For an entire generation, the world of cruising first came into their lives via an ABC TV show, broadcast on Saturday nights. On the air from 1977 to 1987, "The Love Boat" ran for a decade on network TV -- back when network TV meant something -- regularly appearing in the Nielson Top Ten.
Before the show, cruising was nowhere near as popular as it now. With its exotic locales (the "Love Boat" live shots put Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta on the map) and zany tales featuring passengers and crew, it made a cruise vacation seem glamorous, exciting and -- as befits its name -- romantic.
Alas, the actual Love Boat -- aka the original Pacific Princess -- is long gone; the 600-passenger vessel went to the scrapyard in 2003. But the show lives on, on Netflix and on Princess Cruises, which broadcasts reruns on its ships. The six main cast members served as the godparents of Princess Cruises' Regal Princess, and often do publicity for the line.
Below are the life lessons we learned from all those hours watching Julie, Doc, Gopher, Isaac, Vikki and of course, Captain Stubing, presiding over more than 10 years of cruise hook-ups, break-ups and match-ups. Hey, everyone's gotta have a role model!
Part of the Love Boat's success is due to the chemistry among the cast. But the real fizz came from the rotating list of guest stars, which included the most popular actors of the time (more than 550 appeared during the show's run!) Marion Ross, otherwise known as Mrs. Cunningham on Happy Days, has the record for the most appearances at 14. Latin singer Charo -- she of the cuchi, cuchi fame -- appeared numerous times as stowaway April Lopez. The regulars always seemed to perk up when the best stars appeared, leading one to remember that you should always look to break out of your clique.
As the only adult female cast member, Julie (played by Lauren Tewes) had it rough. The boys were always playing tricks on her and, in retrospect, often downplayed her job. But as anyone who has ever planned a cruise vacation with a large group of friends or family knows, someone has to step in -- with good cheer and boatloads of pep -- to keep the plans on track. Under that perky smile, Julie is no doubt exhausted; however, she's necessary to keep the team running.
As soon as that special couple boarded the ship and told Gopher (played by Fred Grandy) how happy they were or that they were celebrating a milestone event, you cringed inside. Because you knew that within the next 20 minutes, they'd be threatening to call the whole thing off.
On the Love Boat, almost all of relationship-threatening events were caused because someone was holding something back from their significant other or their love interest. Be it Meredith Baxter hiding her centerfold past from her congressman husband (the plot of Episode 1) or Barbi Benton's athlete boyfriend faking an illness so he won't have to propose, the couples on the ship kept their secrets – and it almost ended up backfiring.
In even the worst circumstances -- a hooker past, a love child, a gambling addiction, a debilitating injury -- the partners always seemed to forgive each other once everything was out in the open. The lesson here is obvious: Always put your cards on the table.
Were there any other ships back then, other than the Pacific Princess? Because almost every crew member had a former wife, fiance, boyfriend or girlfriend show up on a sailing. The appearance almost always caused complications (and a good deal of unprofessional behavior), but in the end, the crew put aside their personal feelings and coped with their former flames as best they could -- just as the rest of us have to.
Likewise, almost every crew member had a family member show up and embarrass them in some way. Whether it was Isaac (played by Ted Lange) having to share a cabin with his mom; Gopher's sister hitting on Doc (played by Bernie Kopell) or simply the Captain being humiliated by his klutzy nephew, the cast seemed plagued by annoying blood relatives. Still, by the end of each show, the cast usually found it in themselves to forgive and forget -- which is something we all have to do in the real world too.
On the flip side, "The Love Boat" often made the world seem a bit scarier than it really was. On the ship, there seemed to be an abundance of card sharks, grifters, unethical businessmen, fortune tellers and gold diggers. Even the crew wasn't immune to their own cons, occasionally posing as someone more successful (Isaac) or as someone's girlfriend. (That's how Julie missed out on a romance with Tom Hanks!) In the end, the cons never paid off, giving viewers the firm lesson that crime and dishonesty don't pay.
For the freewheeling -- and single -- staff, every sailing seemed to turn up a new love interest. Forget the fact that in the real world, cruise lines forbid romances between crew and passengers; on "The Love Boat," attempts to get lucky with attractive guests were an evergreen storyline. All of the staff, including young Vicki, had their share of love connections. And before the tears could dry after one breakup, another possibility was getting onboard.
"The Love Boat" put on several nautical nuptials, usually centered around season premieres or finales. Perhaps the silliest came in Season 4, when a two-part episode featured a 50-couple Marriage-a-Thon. Still, we swooned over the scenery in the special Alaska wedding-themed episode. Even Captain Stubing received his fairytale ending in the last season, when he married Marion Ross. No wonder Princess kept its reputation as the "Love Boat line" long after the series ended!
With all that love (and let's face it in the swinging '70s, lust) going around, it was hard to remember that the camaraderie of the crew always remained the beating heart of the series. We knew that despite disagreements, practical jokes, unrequited love and romantic competition, all of the staff looked out for each other. Sounds like a good workplace to us!
Updated February 20, 2020