). But they also brought in a host of celebrities who all made guest appearances on the show, including: Loni Anderson, Joyce DeWitt, Jamie Farr, Pam Grier, Florence Henderson, Christopher Knight, Diane Ladd, Lorenzo Lamas, Carol Lawrence, Rich Little, Kristy McNichol, Lee Meriwether, Don Most, Tracy Nelson, Mackenzie Phillips, Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Charlene Tilton, Joan Van Ark, Dick Van Patten and Adrian Zmed. They also brought in the guest star with the most number of appearances on the show – Charo – and she gave a classical guitar performance that evening after Jack Jones sang The Love Boat theme song.
Tori Spelling, actress and daughter of famed Love Boat producer Aaron Spelling, was supposed to serve as the official Master of Ceremonies but she had to cancel at the last minute due to some health problems but Jill Whelan (aka Vicki) and Florence Henderson (aka Mrs. Brady) both stepped up and took her place and did a fantastic job. (I actually overheard one of the cast members say that Tori would have been a nightmare to work with so perhaps it worked out for the best.)
The 3,560-guest Regal Princess is a beautiful ship and is obviously huge: It’s 1,083-feet long, 217-feet high, and has 19 decks. It’s the same size and has all the same special features as Royal Princess (here are 20 Reasons to Sail on Royal Princess). The only different thing about Regal is that they added a pool on the aft end.
The celebrations honored the founder of Princess, Stanley B. McDonald, in a video tribute and a video message from the 94-year-old’s home in Seattle. I had no idea that Stan coined the term “Mexican Riviera” after seeing the success of the French and Italian Rivieras. They also paid tribute to the real-life Princess cruise director Jeraldine Saunders, who wrote the non-fiction book, The Love Boats. The show was based on it and she still collects checks today since the show is in syndication worldwide in 98 countries.
After the christening, all of the stars had dinner in the main dining room, and lucky me for being with the media, because we got to eat at surrounding tables. After dinner, we got to meet quite a few of the stars and take photos with them. The nicest was Florence Henderson and I fulfilled a childhood dream when I got my picture taken with my two favorite TV moms: Mrs. Brady and Mrs. Cunningham (Marion Ross).
Love Boat Cast Q&A
All of the stars left the following morning except the original cast, Charo and Jack Jones who went on and did the three-day sailing to Princess Cays in the Bahamas. Some of the highlights included attending the cast Q&A where it was a totally unplugged and unscripted hour. Two of the cast members made some crazy statements, as evidenced on the faces above, including Princess’ president Jan Swartz.
Another highlight was the introduction of Chocolate Journeys, which is an industry-first. Princess has partnered with one of the world’s foremost experts in chocolate, Norman Love (amazing that his name is really Love) to create a premium chocolate experience onboard its fleet of 18 ships. The program offers guests a variety of opportunities to taste his inspired creations. Chocolate Journeys premiered on Regal Princess but will roll out to all Princess ships by January 1, 2015.
Fran and David’s Wedding
Two popular cruise writers, Fran Golden and David Molyneaux tied the knot yesterday aboard the ship in the middle of the atrium and invited the general public to attend. They even had Gavin MacLeod do a reading. It was a beautiful way to do a wedding since all of your loved ones will be with you for multiple days and you don’t have to worry about who’s picking up the meal or drink tabs.
The whole cruise was amazing (except the long line to get back on the ship on Princess Cays) and having the whole cast onboard really felt like I was living in a fantasy. It was the next best thing to being a guest star on the actual Love Boat.
Additional information about Regal Princess’ inaugural Caribbean season is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237), or by visiting the company’s website at Princess.com.