THE LOVE BOAT – The hit TV series was a major cultural phenomenon from the 1970s into the 1980s.  The TV show altered the style of cruising by ship. Jeraldine Saunders, a former cruise director, was the woman who revived the cruise industry with her book — The Love Boats.

“Love Boat” became a household phrase throughout the world after the success of the TV series she created.

During the mid-80s, I wrote for the very popular show. It was either in the top ten or top twenty of TV shows with major Neilson ratings.

The premise used elements of “Oh Suzanna” — a 50s TV series where actress Gale Storm played a cruise director — combined with an earlier show Aaron Spelling had produced called “Love American Style.” The added difference was the running shipboard staff along with having the major story be dramatic and not a comedy.

Ms. Saunders tell all book created a fantasy background for the show. “Something beautiful happens on a ship that doesn’t occur at a resort, on an airplane, or at a hotel. Perhaps is has something to do with the movement of the ship. People let down their protective walls and become playful. They smile and talk to strangers. It is as though you are at a private party and it’s proper to introduce one’s self. A cruise ship also works its magic on married couples who “fall in love all over again,” according to Saunders.

She certainly should be credited with turning a sagging 1970s industry into what we know today.   Saunders and the TV show changed how cruise ships were perceived and run.

I knew a lot about ships but that experience had little relevance in writing for THE LOVE BOAT. Writing was mainly about telling a dramatic story, set aboard the cruise ship, with the characters not having much interaction with the staff.

I’d sailed on over thirty ships and liners with my parents, aunt and grandmother in the late 50s to early-70s. But by the time I was doing THE LOVE BOAT in the 80s it had been over ten years since I was aboard a ship.

The vessels I had sailed on were quite formal and a Captain Stubing was not greeting you in the entrance hall. The officers I met were not traveling with their wives or kids. In fact, children were seated in a separate dining room and didn’t eat with their parents. Most of the personnel went to sea to get away from their families.

I have sailed six times during the last two years on Celebrity, Princess Cruises and Holland American. This was the first time I’d been aboard a ship since the 70s and obviously everything changed.

Much of it for the better and a lot that is worse… People didn’t graze on a 24 hour basis at buffets and the passengers were much more formal.

I’m holding the life preserver with a group of my aunt and her friends. We’re sailing in the late 60s from New York to Copenhagen aboard the Swedish American Lines deluxe Kungsholm. A graduation gift. Not many people would dress like this to sail away today. There was no casual dress for dinner. It was coat and tie the first and last nights… and black tie every other night. And you didn’t rent them on board. The passengers owned them and they had steamer trunks. Forty years ago when I sailed on the Kungsholm for my first trans-Atlantic crossing — we went directly from New York to Copenhagen via the Orkney Islands. North Atlantic liner voyages didn’t make pit stops.

It was Ms. Saunders who was responsible for securing a cruise line to be used in connection with the TV show. The producers wanted to shoot part of the show aboard a cruise ship sailing out of Los Angeles.

The number of companies were slim. Ms Saunders was asked by the producers to go after Princess Cruises. The famed cruise line had started in 1965.  Princess thought the series to racy and were reluctant to permit the ABC series to use their ships.

The PRINCESS PATRICIA, their first ship (launched in 1948), is seen docked in the early evening under the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles Harbor (1965) and is getting ready to set sail for Mexico on the first Princess Cruise.

Stanley MacDonald, Princess Cruise’s founder, chartered the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Alaska coastal liner for cruises from Los Angeles to Alaska during what would have been the ship’s winter lay up. Even without air-conditioning the cruises were a big success and the “Princess Pat” lasted two years before being replaced by newer ships. MacDonald supposedly repainted the ship but you can see the stacks are definitely the CPR logo. He adopted the name Princess Cruises from his first small ship…the Princess Patricia.

By 1976, when Love Boat premiered, Princess Cruises was one of two companies sailing out of Los Angeles. Pacific Far East Lines (who’d taken over Matson Lines ships) was terminating their passenger service and P&O was providing fewer services. Saunders was responsible for going to MacDonald and getting the enterprising cruise ship owner of Princess to agree that THE LOVE BOAT could be shot aboard their ships. The PACIFIC PRINCESS was the ship most identified with the show but other cruise ships were used. The Princess Cruise connection with THE LOVE BOAT proved to be one of the most advantageous associations in business history. P&O Lines, when the owned Princess Crusies, said the Saunders inspired tv series had created more than a billion dollars in revenue for the company.

Robert J. Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, called “THE LOVE BOAT: High Art on the High Seas.” He saw the show as a new, modernistic art form that people watched while doing something else.  Not like novels or ballet, which demand full attention. Viewers could tune to The Love Boat at any point and follow its plot, which, he noted, “broke down into an algebraic equation.” Thompson recognized that THE LOVE BOAT was a lightweight show, but says, “TV as an art form was at its best when it was at its silliest and frothiest.”

Doug Cramer, LOVE BOAT’s Executive Producer, would grade stories submitted by the writers pitching the show as “A, B or C.” If your story got an “A” you wrote for the show. It had to have a beginning, middle and an end along with being told in twenty to thirty minutes. I only wrote dramatic shows because they were the longest and paid the highest residuals. So much for “High Art on the High Seas.”

This You Tube highlight is a musical montage from THE LOVE BOAT with Ethel Merman, Ann Miller, Carol Channing, Della Reese, Cab Calloway and Van Johnson along with the captain and crew. The fact LOVE BOAT presented entertainment in this manner was a major factor in contemporary cruise ships having large theatres.

Ships I’d sailed on never had shows like this. Ships didn’t even have theatres except to show movies. There were very large ballrooms – cabarets. The orchestras were franchises and usually booked by Lester Lanin. There was dancing every night, a girl singer along with a comic, dance acts, etc.

THE LOVE BOAT obviously influenced the current mega-liners with their enormous showrooms and productions numbers. Having seen the TV show as what cruise ships were supposedly like — the new type of passenger demanded ships have these mini Radio City Music Halls and revues but no major stars.

This You Tube video was produced by young dancers and singers doing revues aboard major cruise liners. It is far more creative than most of the show produced by the major cruise lines – which are mainly medleys of old Broadway musicals.

What THE LOVE BOAT didn’t have is “Formal Night” on a cruise: “Now passengers schlep in rented tuxes and rented gowns to the dining room. They pass other passengers in cut offs and shorts who have not decided to be a part of what the cruise lines call “formal nights” and are either eating at 24-hour buffets or playing nickle slot machines. The “formal people” pass a ship’s photographer peddling what could be interpreted as “prom photos”.

You are subjected to standing with your husband or wife, family or partner in front of some backdrop depecting a scene found on any postcard.

This is followed by de lousing machine where you wash your hands with an alcohol-based substance so you won’t spread Norwalk-like stomach virus. Then you go into dinner and dine with the “formal” group.

The dining room will probably seat 800 plus passengers. After your meal, instead of going dancing, the “black tie” group heads for a large theatre where they see variety shows. The sad comment is that people no longer mingle with other passengers but are herded around from one of these events to another.

Since a lot of the writers were gay, the show reached its peak with endless camp during the last two years. The multiple segments I wrote for THE LOVE BOAT included a number of the two-hour specials. Only I never “sailed” beyond the sound stages located at was once Goldwyn Studio in Hollywood.

These over the top dramatic stories I turned out starred waning film stars such as Ann Baxter, Claire Trevor, Alexis Smith and Lana Turner. I knew all these women from afternoon reruns on TV and suspected the closest any of these women had gotten to a ship would have been sailing trans-Atlantic on the QUEEN MARY (the old one), FRANCE or the UNITED STATES. A far cry from what THE LOVE BOAT presented each Saturday night on prime time TV that was less reality than fantasy.

It must have been those “silliest and frothiest” moments over the eight years of the show that translated into the general public just not wanting to stare at an endless parade of celebrities sail away in a writer’s flight of the imagination.

They actually wanted to see themselves in the THE LOVE BOAT — an early form of a true reality show? THE LOVE BOAT clearly strongly influenced cruising as it now exists. P&O, the second owner of Princess Cruises before Carnival took over, in their annual report credited THE LOVE BOAT for being responsible in creating over $250,000,000 of cruise revenue.

THE LOVE BOAT opened the idea of sailing on a cruise to working and middle class people who would think they couldn’t afford the fare for round-trip on a ferryboat. Cruising had been perceived as a travel pastime for the rich and retired. And in many ways it was. The only early dedicated cruise ships were few. Cunard Line’s Caronia was built for world cruising after WW II but still sailed trans-Atlantic during the summer. America’s rich sailed around-the-world… not once… but every year… over and over… like a private club. lurline001 (29k image)Matson Line’s LURLINE was the first ship I sailed on. This is the (third) LURLINE arriving in Honolulu sometime in the 60s. On my first trip aboard the (second) LURLINE, I sailed with my parents round-trip from Los Angeles to Hawaii.

That meant five days each way sea, ten days in Honolulu in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the beach at Waikiki and no ports of call enroute. Inter-island travel then was all by air.

Companies I once sailed with included US Lines, Matson, Pacific Far East, Grace Lines, Delta, Moore-McCormick, Swedish America, Home, Canadian Pacific, Italian, American Export, Orient Lines, Italian Lines to the French Line.

I’d sailed on many of their ships: United States, Empress of Canada, America, Lurline, Homeric, Mariposa, Matsonia, Monterey, President Wilson, Dentledyke, Del Sud, Santa Rosa, Chusan.

I’d sailed on the P&O Canberra around-the-Pacific in the late 60s and the next time I heard of this ship she was doing troop duty during the Falkland War. She was scrapped in India five years ago.

In the 60s I sailed with my parents on the Saturnia. The Italian Line ship was the first to have individual balconies or verandas for their first class staterooms.

By the time I was writing for Love Boat in the early 80s, these great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. You couldn’t travel trans-Atlantic except by the QE 2 (only in the summer) and there were no trans-Pacific voyages.

There was no First, Cabin or Tourist Classes. THE LOVE BOAT helped change all that. For the better or…?


The earliest ocean-going vessels were not primarily concerned with passengers, but rather with the cargo that they could carry. Black Ball Line in New York, in 1818, was the first shipping company to offer regularly scheduled service from the United States to England and to be concerned with the comfort of their passengers. By the 1830s steamships were introduced and dominated the transatlantic market of passenger and mail transport. English companies dominated the market at this time, led by the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet (later the Cunard Line). On July 4, 1840, Britannia , the first ship under the Cunard name, left Liverpool with a cow on board to supply fresh milk to the passengers on the 14-day transatlantic crossing. The advent of pleasure cruises is linked to the year 1844, and a new industry began.

During the 1850s and 1860s there was a dramatic improvement in the quality of the voyage for passengers. Ships began to cater solely to passengers, rather than to cargo or mail contracts, and added luxuries like electric lights, more deck space, and entertainment. In 1867, Mark Twain was a passenger on the first cruise originating in America, documenting his adventures of the six month trip in the book Innocents Abroad. The endorsement by the British Medical Journal of sea voyages for curative purposes in the 1880s further encouraged the public to take leisurely pleasure cruises as well as transatlantic travel. Ships also began to carry immigrants to the United States in “steerage” class. In steerage, passengers were responsible for providing their own food and slept in whatever space was available in the hold.

By the early 20th century the concept of the super-liner was developed and Germany led the market in the development of these massive and ornate floating hotels. The design of these liners attempted to minimize the discomfort of ocean travel, masking the fact of being at sea and the extremes in weather as much as possible through elegant accommodations and planned activities. The Mauritania and the Lusitania, both owned by the Cunard Line of England, started the tradition of dressing for dinner and advertised the romance of the voyage. Speed was still the deciding factor in the design of these ships. There was no space for large public rooms, and passengers were required to share the dining tables.

The White Star Line, owned by American financier J.P. Morgan, introduced the most luxurious passenger ships ever seen in the Olympic (complete with swimming pool and tennis court) and Titanic. Space and passenger comfort now took precedence over speed in the design of these ships-resulting in larger, more stable liners. The sinking of the Titanic on its maiden voyage in 1912 devastated the White Star Line. In 1934, Cunard bought out White Star; the resulting company name, Cunard White Star, is seen in the advertisements in this project.

World War I interrupted the building of new cruise ships, and many older liners were used as troop transports. German super-liners were given to both Great Britain and the United States as reparations at the end of the war. The years between 1920 and 1940 were considered the most glamorous years for transatlantic passenger ships. These ships catered to the rich and famous who were seen enjoying luxurious settings on numerous newsreels viewed by the general public. American tourists interested in visiting Europe replaced immigrant passengers. Advertisements promoted the fashion of ocean travel, featuring the elegant food and on-board activities.

Cruise liners again were converted into troop carriers in World War II, and all transatlantic cruising ceased until after the war. European lines then reaped the benefits of transporting refugees to America and Canada, and business travelers and tourists to Europe. The lack of American ocean liners at this time, and thus the loss of profits, spurred the U.S. government to subsidize the building of cruise liners. In addition to the luxurious amenities, ships were designed according to specifications for possible conversion into troop carriers. Increasing air travel and the first non-stop flight to Europe in 1958, however, marked the ending of transatlantic business for ocean liners. Passenger ships were sold and lines went bankrupt from the lack of business.

The 1960s witnessed the beginnings of the modern cruise industry. Cruise ship companies concentrated on vacation trips in the Caribbean, and created a “fun ship” image which attracted many passengers who would have never had the opportunity to travel on the super-liners of the 1930s and 1940s. Cruise ships concentrated on creating a casual environment and providing extensive on-board entertainment. There was a decrease in the role of ships for transporting people to a particular destination; rather, the emphasis was on the voyage itself. The new cruise line image was solidified with the popularity of the TV series “The Love Boat” which ran from 1977 until 1986.


In 1835, Arthur Anderson proposed the idea of sailing for pleasure as a passenger in an ocean going vessel. He suggested this idea in a fantasy article in the Shetland Journal. Just two years later his dream moved closer to reality when he co-founded the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, later called just P&O.

The original article suggested a program of cruises which sailed between Scotland and Iceland in the summer and as far a field as the Mediterranean in the winter.

Victorian Britain underwent radical changes and foreign travel became fashionable amongst the new wealthy of the Industrial revolution. Even so, sailing for pleasure did not really become popular until the twentieth century. Victorian Britons traveling on ocean going passenger ships were more likely to be traveling to a destination within the global Empire to work or live.

The word ‘POSH’ originates from this period. In these days before air conditioning Britons traveling on a vessel to India would favor a cabin on the shaded side of the ship, away from the glare and heat of the sun. Thus traveling from UK to India a north facing port cabin cost more than a south facing starboard one. The opposite applied on the return journey. So only the richest could book a cabin that was PORT OUT STARBOARD HOME. This became shortened to ‘posh’.

During the first half of the twentieth century opulent liners were built to serve the passengers traveling between Europe and North America. Bigger and better ships were built and competed to make the fastest crossing of the Atlantic. They raced for the Blue Riband trophy awarded to the fastest transatlantic crossing.

The development of the jet engine and long haul passenger aircraft saw a dramatic reduction in passengers using these ships. The decline began in the late 1950’s and resulted in ships like the Queen Elizabeth becoming redundant. By the 1970’s the advent of the Jumbo jet really saw the end of the golden period of transatlantic cruise liners.

P&O began schools cruises in the 1930’s. By the 1960’s they had become popular and P&O ran two school cruise ships both offering year round programs. Many British adults today had their first experience of foreign travel through these ships. Many will remember s.s.Uganda and s.s.Nevassa with great affection. However, parents of students traveling today would hardly recognize the delights of modern school cruising.

Today, cruising is as healthy as ever it was and is growing in popularity. British travel firm such as Thomsons and Airtours both began cruise programs in the 1990’s. The Mediterranean and the Caribbean are popular itinerary areas.

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