The Love Boat is an American comedy TV series set on a luxury passenger cruise ship S.S. Pacific Princess. It aired on ABC for 10 seasons, from 1977 to 1986. The series followed the lives of the staff onboard, headed by Captain Merrill Stubing (played by Gavin MacLeod), ship doctor Adam Bricker (Bernie Kopell), crusie director Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes), bartender Isaac Washington (Ted Lange) and purser Burl “Gopher Smith (Fred Grandy), featuring the misadventures and romantic escapades of luxury liner life. The Love Boat is one of the most watched and most identifiable TV series in its time.
1. The storytelling style of The Love Boat was based after an earlier hit Love, American Style
The Love Boat was unique for TV that time because it isn’t a typical sitcom or a sketch comedy – it showed multiple vignettes every week, featuring the comedic and romantic misadventures of the crew of the ship and its changing groups of passengers. It features an anthology formula that executive producer Aaron Spelling based from an earlier comic hit, Love, American Style, which also aired on ABC.
2. The sitcom was based on a book
The show isn’t all fiction – it is based on reality. The Love Boat was actually based on a book entitled The Love Boats by Jeraldine Saunders. This 1974 book is a series of revealing anecdotes from Saunders, who had a decade-long career in luxury ships as a cruise director and hostess. In this book, Saunders wrote about her experiences and run-ins with passengers, crew members and exotic destinations, as well as real-life romances she witnessed on the job.
3. It was first turned into three TV movies before becoming a full-blown series
Before The Love Boat became a hit TV show, ABC tested it first by creating TV movies as pilots, such as The Love Boat (1976), The Love Boat II (1977), and The New Love Boat (1977). The last TV movie was the pilot for what the finalized series was going to be. After these three TV movies and an overhaul of the cast, the series officially aired on September 24, 1977.
4. Only three of its actors appeared in every episode of the series
Throughout the series’ nine years on air, only Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell and Ted Lange appeared in all 250 episodes. Fred Grandy was in very episode throughout the series’ run, but not in the last 4 episodes of the TV movies. While they are the mainstay in the show, thousands (yes, over 1,000) celebrities came on board on the ship as guest stars all over the years. Some of these celebs included Hollywood’s most recognizable stars and personalities like Tom Hanks, Janet Jackson, John Ritter, Charo, Joan Collins, Betty White, Hulk Hogan, Janet Leigh, Alan Thicke, Michael J. Fox, Courteney Cox and the Village People.
5. The show had connection with The Brady Bunch
The Brady Bunch stars Robert Reed and Florence Henderson guest-starred in the show, but not as Mike and Carol Brady. Florence Henderson is the Iron Woman of The Love Boat, as she played nine different characters who got onboard at the Pacific Princess. During one of her guest stints, Robert Reed was also there. In a memorable scene, the show let them acknowledge their sitcom past, as their two characters pass each other on the hallway and share a knowing glance.
6. Charlie’s Angels made a crossover with The Love Boat
In 1979, ABC’s Charlie’s Angels (which is also one of Spelling’s projects at that time) made a crossover with The Love Boat. In a two-part episode entitled “Love Boat Angels,” the angels went onboard the Pacific Princess to retrieve stolen pieces of art on a trip to the Virgin Islands. Of course, the episode focused on the Angels doing their thing, but you can see The Love Boat characters like Captain Stubing, Julie McCoy, Isaac and “Doc” Bricker making an appearance on the episode.
7. The show was filmed on a real boat with actual passengers
The Love Boat is set on two real cruise ships: the Pacific Princess and Island Princess. While shooting, those two boats are actually on cruise, and actual passengers played as extras in some scenes. Because it was known to be a shooting location, both these cruise ships would always sell out. However, not all scenes were shot on the boat. Like any sitcoms, some scenes were mostly shot on sets that create the look of a dining area, cabin or a ship’s hallway.
8. Fans were invited to set sail in the boat during filming
Fans could shell out for tickets so they can sail alongside the cast and crew. Since the show features different guest stars, people would look forward to meeting some Hollywood stars and be seen on TV on with them. And the show would occasionally invite their fans to join them for a ride. According to a 1983 article in People magazine, tourists paid around $3,370 to $8,550 when the cruise ship went to Hong Kong in season 7.
9. Dione Warwick sang the theme song for the final season
The Love Boat’s theme song was written by Paul Williams, the songwriter who also wrote for David Bowie, The Carpenters and The Muppets. For the first eight seasons, the iconic theme song was belted out by the buttery voice of Jack Jones, and was released as a hit single in 1979. But during the ninth season, the voice of the veteran Vegas crier was replaced by the cover version of legendary songstress Dione Warwick, featuring her impressive pipes, as an attempt to boost the show’s ratings.
10. Big fashion personalities turned down appearances on the fashion episode
In a two-part episode from 1981, some famous fashion designers like Halston, Gloria Vanderbuilt, Geoffrey Beene and Bob Mackie boarded the ship to attend a fashion festival in Mexico. But before that happened, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein were asked but didn’t appear on the show. According to producer Doug Cramer, Ralph Lauren refused to appear, thinking that The Love Boat can damage his image; Giorgio Armani said the shooting had a conflict with his schedule; while Calvin Klein wouldn’t appear if Halston did.
11. Even a celebrity dog earned big for appearing on the show
Guest stars were paid around $1,000 to $25,000 per day for their roles. But to add to that, even a celebrity dog earned a grand for appearing on the show. Tundra the Wonder Dog, who was a famous dog in the ‘80s who appeared in the hit movie Against All Odds, was also paid a rate of $1,000 a day. The white pooch appeared on the episode “The Dog Show.”
12. The Pacific Princess got caught up in drugs and was eventually scrapped in 2013
After The Love Boat went off air, the Pacific Princess (which was eventually renamed as MS Princess), still operated as a functioning luxury liner. However, it got caught up in the shady world of narcotics, as it became a major tool for smugglers trafficking drugs around the Mediterranean. In 1998, the ship was impounded by police in Greece after heroin was found aboard in the ship. After that, the ship went through different owners and financial maladies. By 2010, the ship became too old and expensive to renovate. The MS Princess spent its final years in a state of constant repairs and unpaid debt, and was eventually sold as scrap in 2012 to a Turkish company for $3 million. The next year, they proceeded with dismantling parts of the ship, but two employees died from inhaling toxic fumes while scrapping the ship. In 2014, the ship was completely gone.