|The Regal Princess is Princess Cruises' newest "Love Boat." // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Sailing last week on the 3,560-passenger Regal Princess for a short preview cruise, it was clear “The Love Boat” nostalgia has been embraced by Princess for its 50th anniversary year coming up in 2015, both in the historic way focused on memories of the iconic TV show and in a more modern way, with new options for savoring the feel of what the show embodied – love, relaxation, romance and adventure on the high seas.
We’ll be doing a review of accommodations and dining in an upcoming story in Travel Agent magazine, but here’s an anecdotal look at what I personally loved about Princess’ newest "Love Boat."
|Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises' president, gave christening remarks about the line's upcoming 50th anniversary. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Love Boat Episodes on the In-Stateroom TV Channel: There was a time when reporters would ask Princess about the show, its stars and the theme song, and how the line continued to embody that, and the executives would what I term “pooh-pooh” the thought, stressing simply that "That was then and this is now."
So I was personally thrilled as a golden-oldie, Baby Boomer that the "Love Boat" spirit, at least (the ship is thankfully far more modern than the original Pacific Princess used in the show) is back top of mind in the line's plans. In fact, Princess, now with Jan Swartz at the helm as president, has opted to incorporate some Love Boat elements onboard all ships in the fleet for 2015.
During our four nights onboard, I'm almost sheepish to admit that we watched at least eight episodes of the show (mostly at bedtime) on our big-screen in the stateroom.
Frankly, it was a hoot to scroll through the listings, see what guest stars – Jamie Farr, Loni Anderson, Charo, Florence Henderson, Dick Van Patten and others – were available and then watch the usually fun, sometimes corny and always entertaining action play out on a big flatscreen television, which was nicely mounted on the wall across from our beds.
Even funnier was showing up at dinner or a morning activity as fellow guests and journalists sheepishly acknowledged, “Well, I watched another episode.” People just couldn’t seem to get enough of it.
|The Regal Princess was set up with Love Boat decor for its christening at Port Everglades, FL, last week. Shown on the top deck big screen, Jill Whelan (Vicki, Captain Stubing's daughter on the "Love Boat" series) interviewed one of the show's guest stars, actor Loni Anderson. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
During a short break from Princess' many onboard activities, I returned one day to the cabin to charge my camera battery and pulled up specially produced “Love Boat Moments with Gavin MacLeod” snippets, also on the entertainment system. He’d talk about this and that celebrity and what happened in making the show or about some fun or unusual element of their personal life.
It was a hoot, such as the time a robber broke into Charo's house and she managed to convince the man that he'd really wanted Lucille Ball's house down the street; he left without taking anything, and MacLeod noted that Charo could really "think well on her feet."
|One of Norman Love's chocolate creations // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Chocolate Delights and Diamonds: Master Chocolatier Norman Love, famed for his hand-made chocolate creations, has formed a recent partnership with Princess Cruises and it was on full display during our brief sailing. What could be more decadent and dedicated to love than chocolate?
In the line's "Chocolate Journeys" program, guests enjoy Love's chocolate and wine pairings in a special onboard experience. The first flight pairs Luce Della Vite with St. Domingue chocolate (70 percent cocoa) from the Dominican Republic. Second, guests savor a glass of Vall Llach Embruix with chocolate from Peru that’s 74 percent cocoa. Third, guests sample the Finca Decero Malbec, with chocolate from Maracaibo, Venezuela with a cocoa content of 88 percent.
We also relished the small box of Norman Love chocolates with four tasty treats in our stateroom upon arrival. Dinner in the dining rooms also featured a different Norman Love creation each evening. Take a look at the lovely presentation in the photo above. Let’s just say this was gone in a flash.
And while not edible nor focused on Norman Love but certainly appealing, the Chocolate Diamond Showcase attracted many couples to the Princess Live theater venue mid-ship. This presentation showcased the Le Vian chocolate diamonds, available for purchase in the ship's Facets jewelry shop.
|Actor Ted Lange, who played Isaac, the bartender, on Love Boat is shown with our cruise editor Susan Young on a preview cruise.|
Entertainment and Enrichment: The Grand Piazza is truly a grand, elegant (yet comfortable) space for everything from Caribbean Groove music to adagio acrobats, from light piano music to Motown hits. On our cruise, one hula hoop performer here had people shaking their heads and asking, “How does she do that?”
The Princess Cruises’ singers and dancers also perform a cute production number in the Grand Piazza; it centers around the line’s anniversary and all the crew members who make the guest experience special. Individual dancers and singers dress as a ship’s mechanic, a chef, a cabin steward, a deck officer and so on.
It was a nice touch to thank those who do so much for guests and provided a slice of entertainment in an area of the ship that’s become a social hub for guests to gather, converse, enjoy refreshments and just people watch.
Enrichment of the entertainment variety is also on tap, as during 2015, individual members of the Love Boat show crew – 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) will appear from time to time on specific cruise dates, telling stories from the show and providing a close-up look that brings the memories of the past show alive. We loved all the cast members, each with a fun, quirky personality.
|The elegant Grand Piazza makes a lovely venue for a wedding. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Weddings Galore: Princess is one of the few lines that can actually marry couples on its ships, thanks to its Bermudian ship registry. On our recent cruise, the Grand Piazza was set up for a special ceremony for travel journalists Fran Golden and David Molyneaux; they tied the knot in a lovely ceremony with 50 or so chairs set up for family and friends on the Grand Piazza central floor.
The ship’s captain officiated, a string quartet of elegantly dressed ladies provided live music, and the wedding party had lovely flowers and a specially designed cake.
The woman seated next to me, among those hundreds of guests watching (many from the upper open air decks above) said “It’s so exciting” to which I immediately began to hum “Exciting and new..." in a line from the Love Boat theme song.
Seems there is nothing like a good love story to draw the crowds, and what better place to get married than on the Love Boat? Princess has a robust wedding program and its own dedicated wedding chapel onboard, but the line’s wedding planners will set up nuptials in various sites around the ship.
What if other couples want to book the Grand Piazza? This was a first for Princess, says Julie Benson, the line's vice president of communications, but she adds: "If passengers hear how wonderful this wedding was and are interested, we're open."
Wherever guests want to get married onboard, one piece of advice is a "must." Start early and notify the line well in advance if you're interested, as the line's ships are highly popular for couples who want to get married.
The Grand Piazza’s muted gold, cream and tan tones and elegant marble and rich appointments seem a perfect wedding locale. Capping off the festivities, hundreds of white and blue balloons were released from above and passengers on multiple decks cheered as the couple walked off as man and wife.
|Balloons hang above the Regal Princess' Grand Piazza, ready for release after a couple says "I do." // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Active Time and Relaxation: Couples will find plenty of contrasts onboard Regal Princess. They can work out on the Sports Court with its volleyball and basketball facilities, as well as jog along the Deck 18 track with circuit training stops. A full-service fitness center has the usual mix of the latest equipment -- treadmills, recumbent bicycles, ellipticals, strength equipment and free weights.
A private aerobics studio provides guests with classes or private instruction in spinning, yoga and Pilates. We stopped to view the start of 45-minute TRX Suspension Training, which harnesses the guest’s body weight to create resistance while training. It looked both intriguing and athletically challenging.
If couples seek something more relaxing, they might enjoy a putting green, bocce ball and croquet area, as well as table tennis, a laser range and indoor golf simulator. Certainly, the best way to feel totally relaxed on this ship, though, is to head for the Sanctuary, an adult only area with its own pool, loungers, full bar service, and, if desired, cabanas available for rental. Space in the Sanctuary can be reserved for $20 per person for a half day or $40 per person for a full-day, and rental cabanas start at $80 for a half day.
Crew members serve light food and drinks and guests feel in another world – or being pampered on the Love Boat. Couples can have a cabana massage side-by-side here as well; the cost is 80 minutes for $320. Couple receive a 50-minute Swedish Massage or Elemis Deep Tissue Muscle Massage plus 30 minutes of relaxing quiet time together to sample a special food and beverage menu.
For travel agents, Regal Princess is a new ship that will likely draw clients eager to try out a new ship. But in the coming year, this and other ships in the Princess fleet have another – more emotional – hook – as they tap into memories families shared together watching the Love Boat TV series on Saturday night or, for later generations, watching the show in syndication.
|Singer Jack Jones was the voice of the original Love Boat theme song, shown here with yours truly - a highlight of my cruise.|
During the press briefing on our cruise, journalists from Japan and Hong Kong gushed over the series’ stars, noting they were much loved in their countries. One journalist noted, however, that most viewers abroad had never heard the actors’ real voices, given the language dubbing.
In any language and accent, though, it seems the Love Boat and what the show concept embodies still attracts strong consumer interest across the globe. And that's a big audience for agents to pursue with marketing outreach.
A highlight for me? I loved meeting MacLeod once again, as well as talking with the other series stars. But my favorite moment was having my photo taken with singer Jack Jones, who belted out the original song on the series. I have always loved his singing.
So, it's no wonder I'm singing that song every minute, particularly the line that says: "Come Aboard, We're Expecting You."