Princess Cruises selling off its ‘Love Boat’

Richard Tribou
Orlando Sentinel

Cruise lines continue to shed off old hardware amid the coronavirus pandemic to focus on more efficient, larger vessels when sailing gets back to normal.

The latest victim is Princess Cruises’ Pacific Princess, which began sailing in 1999 under the defunct Renaissance Cruises brand before joining the Princess fleet in 2002.

The original ship to sail as Pacific Princess for the fleet, from 1975-2002, was featured in the TV show “The Love Boat,” and that show’s former cast has been tied to the brand ever since.

The "Pacific Princess" cruise liner of Princess Cruises, previously named "The Love Boat," arrives at the port of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on July 29, 2019.

The company announced its sale to an undisclosed buyer on Thursday as part of parent company Carnival Corp.’s stated goal to reduce its sizable fleet among its many brands.

That business plan had already seen Princess Cruises sunset both the Sun Princess and Sea Princess. In 2020, Carnival Corp. had said it aimed to sell or scrap 18 ships from lines like Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America.

The new Pacific Princess, which was named in honor of the old “Love Boat” by the line, was the smallest ship in the fleet, even smaller than Sun and Sea Princess. The 30,000 gross ton vessel had a guest capacity of 670, based on double occupancy.

In comparison, one of the line’s newest ships, Sky Princess, comes in at 145,281 gross tons and has a 3,660-passenger capacity.

The line said that since joining its fleet, Pacific Princess had sailed more than 1.6 million nautical miles.

That included former star of “The Love Boat,” Gavin MacLeod, who played Captain Stubing, joining the bridge crew during the ship’s first sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in 2003. MacLeod and other stars from the show, including Fred Grandy who played Gopher, Ted Lange who played bartender Isaac, Bernie Kopell who played the ship’s doctor, Lauren Tewes who played cruise director Julie, and Jill Whelan who played the captain’s daughter Vicki, were all on board during a sailing of the new Pacific Princess in 2015 to celebrate the line’s 50th anniversary.

“Pacific Princess holds so many memories and cherished experiences to all who sailed upon her,” said cruise line President Jan Swartz in a news release. “It’s difficult to say goodbye to our ‘Love Boat.’”

Other lines have had to sell or scrap ships that would be economically challenging to sail under COVID-19 restrictions such as reduced capacity.

That includes Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas.

Cruise lines continue to put off attempts to get back to sailing, with many lines pushing any return to service until at least May.

Most lines around the world ceased sailing in March 2020, with select voyages in Asia and Europe coming back online in late 2020, although Europe shut down again after a coronavirus resurgence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a no-sail order in place for ships from the U.S. from mid-March through October, and now has lines working under a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.”

The order features 74 recommendations that include building up testing sites on and off-ship, ensuring its personnel are free of coronavirus and then performing at least one test sailing to simulate an actual cruise and prove out its ability to sail safely.

CDC requirements to sail from U.S. ports will mean that when lines do begin sailing, passengers will need to receive a negative COVID-19 test on both the day of sailing, and day or return before disembarking.

Cruise lines were at the epicenter of deadly outbreaks in early 2020 as the coronavirus first began to take hold.

The updated CDC order runs through Nov. 1.