Back when cruising was still seen as a thing that ‘only rich people did’ and the majority of us had to be content with our cheap and cheerful week of sun on the Costa del Sol, The Love Boat sailed into our hearts (and living rooms) and refused to sail away again. For nine seasons. We were able to see how the other half lived, or at least, have our romantic view of it fully realised.
If you’re not old enough to remember it, the American TV series was set on a cruise ship and starred Gavin MacLeod as the ship’s captain, cheerily doffing his hat to passengers and sometimes sharing in their comic and romantic adventures. Think affable crew members, canned laughter tracks and guest appearances from stars playing lovestruck passengers and you’ll get the idea.
US TV imports were of course the mainstay of much of our 70’s and 80’s entertainment programming and though as a nipper, I was much more interested in the exploits of Lee Majors, Metal Mickey and the A-Team, I do remember the Love Boat as a regular Sunday afternoon backdrop to a certain portion of my childhood.
Of course, this was a sit-com with a difference and there was no need to build a set. The majority of the show’s episodes took place on Princess Cruises’ liner Pacific Princess, and sometimes, on a couple of the lines other vessels, Sun Princess and Sea Princess. Enthusiasts of the line, or even those who’ve cruised with it before may have noticed that two of Princess Cruises’ present day vessels share those names and the line continues to good-naturedly acknowledge this link to its past. Only recently, when Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge christened the line’s newest vessel, Royal Princess, the ship’s horn tooted the first few notes of the show’s theme and if you find yourself with a spare moment on a Princess Cruises voyage, do a quick channel surf and you’ll eventually find episodes of the series on a continuous loop.
So where is the old girl now? No, not ‘Julie McCoy your Cruise Director’, but the Love Boat herself? Well, though she left the Princess fleet in 2002, she got herself a new name and identity, sailing as MS Pacific for Brazilian company Viagens CVC. At the time of writing, she’s laid up in Genoa after being purchased by a ship-breaker. When you think that she was built in 1971, that’s some career, and come on, how many cruise ships can claim to have enjoyed a screen career as well as the day job?
Who knows, some nostalgic (and rich) soul who remembers the show fondly may yet just come along and save her from the great scrapyard in the sky…
By Simon Brotherton