With a nod to nostalgia and a big pop culture wink, the original cast of The Love Boat christened Regal Princess, in a star-studded ceremony that kicked off an upcoming year of 50th anniversary festivities for Princess Cruises.
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All of the original TV cast members – Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing), Fred Grandy (Gopher), Ted Lange (Isaac), Bernie Kopell (Doc), Lauren Tewes (Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki) – pulled the lever to smash 50 bottles of champagne against the vessel’s side. A 51st bottle was smashed on deck, culminating in fireworks and streamers.
The crashing bottles were the culmination of an hour spent honoring Princess’ past, through videos that looked at how the line evolved. Founder Stanley McDonald came up with the idea after a series of pleasure cruises for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair sold out. His first ship, Princess Patricia, inspired the line’s name.
“The theme of our 50th anniversary is love,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruise Lines. “But I propose that the story of the last 50 years has been passion….Passionate people are the secret sauce of Princess Cruises.”
Regal Princess debuted on May 20 with Eastern Mediterranean itineraries. Like its sister ship Royal Princess, the 3,560-passenger vessel features the SeaWalk, a see-through walkway extending over the water; a soaring atrium known as The Piazza and dancing fountains in its central pool, as well as Princess stalwarts such as Movies Under the Stars.
The modern ships represent a step forward for Princess, which became synonymous with The Love Boat during that TV show’s run in the 1970s and 1980s. Two signature features – Chocolate Journeys, an onboard “chocolate experience” by chocolatier Norman Love and Night Sky Lounge, an outdoor Miami-style party on the top deck’s Retreat Pool – are also debuting on Regal Princess’ christening cruise.
(Cruise Critic’s own Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief, is the ship’s madrina, a godmother who cuts the cord when the vessel leaves the shipyard for its float out).
The christening began with a “gold carpet,” where Whelan interviewed former guest stars from the show. While many of the celebs would be unknown to today’s Millennials, most were well-known prime time TV stars in the late 1970s and 1980s, including Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H), Loni Anderson (WKRP in Cincinnati), Marion Ross (Happy Days), and Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough).
Actress Tori Spelling – daughter of the late TV producer Aaron Spelling, who created the show – had been slated to serve as master of ceremonies, only to pull out after an injury. Florence Henderson, known most famously as “Mrs. Brady” from The Brady Bunch, took her place.
“You might have been expecting someone younger,” Henderson said as she started, before taking a motherly dig at Spelling’s “questionable” husband. Henderson, who did 14 guest stints on the show, is godmother of Emerald Princess, along with Ross.
Jack Jones, who crooned the inimitable “Love Boat Theme Song,” took the stage to do a rendition of the tune (just try getting it out of your head). Charo – whose catchphrase “cuchi cuchi” and frequent guest appearances made her an honorary cast member – played a flamenco tune and mugged for the crowd, looking fabulous in a sparkly teal blue sleeveless jumpsuit.
Father Donald Perkins of Seafarers House in Port Everglades looked a little concerned as he took the podium after Charo’s performance. “I’ve had some tough acts to follow, but I’ve never had to follow Charo!” he said before invoking the blessing.
After the ceremony, passengers onboard for the christening were invited to a gala dinner with menu items from each of the line’s five decades. Instead of formal, guests were told to dress “Love Boat Nautical.” The menu, which includes Duck Terrine and Filet of Turbot with Truffle Chive Sauce, will be served once per cruise all the line’s ships during 2015.
That celebration of the past will continue on Princess throughout 2015. Logos honoring 50 years of Princess will be on all the ships and on stateroom keys. Passengers will receive a 50th anniversary tote bags and special drinks will be offered. During sailings, ships will also hold a new Love Boat Disco Party with 1970s music and videos, montages from the show, a Love Boat sing-a-long and trivia.
Finally, the line has announced a special Mexico itinerary on Pacific Princess, departing Dec. 3, 2015, that will visit many of the ports made famous by The Love Boat, including Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.