Newest Princess Cruises ship christening features ‘Love Boat’ reunion

Members of "The Love Boat" cast (front row) and some of the show's guest stars gathered for photos on the Regal Princess after the christening ceremony.
Members of "The Love Boat" cast (front row) and some of the show's guest stars gathered for photos on the Regal Princess after the christening ceremony. Miami Herald Staff

The Regal Princess was christened Wednesday at Port Everglades in a ceremony that was part reunion of The Love Boat TV series, part launch of the cruise line’s 50th anniversary and part celebration of the naming of the 18th ship currently in service in Princess Cruises’ fleet.

The Regal Princess has been sailing cruises in Europe since May, but it arrived just this week in Fort Lauderdale, which will be its home port for about half the year, when the ship will cruise the Caribbean. It will cruise in Europe the rest of the year.

The ceremony featured 50 bottles of champagne — one for each year since the line was founded — that were smashed on the outside of the ship, and one giant Nebuchadnezzar-size bottle, carefully encased in netting so glass wouldn’t fly, broken over the pool deck. Gavin MacLeod, who played Capt. Stubing on The Love Boat, was joined by five other cast members as he pulled the lever to break the 51st bottle.

The six cast members are the godparents of the ship. The show, which ran from 1977 to 1987, was filmed primarily on the line’s now-defunct Pacific Princess, although some episodes were filmed on other ships.

The ties between the show and the cruise have survived the end of the show, with MacLeod working as a spokesman for Princess Cruises. On New Year’s Day, the six cast members will ride in a Princess Cruises float comemmorating the line’s 50th anniversary in the Rose Parade.

Although most ships have only one godparent, almost always a godmother, the Regal Princess is not the first to have a group of godparents. For example, the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders are godmothers of the Miami-based Norwegian Getaway and the Rockettes are godmothers of the New York-based Norwegian Breakaway. A godparent’s duties rarely go beyond the christening ceremony.

Along with the cast — MacLeod, Fred Grandy (Gopher, the chief purser), Ted Lange (Isaac, the bartender), Bernie Kopell (Doc, the ship’s doctor), Lauren Tewes (Julie, cruise director) and Jill Whelan (Stubing’s daughter, Vicki) — about two dozen other actors who had made guest appearances on the show walked the ship’s gold carpet Wednesday, along with Jeraldine Saunders, author of The Love Boats, the book that inspired the TV show.

The Love Boat, which aired from 1977 to 1987, was known for its frothy romances and the steady stream of well-known actors who made guest appearances on the show — Wikipedia lists more than 1,000 of them over the show’s life span.

The most frequent guest was Charo, a Spanish-American actress who called herself a “cuchi-cuchi girl.” She gave a sizzling flamenco guitar performance at the ceremony.

Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch) and Marion Ross (Happy Days), who also made frequent appearances on The Love Boat, are co-godmothers of another Princess ship, the Emerald Princess, and took part in Wednesday’s ceremony. In fact, Henderson emceed the ceremony, stepping in at the last minute for Tori Spelling — daughter of the show’s executive producer, the late Aaron Spelling — who canceled due to illness.

Jack Jones, who recorded The Love Boat theme song, sang it once more at the christening.

Jill Whelan, aka Vicki Stubing, interviewed guest stars from The Love Boat Wednesday. The interviews were shown on the ship’s enormous Movies Under the Stars screen for guests on the pool deck.

The 3,560-passenger ship is a twin to Royal Princess, which arrived at Port Everglades a year ago.

The Regal Princess will depart Thursday on a three-night cruise for members of the media, travel agents, frequent guests and VIPs. On Nov. 9, it will begin its regular schedule of week-long eastern Caribbean cruises.

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