Operator: Princess Cruises
Capacity: 640
Builder: Rheinstahl Nordseewerke
Inaugurated: 1971
Gross Tonnage: 20,636 gt
Crew: 350 (European with British officers)
Length: 554 ft.
Berlitz Rating: ***+

As the setting for the 1970s television super-hit The Love Boat, the Pacific Princess is one of the best-known cruise ships in the world.

She is a small ship by today's standards, rated as "intimate" with a passenger capacity of 640 people. Pictures of the Pacific Princess in harbor at the New York City Passenger Ship Terminal show what looks like a tiny toy boat next to enormous cruise ships that can carry the equivalent of a small city.

Birth of a Princess

She was built in Germany in 1971 for Flagship Cruises and named Sea Venture. She was originally registered in Oslo, and flew the Norweigian flag. In October 1974, Flagship Cruises sold Sea Venture to British P&O for its Princess Cruises division. She was renamed Pacific Princess, registered in London, took on a European crew, and operated from the U.S. West Coast. The Pacific Princess' original cruise itineraries took her into Alaskan waters in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter.

The Princess and Aaron Spelling

In 1976, the Pacific Princess was enlisted as the working set for a special episode of Charlie's Angels ("Love Boat Angels"). The actors who played the crew in the special would find regular berths on the ship in 1977, when the Pacific Princess began double duty as working cruise ship and set for the American television program The Love Boat (on ABC).

The show was produced by Aaron Spelling (who also produced The Mod Squad, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie's Angels), who developed it based loosely on the best-selling memoir of cruise director Jeraldine Saunders. Since each week's episode centered around a different cruise, there were fresh guest stars every week, making the show an instant hit.

Many scenes for the show were filmed during actual cruises from the Virgin Islands to Alaska. The ship's paying passengers were given raffle tickets in exchange for serving as extras, and any cruise where filming took place was sold out quickly. The Love Boat's destinations included Acapulco, Barcelona, London, Paris, and Sydney; as the series' ratings diminished, the locales grew more and more attractive.

Guest stars included: Lillian Gish, Gene Kelly, Ruth Gordon, Vincent Price, Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Janet Gaynor, Greer Garson, June Allyson, Linda Blair, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Troy Donahue, Annette Funicello, Telly Savalas, Richard Dawson, Betty White, Eva Gabor, Bill Bixby, Jim Backus, Raymond Burr, Dawn Wells and Tina Louise, Ernest Borgnine, Joan Collins, Tom Hanks, Heather Locklear, Lee Majors, Maureen McCormick, Andy Griffith, David Hasselhoff, Florence Henderson, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Minnie Pearl, Sonny Bono, Marilyn McCoo, the Pointer Sisters, Paul Williams, Fabian, Janet Jackson, The Temptations, and Charo (in a recurring role as, um, vivacious singer "April Lopez").

And, of course, a very young Tori Spelling.

The Love Boat even had several opportunities for non-acting celebrities to appear as themselves, including: Andy Warhol, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the Harlem Globetrotters, Vanessa Williams (as the reigning Miss America), and Reggie Jackson.

By the mid-1980s, ratings had declined steeply. In an attempt to boost viewership, the series added a group of eight beautiful entertainers called "The Love Boat Mermaids" to the cast (one of the mermaids was Teri Hatcher). The series finally sank in 1986, with brief runs to the surface for reunion specials. However, The Love Boat can still be seen in the U.S. on Nick at Night.

Where Is She Now?

The Pacific Princess can be seen on Sundays in her New York harbor berth from May through October. She is one of the four regular Bermuda ships that sail each weekend from New York City, and is part of the fleet operated by Princess Cruises (a division of the British P&O).

The Pacific Princess will be retired in October of 2002.


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