The Love Boat Cast Sails Again

This past week, Premier Custom Travel’s Founder & President Chris Grum was onboard Discovery Princess for a Love Boat themed cruise to the Mexican Riviera. Here is his recap of this special voyage.

I was eight years old when THE LOVE BOAT made its television debut on September 24, 1977. At the time, we had a whopping seven channels available to watch, but on Saturday nights, it was always ABC and THE LOVE BOAT. By the time the captain’s daughter Vicki became a regular in season three, I was now a tween and had my first TV crush. Of course, I think every male, regardless of age, also had their eyes on Julie McCoy. If you had told 12-year-old me that one day I would be sailing with these people and be the travel advisor for one of them, I would have laughed. 

Yet here we are.

This cruise has been a long time in the making. Originally, we were to set sail in February, but the worldwide pandemic and trying to coordinate schedules put a stop to that. That delay was quite lucky for me, as I was unavailable to sail on that original date due to a scheduling conflict. When the cruise got re-scheduled to October 2022, I immediately blocked off those dates on my calendar.

A few weeks later, I got a call from one of the organizers of the event. “Do you know who Lauren Tewes is?” I was asked. Of course I knew the actress who played Julie McCoy. I was then told that she had several friends and family interested in taking the cruise with her and she needed a good travel advisor. I was happy to volunteer my services. Next thing you know, I’m getting texts from one of my TV idols. I spent 25 years in radio prior to entering the world of travel, so usually meeting big stars wasn’t anything unusual to me. But for some reason, this was different.

After what seemed like forever, it was time to pack and get ready for the cruise. The 7-night voyage was designed to re-create the original itinerary seen week after week on the hit TV show. Yes, they often did exotic voyages to Alaska, the Far East, and through the Panama Canal, but most of the episodes featured the ports of Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and Mazatlan. (Some also went to Acapulco, but we did not on our voyage.) In fact, Princess Cruises is often credited with creating the marketing term “Mexican Riviera” to describe this itinerary.

The cruise began with a special LOVE BOAT sailaway party featuring the entire original cast (minus Captain Stubing – Gavin MacLeod, who passed away in 2021). In attendance were Bernie Kopell (Dr. Adam Bricker), Fred Grandy (Burl “Gopher” Smith), Ted Lange (Isaac Washington), Lauren Tewes (Julie McCoy), and Jill Whelan (Vicki Stubing). There was also a nice video montage looking back on the show, plus a visit from the cast of THE REAL LOVE BOAT, the current reality show airing on CBS.

As we let go lines in Los Angeles, the ship’s horn played a familiar song – THE LOVE BOAT theme. The newer Princess ships all have horns that can play the first few bars of the tune. The next day, our first of three sea days, Jill Whelan and the cast hosted a vow renewal ceremony in the ship’s atrium. Dozens of couples took part in the event. That night, they hosted a LOVE BOAT Disco Deck party.

The events continued on the final two sea days. The entire cast gathered in the Princess Theatre on Thursday morning for a Q&A with the Discovery Princess cruise director, DuVaul Gamble. Each actor shared an emotional tribute to Gavin MacLeod, who was clearly the father figure of the entire family. The crew of Discovery Princess also set up a memorial to Gavin in the ship’s atrium featuring his hat and captain’s jacket from the show. 

During the ninety-minute chat, they also shared their favorite memories about working on the show. It was clear that they are still very close and enjoy each other’s company. The love for the show was also very apparent, as there was not a single empty seat in the theatre and in fact, it was standing room only. You rarely see that on a cruise ship.

At the conclusion of the live chat, the cast gathered in the Crooners bar for a meet & greet with the passengers. The line to meet the cast and get your photo taken was so long it stretched out of that bar, around the ship’s atrium, through the casino, and back into the theater. We were about 20th in line and got our photos within half an hour. When we came back from lunch, the line was still long and the cast was still smiling and snapping photos. 

On the final day at sea, Ted Lange hosted a martini mixing class in the ship’s atrium that was very popular. There was not a seat or standing spot to be found across the three-deck space. In the theater, a cruise historian spoke about the filming of THE LOVE BOAT TV show and its legacy in the maritime world, while another onboard lounge showed the excellent documentary made about the show. 

During the voyage, we also enjoyed LOVE BOAT themed menu items, including a special drink called “The Isaac” and some classic Princess Cruises dishes that were served on the show (and on the Pacific Princess, one of the three ships that were the primary vessels used for filming). The only thing missing from this voyage was original LOVE BOAT merchandise. There was a wide variety of souvenirs featuring the logo of the new reality show THE REAL LOVE BOAT, but nothing from the original series to be found. I really think this was the one major misstep made by the organizers.

Even without souvenirs, it was a real pleasure to sail with the LOVE BOAT cast. They are true ambassadors for the industry and without their long-running show, it is quite possible cruise vacations would not be as popular as they are today. Those of us in the industry are forever grateful to these kind, talented, and genuine actors who made us smile, laugh, and cry each week and continue to generously share with us their time over four decades later.