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What's Not To Love About
"The Love Boat"?

by Linda Coffman

March 2008 Ah, the '70s. The era of disco music, leisure suits, and big hair. We were newlyweds back then. By 1977 our circle of friends included other couples like usyoung, just getting started, and broke. Movies and dance clubs were an occasional treat and most Saturday nights found us in one another's living rooms watching television and passing around a pizza.

It was also an era of new love and the object of our affection was a sleek white cruise ship. Into our world had sailed what became a favorite getaway—"The Love Boat." Every week we escaped to Mexico aboard the Pacific Princess, with its zany crew and quirky passengers. At this point I have to admit that we young wives were more enchanted by a cruise than our husbands. Most of us wanted Julie McCoy the Cruise Director as a friend and cheered on her efforts to hold her own in a man's world.

None of us had taken a honeymoon cruise and, truthfully, some of us had far simpler trips after our weddings to not-so-exotic places. When we encountered the Pacific Princess on our small screens, we were truly enchanted by the way "rich" people could sail away on a luxurious vessel to far-away places.

How much has changed in the past three decades? A lot! Some of us qualify for retirement and many of us have lived our dream of taking an affordable cruise vacation. Most of us found our "love boat" experiences as rewarding as what we expected, but some things are as different today as they were in 1986 when "The Love Boat" sailed it's final journey across our televisions.

The Berth of an Icon

Back in the 1970's, videos had a lot in common with cruises—they weren't widely available and certainly not inexpensive. In order to watch "The Love Boat" we had to stay home. Not any more, though. CBS & Paramount Entertainment has recently released a DVD collection of The Love Boat™ Season One, Volume One that includes the first twelve episodes of the long-running show. I've just spent ten enjoyable hours in a television time machine that returned a wave of memories.

Cruise Diva with "Captain Stubing"
 (Gavin McLeod)
Each "Love Boat" episode began at embarkation and was a fashion show of late-'70s style without a rollaboard in sight. Personally, I was interested in the evening wear when the passenger guest stars wore the latest in gowns and tuxedoes. I don't know when I've ever seen so many ruffles. And that was just the men! Cruise Director Julie was a woman after my own heart—the wardrobe budget for her character must have been rather slim and she wore the same gowns week after week. Just like me today. Some things are timeless.

How has the show held up? Surprisingly well in my eyes. Events aboard are nearly as funny (even if all the jokes aren't timely) and the characters as lovable as I remembered. Every episode had three storylines, each written by a different team of writers. A particularly appealing aspect of "The Love Boat" was the appearance in each episode of guest star passengers, notably actors and actresses from the "where are they now?" and "up and coming" categories, but a real super-star appeared now and then. My favorite is the poignant appearance of the late John Ritter, who found that booking passage as a woman was the only option available for him to get on board. In drag, he discovered that his female cabin-mate was a sad and lovely just-jilted bride. They just naturally fell in love when she met him without the wig, dress, false eyelashes, and (ahem) other false body parts. Corny? Sure, but that's what "The Love Boat" and 1970s television was all about.

Although the situations were unlikely even then, some were touching—like the one about a mom who'd lost her young son and became attached to a stowaway boy and another that focused on an elderly curmudgeon whose heart was won by a troubled teen stowaway. Even Charo made her first appearance to "cuchi-cuchi" as a stowaway (did that many people really stowaway?).

After sailing on nearly a hundred real cruises, the DVD was a fascinating look into a much simpler time when passengers waved good-bye to (presumably) friends at the dock and everyone tossed streamers into the air at sailaway. Skeet shooting was a featured activity and passengers were often seen diving into the tiny swimming pools. Steps leading down into the ship's reception area made it inaccessible for the wheelchair-bound and, unheard of today, cigarettes were de rigueur in the Love Boat's dining room!

I remember older ships and noticed that accommodations aboard "The Love Boat" were not only uncommonly spacious, they also featured a luxurytelephones—Julie McCoy's cabin even had a Princess-style phone. When we didn't have a phone, the steward provided a wake-up "call" by knocking on the door. And only Captain Stubing had a television in his quarters aboard Pacific Princess. Computers? Well, I heard the word 'computer' mentioned once on the show in regard to the ship's autopilot, but the entertainment staff had only an honest-to-goodness record player to spin discs (oops, records!) in the ship's lounge.

The Love Boat™ Season One, Volume One may not be high-tech entertainment, but it's entertainment for a certain viewer. If you're old enough to have watched the show with your friends, or young enough to have watched it with your parents, you'll want to sail back to when it never rained on the Pacific Princess, no one aboard except Charo got seasick, and love conquered all.

The Love Boat™ Season One, Volume One, available at Amazon.com

Images Amazon.com & Linda Coffman


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