On our recent shipyard tour of the nearly finished Royal Princess, the all-new feature that generated the most buzz wasn’t the tweaked mini-suite design, the size and breadth of the expanded piazza or even the spiffy Princess Live! entertainment venue.
It was the seven horns that, tucked into a smokestack, can play “Love Boat.” The song, of course, has long been a Princess trademark, ever since the popular 1970’s television drama was based on the passengers and crew onboard its cruises. What made the “Love Boat” rendition on Royal Princess particularly unforgettable was that it only plays the first two bars. So it was impossible not to sing aloud the rest of the stanza (and then, unfortunately, the same four lines of the song remain in your head for the rest of the day). The rendition will be part of the ship’s sailaway tradition once Royal Princess begins cruising in mid-June.
If most cruise lines play their signature tunes at sailaway via loudspeakers on the outside decks (or, more rarely, via live bands), Princess joins Disney, which has long used its whistles to carry a tune. Disney’s Dream and Fantasy can play six different songs, including “Hi Diddle-Dee-Dee” and “It’s a Small World,” while its Magic and Wonder offer only “Wish Upon a Star.”
Beyond that, what occurred to me was how little I actually know about ship’s horns (or whistles). They’re serious business when it comes to ship safety and navigation. Ben Lyons, a Cruise Critic contributor and former Cunard officer, tells us that ships’ whistles are carefully regulated by The Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. Cruise lines must fulfill requirements that determine the frequency of the whistles, how far they can be heard (two nautical miles), and where they should be installed (as high up as possible). Writes Lyons, “there are many different whistle signals with very defined purposes — indicating when vessels are altering course, backing off a berth or encountering fog. Two prolonged blasts followed by two short blasts means ‘I intend to overtake you on your port side.'”
With all their practical utility, ships’ horns have long evoked romantic notions of sea travel. “There was nothing like the QE2’s whistle, which was so deep and loud you almost felt it rumble in your body more than you could hear it,” Lyons tells us. He notes that “few ship whistles today carry the gravitas of older ship whistles, which were just incredibly powerful and awe inspiring.”
“Love Boat” and “Wish Upon a Star” may be more whimsical than profound for Princess and Disney, but they’re fun nevertheless. We only hope that passengers on Royal Princess won’t feel the recurrent stirrings of “Love, exciting and new. Come aboard, we’re expecting you…” — chime in, now, you know you want to.
“The Love Boat! Soon will be making another run. The Love Boat! Promises something for everyone….”
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