My first introduction to cruise ships was watching the popular television show The Love Boat on Saturday nights in the late 1970's. Did the fictional Pacific Princess prepare me for my real life experience on the Island Princess? Sort of.
I was able to make a qualified comparison between my fictional and real cruising worlds after meeting with two of the ship's officers: Hotel General Manager, Sheila Griffin and Cruise Director Richard Joseph. They were kind enough to tell me about their jobs, life on a ship, and how cruising has changed from the Love Boat of the 70's to today's modern ocean liners.
My best recollection from the show was the Love Boat's dedicated crew. You might remember them: the capable Captain Stubing; the ship's doctor, Dr. Bricker; Gopher, the Yeoman Purser; Issac the Bartender and the adorable, friendly Cruise Director, Julie.
I kept my eyes on the lookout for their counterparts on my ship and was surprised to learn that overseeing a modern day cruise ship actually requires thirteen officers, of which two are the primary managers: the Captain and the Hotel General Manager. The captain is ultimately responsible for everything but specifically, he oversees the mechanical aspects of the ship. It is the duty of the hotel general manager to handle everything having to do with the passengers aka guest services. It is like doing Gopher's job but with a lot more authority. Ms. Griffin was in charge of 680 crew members who worked in the areas of cabin duty, entertainment, food and medical. In addition, she took care of whatever circumstances arose with the passengers. She was one busy lady!!! Sheila attained her rank of four stripes by working 25 years with Princess Cruises, including a stint on the original Pacific Princess!!
Like on the show, the Cruise Director is a very public position. Mr. Joseph has one of the longest tenures of any cruise director in the Princess Cruises line. His whole ambition as cruise director is to "make a difference in a person's cruise experience." Just like Julie, he was out and about meeting and talking to passengers and made himself available to answer questions or offer suggestions. He especially enjoys mentoring the almost 60 members of his team.
The Love Boat was a real ship owned and operated by Princess Cruises. Compared to today's standards, the Pacific Princess was a small ship (just 600 passengers) with one main destination: the Mexican Riviera. Today, Princess Cruises boasts a fleet of 18 ships that sail throughout the world. Number 19, the Regal Princess, is coming on board in 2014.
Ms. Griffin pointed out several changes that have taken place with Princess Cruise ships, especially in the past ten years. They include:
Larger vessels that accommodate more outside cabins with balconies
More guest services (state-of-the-art gyms, spas, special tours)
More eating stations
Alternative formal eating venues
"Movies Under the Stars"colossal HD screen viewing on deck
Proper show lounges
Original musical productions produced specifically for the ship
Our ship was designed to carry 1,900 passengers. Including the crew, there was actually 2,015 people on board. One thing that I was quick to notice was that it never ever felt crowded. I asked Ms. Griffin why that was and she replied it was because of the French design of the ship. The ship was built in sections, with lots of little corners, creating the illusion of being on a smaller ship.
All cabins are ADA compliant, something that didn't exist in the 1970's. Depending on how much you want to pay, you can have a regular cabin all the way up to a grand suite. Repeat passengers (like repeat guests on the television show) are common. Mr. Richards shared how he knew of one passenger who has sailed 11,000 days with Princess Cruises. She basically lives in one of the suites and only leaves to go home to pay her taxes once a year and to occasionally visit her children and grandchildren. My husband and I are going to remember that when we get to retirement age. A cruise ship would definitely be a much better alternative retirement facility than a rest home!!!
At the end of each week's show, the Love Boat crew wrapped up the cruise talking with the passengers, making sure they had a memorable voyage. When I asked Ms. Griffin and Mr. Richards what they hope their guests will remember most about their cruise, they replied, "The family feel," "The up close and personal attention," and "That they were treated by the consummate host."
The Love Boat introduced me to a world I one day wanted to experience. Now that I've been on a Princess Cruise, and had the chance to talk to officers who have a passion for what they do, I can truly attest that I have been the guest of the "consummate host." Can't wait to go again!!!
Where are you ready to cruise to?
***Editor's Note: While on board the Island Princess, I learned by reading USA Today, that the Love Boat had reached its final destination: a scrap yard in Turkey. RIP Pacific Princess.