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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bon Voyage, Love Boat

It was with some sadness that today I read that the “Love Boat”—the original Pacific Princess ship nicknamed after the ‘70s TV series—was on its final voyage, bound for a Turkish scrap heap. To be taken apart and cast away forever.

But, how far we’ve come since those days that Captain Stubing was at the helm! Some in the industry credit the TV show for putting cruising on the map—figuratively and factually. CLIA, the industry trade association, says that the number of cruisers has grown 2,100 percent since 1970! How many industries can boast this kind of success!

There was definitely something appealing about that TV show, even though its predictable formula was often a yawner (and let’s face it, for those of us who were single back then, the booby prize for a dateless Saturday night).

But looking back on show (which, by the way, runs regularly on Princess Cruises’ ships, on the big “Movies Under the Stars” screen over the pool), it hardly resembles the cruises of today.

First off, the Love Boat only carried 600 guests. Today’s biggest vessels—Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas class—carry more than 10 times that number. And whereas most early passengers may have had little more than pools, parties and ping pong to keep them busy, today’s liners offer miniature golf, ice skating, rock climbing walls, wave machines, zip lining, carousels and soon, even bumper cars! (I’ve even heard rumors about skeet shooting….) And who knows what’s up next—water skiing from the stern, anyone?

With all this fun, how come only 20 percent of us have tried it? My guess is that most are content in their misconceptions. As we once were. We came at cruising late in the game—more about that later—but we’ve been making up for lost time. Since moving to Florida in ‘05, we’ve been doing two a year and our 14th is right around the corner. Can’t wait!

Of course, even with 13 cruises under my ever-expanding belt (thanks to those buffets), I’m hardly an expert. And I’m not a travel agent nor have ever in any way been part of the travel industry. Just a writer who, it seems, has elevated cruising to an obsession. I know there are others of you out there like me—who, when they close their eyes, see a veranda, an eye-squinting brilliant sun and canvas of calm seas.

This blog—which starts where the Love Boat leaves off—is for you and for me.