Love Boat sets course for adventure
Louise Goldsbury finds some of life’s sweet rewards on the new Regal Princess.
HE Regal Princess has had an unconventional beginning for a cruise ship. Defying the usual maritime tradition, it started sailing five months before it was christened and, instead of one godmother, it had several godparents – the entire cast of TV series The Love Boat.
Continuing this nonconformist theme, the ceremony in November kicked off Princess Cruises’ 50th anniversary celebrations one year too soon. This year officially marks the half century since the company’s original ship, Princess Patricia, set sail on its maiden voyage on December 3, 1965. But all is forgiven – Regal Princess had some overcompensating to do, after its almost identical sister, Royal Princess, was christened by the Duchess of Cambridge in England.
And there’s chocolate, lots of it. Princess Cruises teamed with American pastry chef Norman Love, considered one of the world’s finest chocolatiers, to create and launch a Chocolate Journeys experience on Regal Princess. Last month the program was rolled out across the fleet, including the line’s five ships based in Australia, where the onboard chefs have been trained by specialist chocolatiers. The program sees 15 intricately designed desserts served (free of charge) with dinner in the main dining room – a new creation each night. Other sweet additions, for an extra cost, include chocolate cocktails, chocolate and wine pairing sessions, chocolate-themed cooking demonstrations and a chocolate body treatment in the Lotus Spa.
One morning, I spy an entire section of chocolate items at the breakfast buffet, from chocinfused oats to doughnuts, chocolate banana bread, chocdipped bread sticks and a chocolate fountain for dipping whatever else needs chocolate.
The best edible art, however, is Love’s dessert range. One of the most popular is the chocolate hazelnut bar with citrus cream.
Romantics will adore the heart-shaped chocolate raspberry mousse with vanilla creme brulee and crunchy shortbread.
After dinner, guests can retire to one of the ship’s lounges to try a chocolate salted-caramel rum shake, a chocolate margarita or chocolate bacon bourbon bliss.
The chocolate and wine pairing – held in Vines, Regal Princess’s wine bar – involves tasting three varieties of dark chocolates made with cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic, Peru and Venezuela. It’s interesting to see how the flavours change after a sip of malbec. It also doesn’t hurt that Love’s surname chimes so nicely with Princess’ Love Boat origins. The pilot episode, in 1977, was shot aboard the line’s original Sun Princess, and the rest of the series was filmed mostly on Pacific Princess and Island Princess in destinations around the globe.
In 1997, the six cast members – Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing), Fred Grandy (Gopher), Ted Lange (Isaac), Bernie Kopell (Doc), Lauren Tewes (Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki) – reunited for the first time in more than a decade to christen Dawn Princess, which is based in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. And now they’ve done it again, in Florida, for the new Regal Princess.
Australians will have to fly to the US or Europe to see how a brand new Princess ship compares with the locally based vessels. But the difference is visible from the moment I step aboard. Guests arrive in a threestorey atrium, which is much larger than similar entrances on its sister ship. In fact, it’s such a pleasant space that passengers relax in the bars and cafe flanking the atrium by day, and enjoy the music performed live at its base each evening.
Another beautiful area is the exclusive Sanctuary and