Cruising Alaska on a Real Life Love Boat

Our writer is just back from a Princess Cruises® sailing with some of the real life stars of the beloved show.

On the The Love Boat, Captain Merrill Stubing and his loyal crew navigated the open seas, traversing romantic blunders, and catering to the wacky needs of their guests aboard the S.S. Pacific Princess. It was a Princess ship that the cast called home, after all, so it makes total sense that the cruise line would partner with the real life stars of the beloved show and bring them aboard for seaside endeavors.

In early fall, 2,600 guests set sail on Star Princess from Fairbanks, Alaska. The journey began with a virtual welcome video from Jill Whelan, The Love Boat’s Vicki Stubing, reporting from her closet to fill us in on her cruise packing secrets—“Alaska is all about layers.”

Once on board, we found our stateroom televisions on and The Love Boat reruns happily greeting us—“It’s on ad nauseam in the cabins so you’ll get your fill,” Whelan told me, with a laugh. She admitted to finding herself occasionally watching the syndicated show during days at sea. “I’m sitting in my room eating chocolate going ‘Ooh I remember those days,’” she cooed, nostalgia in her voice.

Guests entered the Princess Theater for a safety briefing while a song to the tune of The Love Boat played from the speakers—“Safety is not such a bore, it’s life vests, sanitizer and more.”

Whelan led a tour of the ship, which included “the best pizza at sea,” the Lotus Spa and Vines Wine Bar. We followed The Love Boat alumni up and down ship’s many stairs, as she let us in on her essential cruise rule. “Never take the elevator. This earns you extra pizza!”

Whelan revealed this was her first time to Alaska. It was mine as well so we went for the full experience.

The next morning, we woke up to the Hubbard Glacier right outside our balcony. Bald eagles soared as we witnessed majestic blue-tinted ice calving into the sea. The next day, we were treated to the breathtaking sights of Glacier Bay.

In Skagway, we braved the rain and kayaked around beds of bright red spawning salmon in the glacial waters of Chilkoot Lake, putting us face to face with a mama brown bear tossing fish to her three cubs! In Juneau, we took a helicopter to the top of Mendenhall Glacier.

After an afternoon of traversing a 60-foot glacial wall with crampons and ice axes, we stifled our sore muscles with the “The Isaac,” a cocktail created by The Love Boat’s bartender Ted Lange. Lange personally created the recipe and told me it’s best enjoyed “just as the sun is setting.”

  • The Isaac

    princess cruises love boat isaac cocktail

    Ingredients
    2 ounces Bacardi Rum
    1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
    2 ounces pomegranate syrup instead of juice
    1 ounce soda

    Instructions
    1. Measure and add all ingredients to cocktail shaker except the soda
    2. Shake ingredients with ice cubes
    3. Strain into glass
    4. Add ice cubes
    5. Garnish back wall of glass with two pineapple leaves and a lime
    6. Top off glass with soda

Even when we thought we couldn’t possibly fit any more food into our bellies, we always found room for the dessert. The chocolate heart-shaped “Love Boat” was of course a fan favorite.

In final port of Ketchikan, we took part in Princess’s “Cook My Catch” excursion. Whelan’s boat reeled in three salmon and we pulled in one in the final hour. The fresh catch was later served to us in the ship’s dining room.

Whelan wasn’t the only celeb on board. When we rolled into Juneau, Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the 1,100 mile Iditarod race hopped on board along with her sled dog, Cancan, who cuddled with the ship’s many humans.

But everyone, of course, had Love Boat fever. During the last day at sea, a crowd packed in for an on board Q&A with Jill Whelan. Following the moderated discussion, fans swarmed Captain Stubing’s daughter for selfies and reminisced about their favorite Love Boat episodes.

The writer was a guest of the cruise line.

Princess Cruises offers many choices for cruising Alaska. Call 877-396-7159 to contact a AAA Travel Counselor or explore the options online.

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David Kallas, AAA Travel Counselor, Murray, Utah

I'm all about once-in-a-lifetime trips to destinations such as the Cook Islands, Australia or an African safari. I love to plan trips that my clients return from not regretting anything.

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