REGAL PRINCESS Gets A Love Boat Welcome, Part One

Join Peter Knego aboard Princess Cruises REGAL PRINCESS as the ship makes her American debut with a star-studded christening and celebration of the line’s 50th Anniversary.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2014

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REGAL PRINCESS Veranda Stateroom D409.

Our travels from the West Coast delivered us to Princess Cruises’ newest ship, the 3,560 passenger, 141,000-gt REGAL PRINCESS late on the evening of her maiden visit to Fort Lauderdale. Within moments of checking in at the pier, we had arrived at our 222-square-foot digs for the next five nights, Veranda Stateroom D409 on starboard Deck 9. The comfortable, well furnished space had twin beds (convertible to a queen), a walk-in closet, a large flatscreen television, writing area, mini-fridge and sofa. Due to its midships location, our balcony was larger than most, although we would have little time to enjoy it over the next few days.

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REGAL PRINCESS Stateroom D409 loo.

The bathroom was just large enough, with the requisite shower, sink, loo and plenty of toiletry shelves. Excepting the moisturizer, Princess has done away with the small plastic bottles of yore and now has refillable soap and conditioning shampoo dispensers in the shower.

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Horizon Court, facing forward from port.

Fortunately, Horizon Court, the buffet eatery, was still open, so we quickly ascended to aft Lido Deck (16) and helped ourselves to a generous and tasty spread that included a salad bar, a selection of hot entrees (love the mini-chicken pot pies) and an entire pastry shop full of desserts.

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Aft Sun Deck Terrace Pool, facing starboard.

I wanted to give my companion Mike a tour of the upper decks, so we each grabbed a crispy peanut butter cookie and ventured outside. We began at aft Sun Deck (17) with the Terrace Pool, an elevated wading pool that overlooks the ship’s wake. This is a feature that thus far is not available on REGAL’s otherwise virtual twin, the 2013-built ROYAL PRINCESS.

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Rigging the bottle the night prior.

We worked our way forward through the Fitness Center on the starboard side of Sun Deck to the open terrace surrounding the midships pool area where workers were busy staging the giant magnum of champagne for tomorrow’s christening ceremony.

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Peering into the SeaView Bar.

On the port side, we peered down through sail-like ceiling panels into the SeaView Bar, which hangs over the side of the ship from Lido Deck. From there, we continued forward to the Retreat Pool area, the Sanctuary and the Sky Deck (19) observation platform, all of which would be covered in detail later in the week.

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SeaWalk nocturnal.

Before heading to bed, we wrapped it up with a vertiginous visit to the ship’s “wow feature”, the SeaWalk, which projects 28 feet from the starboard side of the ship with views through glass decking down 128 feet to the Ft. Lauderdale terminal.

Wednesday, November 6, 2014.

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Breakfast at the International Cafe.

Probably the most ideal morning eatery at sea is Princess’ International Cafe, especially when time is of the essence. Located at the bottom level of the three deck Piazza, it offers up excellent pastries, parfaits and croissants as well as my faves, Princess’ version of the Egg McMuffin (which they will happily accommodate with no meat). Unlike the McDonald’s version, these are made with quality ingredients like real cheese. Excellent coffees and a wide variety of loose leaf teas can be purchased here, so we grabbed double shot cappuccinos to go and began to document the ship before it filled with visitors. I should mention that the International Cafe offerings change throughout the day, with sandwiches, paninis and tapas-style noshes in the afternoon and eve.

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Lotus Spa steam area, facing starboard.

Princess’ Royal Class ships have the Lotus Spa in the forward portion of Plaza Deck (5), freeing up more space at the top of the ship for suite accommodation. At the center of the spa is a thermal area called the Enclave with a hydrotherapy pool surrounded by Laconium, Caldarium and Hamam steam rooms as well as a wide variety of rainforest type showers.

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Starboard Villa Suite, facing aft.

At the port and starboard ends of the Spa are the two exclusive Villa Suites, each with their own private whirlpool and lounge area where guests can select from a menu of massages and therapies.

For the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon, we roamed the ship’s public areas and show cabins, cameras in tow. After squeezing in a refreshing workout, we ventured topsides to secure a good vantage for viewing the christening. Princess outdid themselves the year prior with the ROYAL PRINCESS’ naming at Southampton by the Duchess of Cambridge but the REGAL’s star-studded event promised to be the grandest ever.

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A pair of Bradys with Florence Henderson and Christopher Knight. Photo by Mike Masino.

On port Sun Deck, the action had already began with an alphabetical procession of 25 frequent “The Love Boat” guest stars. Of course, the show’s nine year reign at the top of television’s Neilson ratings is not only responsible for Princess’ massive transformation from a three (smaller) ship fleet to its current sixteen (mostly) mega ships but for today’s booming cruise industry at large. Being a sucker for vintage Hollywood and pop culture of all sorts, it was wonderful to be just steps away from the cavalcade of stars, even if we did join the throng mid-alphabet.

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Diane Ladd. Photo by Mike Masino

Stage and screen veteran Diane Ladd, who happens to be related to Tennessee Williams, has appeared in over 120 films. She is also the ex wife of actor Bruce Dern and mother of actress Laura Dern.

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Lorenzo Lamas.

Son of Fernando Lamas and legendary beauty Arlene Dahl, 56-year old hearthrob Lorenzo Lamas is probably best known for his run on “Falcon Crest”. Almost unrecognizable in full beard, he’ll be featured in the upcoming season of “Celebrity Apprentice”.

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Lee Meriwether and Carol Lawrence.

Gorgeous Lee Meriwether is a former Miss America (1955) and might be best known for her turn as Catwoman and her supporting role as Buddy Ebsen’s secretary in the hit TV show “Barnaby Jones”. Her cohort Carol Lawrence played Maria in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story”, was married to Robert Goulet and is an acclaimed singer and actress.

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Left to right: Kristy McNichol, Rich Little, Lee Meriwether. Photo by Mike Masino.

Kristy McNichol starred in “Family”, “Empty Nest” and just about every teen flick of the early 1980s. Rich Little is one of the most renowned impersonators of recent times, most celebrated perhaps for his serial appearances as Richard Nixon on “The Tonight Show”.

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“Happy Days” Don Most.

Don Most was getting quite a bit of attention from those who remembered his role on “Happy Days” as Ralph Malph.

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Mackenzie Phillips.

Daughter of the Mamas and Papas’ (“Monday, Monday” and “California Dreaming”) John Phillips, Mackenzie Phillips was only 12 when she debuted in “American Graffiti” and then went on to star in the hit TV show “One Day At A Time”.

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Everybody loves Doris Roberts.

Doris Roberts is another veteran star who has enjoyed massive television success in recent years for her role in “Everybody Loves Raymond”.

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Marion Ross.  Photo by Mike Masino.

Stage and screen actress Marion Ross may be best known for her role as Marion Cunningham on “Happy Days” and then later for her recurring guest roles on “The Love Boat” as Mrs. Stubing.

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Jeraldine Saunders, author of “The Love Boats”.

Not to be outdone in red couture, slinky 92-year-old Jeraldine Saunders introduced herself as “Jeraldine with a ‘J”” to the press pool. Were it not for her stint as a cruise director n the mid-1960s aboard PRINCESS ITALIA and her ensuing book, “The Love Boats”, none of this would have been happening.

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Frank Sinatra, Jr.

Looking much like his father, Frank Sinatra Jr. was next in the queue.

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Charlene Tilton.

Charlene Tilton is perhaps best remembered for her role in TV’s original “Dallas”.

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Dick Van Patten and son Nels.

It was great to see the legendary Dick Van Patten, who has been acting since 1937 when he starred with Melvyn Douglas at the age of seven on Broadway.

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Adrian Zmed.  Photo by Mike Masino.

Wrapping it all up was former “TJ Hooker” star Adrian Zmed, who now stars in his own Princess Cruises shipboard production.

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RHOM climber.

Although thankfully not part of the official gala, one of Miami’s Real Housewives did her utmost to steal a sliver of the limelight.

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Florence Henderson emcees as Carnival Corp. CEO Mickey Arison looks on. Photo by Mike Masino.

As the sun dipped over the ship’s starboard side, emcee Florence Henderson (a last minute stand-in for “The Love Boat” producer Aaron Spelling’s daughter Tori) helmed the event.

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REGAL PRINCESS officers and staff.

The ship’s key officers and staff soon gathered under the giant Movies Under The Stars LED screen.

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Joyce DeWitt (“Three’s Company”) and Lonnie Anderson (“WKRP CIncinnati”) begin the alphabetical line of stars behind Carnival Corp’s top brass.

After Carnival Corp’s top executives were seated, the 25 guest stars filed in right behind them.

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The Love Boat cast looks on.

And then, the ship’s official God Parents, the six “The Love Boat” cast members (Gavin Macleod, Bernie Koppel, Fred Grandy, Ted Lange, Lauren Tewes and Jill Whelan) took their seats.

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Princess Cruises founder Stan MacDonald on screen.

A video tribute to Princess’ 50 years included footage of old favorites like PRINCESS ITALIA, PRINCESS CARLA, the first ISLAND, SUN and PACIFIC PRINCESSes and many more.  Singer Jack Jones was joined on stage by “The Love Boat Theme” composer Charles Fox as he delivered his familiar rendition of the iconic song and then a video tribute to Princess Cruises’ founder, Stanley McDonald was projected on the massive screen.

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Charo steals the show.

Frequent “The Love Boat” guest star Charo then took the stage to perform “Techno Flamenco” in a exhilarating, virtuostic spectacle few will ever forget.

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With a gush of bubbly, a new PRINCESS is christened.

The ship was then blessed by Father Ronald Perkins of The Seafarers House of Port Everglades before the cast pulled a lever on an oversized telegraph, releasing the giant champagne bottle into the starboard balcony overlooking the pool area. In commemoration of Princess’ 50 Year anniversary, 50 champagne bottles were subsequently smashed into the ship’s bow.

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Streamers in the air.

The ship’s whistle blew and there was a hurricane of streamers.

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Backstage afterglow with The Love Boat cast and guest stars.

Before we descended to dinner, we peeked in as the cast and guest stars who were gathered for a final photo.

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REGAL Christening Filet Of Turbo with chives and truffles.

Dinner in the Concerto Dining Room featured a gala six course menu with items culled from the past six decades of Princess menus.

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“Fiera” on stage in the Princess Theater.

Immediately after dinner, we were off to the Princess Theater to witness the debut of the new show “Fiera”, a breathtaking musical circus.

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Inaugural fireworks.

The evening concluded with a fireworks show that lit up Fort Lauderdale.

And so concluded one of the most spectacular christenings in cruise ship history.

End Of Part One. Much More To Come…

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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