Love Boat sets course for adventure

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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