The Love Boat was an exciting and new concept for a TV show when it debuted in 1977, and the blend of heartfelt drama, lighthearted comedy and an ever changing cast of supporting characters made the show a hit for a decade.
But did you know the show was actually based on a non-fiction book called The Love Boats, written by the first female cruise director for Princess Cruises Jeraldine Saunders?
Jeraldine’s tell-all book was turned into three made-for-TV movies before becoming a smash hit weekly show:
ABC tested the waters with three made-for-TV movies acting as pilots: The Love Boat (1976), The Love Boat II (1977), and The New Love Boat (1977). The Love Boat II saw the eventual TV cast appear in early versions of their famous roles, including Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange, and Fred Grandy. And The New Love Boat was basically a pilot for what the finalized series was going to be.
After three TV movies and an overhaul of the cast, The Love Boat was ready to officially set sail on September 24, 1977.
In order to make the show feel authentic every episode was filmed aboard two real cruise ships- the Pacific Princess and Island Princess, with real passengers used as extras:
Real cruises were booked and actual passengers played extras during certain scenes that required a more authentic look. For the actual people on vacation, filming was just an added bonus, as extras would get a raffle ticket at the end of each day they filmed. The cruises known to double as shooting locales would always sell out.
Filming aboard an actual ship wasn’t the norm, though. Like any sitcom, The Love Boat was mostly shot on soundstages that could create the look of a cabin, dining area, or a ship’s hallways.