The Love Boat That Wasn’t

Over forty years ago a ship was built that would change the world.  The Queen Mary?  Nope.  The QE2?  No, but she came to her rescue once.  The Nina? Pinta? Santa Maria?  No, no, no.  It was the Pacific Princess, better known as television’s Love Boat.

Cheesy, campy, fluffy, goofy.  All apt adjectives for this show.  But it managed to stay on the air for ten years and for all of them the opening credits featured Princess Cruise Line’s Pacific Princess.  How the show stayed afloat for 10 years is easy to answer.  It was a feel good, don’t have to think about it, everybody lives happily ever after fantasy.  How the ship stayed afloat for so long isn’t that hard to figure out either.  She was built as a boat that happened to entertain people.  Not as a skyscraping hotel that wanted to get its feet wet.

The ship built in 1971 for Flagship Cruises to sail the Bermuda cruise circuit as the Sea Venture was sold to Princess in 1975.  In 1977 she landed the title role in “The Love Boat.”  She continued to sail for Princess Cruises until 2003.  Again rechristened as the Pacific, she sailed for Pullmantur Cruises until sold to Quail Cruises of Spain.  In 2009 the ship was seized by the Italian Coast Guard in Genoa after the owner failed to pay for repairs.  Recently this former television star was sold for scrap.  

That’s a forty year history on the seas for a ship that topped the scales fully loaded at 19,000 ton and hosted only 600 passengers.  Compare that to the other ship still making headlines in Italy, the Costa Concordia.  Weighing in at over 114,000 tons and able to transport over 3,700 passengers, the 950 foot boat is still on its side and may itself end up sold for scrap.  What’s the difference between these two boats?  About 35 years, 10 decks, and 20 million pounds (that’s weight, not English money).

The former Pacific Princess looks like a boat.  A big boat, but a boat.  She measures 550 feet overall and four of her eight decks rise from the center of the ship.  The Costa Concordia looks like a small apartment building, 950 feet long overall with 14 decks, almost all of them spanning most of 900 feet.  And cruise ships are getting even bigger.  Disney’s two newest ships, the Fantasy and the Dream measure 1,120 feet long and hold 4,000 passengers on 14 of their 16 decks.

We seem to recall as children playing with boats and things that float in bath tubs and swimming pools, the more you had above the water the sooner the whole kit and caboodle was going to be under water.  Height plus weight plus waves equal instability.  And not just in the ship’s captain.  Did somebody change the laws of physics over that past forty years?  You can try this experiment at home.  Take a plastic cube or wooden block.  A frustration causing Rubik’s Cube will work.  Load 3,500 very tiny people on it.  If you don’t have that many small people you can use ants, rice, dust particles, or nothing at all.  Toss cube in bathtub.  Remove cube, fill bath tub with water.  Now toss cube in bathtub.  Come back in 15 minutes to rescue survivors.

So one ship now docked in Italy, that many say is responsible for increasing interest in ocean cruises and sparking the cruise industry, its maiden voyage in May of 1971, will soon make its last trip, towed behind a tug to the big boat version of a cutting torch.  Another ship, also in Italian waters, that many say is responsible for the cruise industry’s most sluggish summer since the Love Boat was on TV, its maiden voyage in July 2006, isn’t going anywhere soon.

Our advice to the cruise curious.  The former Pacific Princess sister ship, the Island Princess, which on occasion acted as stand-in for the Pacific on the Love Boat, is still in operation as the Discovery, sailing for England’s Voyages of Discovery alongside their other small ship, the Voyager.  Could there still be another run?

          Love, exciting and new
          Come Aboard. We’re expecting you.
          Love, life’s sweetest reward.
          Let it flow, it floats back to you.

          The Love Boat soon will be making another run
          The Love Boat promises something for everyone
          Set a course for adventure,
          Your mind on a new romance. *

Now, that’s what we think.  Really.  How ‘bout you?

(By the way, we’ve in no way been compensated to say anything nice about Voyages of Discovery or to entice you to sail with them.  However, if they’d like to show their appreciation in any way we’d be happy to talk about it.  Have your people call our people.) 

(We have people?)

* The Love Boat theme written by Paul Williams and Charles Fox, 1977



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