When "The Love Boat" set sail on ABC in 1977, it invited viewers to board each week for "something exciting and new" with the fictional crew of a Princess Cruises ship. The scripted series ran for 10 years, becoming a pop culture hit that made household names of its actors.
Lately, there's been another love of boats, a wave of TV shows set on board various cruise ships and luxury vessels, some that have embarked from South Florida ports. On Oct. 1, Carnival Corp. launched three reality series on ABC, NBC and The CW networks as part of its "Sail Away TV" lineup. The idea: court viewers into booking a cruise by showing hosts and passengers on and off the company's fleet of ships at various ports. More Carnival shows are on their way for 2017 with one possibly aimed at Hispanics.
One cruise industry analyst said the new crop of programs stands out in their approach because they capture different aspects of cruising experienced by real people, not actors.
"They really put cruising in a great light because they are focusing on things beyond the cruise ship itself," said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com, a site about the cruising industry. "The typical travel programming was all so peppy and cheerful and upbeat and there is nothing wrong with that. [These new shows] are just more authentic, honest and real. They are telling a story."
Not since the fun crew of "The Love Boat" has there been so much interest and enthusiasm for ship-based shows, said Robert Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University who remembers an early reality cruise ship show, the syndicated 2001 series "Shipmates," which followed people set up on a blind date on a Carnival ship.
"The cruise ships have a great dramatic advantage built into it," he said. "With a cruise ship, you do get to arrive at destinations and you have all these hotel-like environments around —swimming pools, romantic kinds of things, entertainment...this idea of people who are forced together in a relatively limited environment."
And with more channels than ever on the TV dial, there are more opportunities to find homes for such shows.
"Not only do you have five broadcast networks, you also have these cable stations doing their programming and online services," he said. "You have the tie-in with the real cruise lines...great synergy possibilities."
Here's a look at some of the shows that have recently used ships as backdrops on broadcast and cable television networks.
"Rock This Boat: New Kids on the Block": The 1990s boy band, which includes North Miami resident Danny Wood, sets sail each year with thousands of their giddiest fans known as blockheads (mostly women). Since 2015, camera crews from POP TV, formerly the TV Guide channel, have followed the band as they hung out with fans and performed on various decks. Season 2, which aired last summer, was filmed on the Carnival Victory during a four-day cruise from Miami to Grand Turk Island.
"The Voyager with Josh Garcia": Travel video journalist Josh Garcia hops on board to get to know the stories of some of the locals he meets at the seaports where Carnival Corp. ships drop anchor. The show is like a video journal of Garcia's adventures. In a recent episode in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Garcia interviewed a local artist who makes colorful masks from coconuts. In another episode, Garcia visited St. Thomas where a local cobbler showed him how she makes customized sandals. The show airs 10 a.m. Saturdays on NBC station WTVJ-Ch. 6 in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
"Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin": Travel adventurer Jeff Corwin hosts this reality show that follows him each week visiting different destination ports on various Carnival branded ships. The show has chronicled his day trips including climbing and riding down the waterfalls in Bajabonico in the Dominican Republic and hiking up Cadillac Mountain in Maine. The show airs 12:30 Sundays on WPLG-Ch.10 in Fort Lauderdale/Miami and 9:30 a.m. Saturdays on WPBF-Ch. 25 in West Palm Beach.
"Vacation Creation": Comedian Tommy Davidson, best known for the former Fox series "In Living Color," and co-host Andrea Feczko surprise a couple or a family who has endured a hardship with a cruise. One episode presented the story of three generations of women who visited Russia where their grandmother had escaped a war. Another show highlighted a family, whose patriarch had suffered from a rare eye disease, with a cruise to Alaska where they tried salmon fishing and dog sledding. The show airs 10:30 a.m. Saturdays on WSFL-Ch. 39 in the Fort Lauderdale-Miami TV market and WTVX-Ch.34 in West Palm Beach.
"Dream Cruises": The show is like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Cruising," said Thompson. This cable program, now in its fourth season, whisks viewers to exotic locales on Oasis class cruise ships such as the Allure of the Seas from Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises and other brands. Besides following passengers to the Mediterranean Sea and the Peruvian Amazon, the show gives viewers inside looks at the ships' pool decks, dining rooms, ballrooms and amenities. The show airs at various times throughout the week on AWE.
"The Cruise": Last March, this six-part British series on ITV provided a behind-the-scenes look aboard the Regal Princess, which was christened at Port Everglades in November 2014 by the cast of the former "Love Boat" show. But this reality show followed the working lives of the 1,300-member crew, from the captain and the chef to the dancers, as they catered to about 3,500 passengers. The cruise voyaged from northern Europe to Russia with stops in Stockholm and St. Petersburg.
"Below Deck": This isn't a cruise ship, but it's close. Since 2013, Bravo's cameras have shadowed the crew under Fort Lauderdale captain Lee Rosbach√ on super yachts that measure more than 100 feet long. The show focuses on the daily work lives of these "yachties" and their drama with one another and their clients. The show runs 9 p.m. Tuesdays on Bravo.
"Transparent": The last episode of the new third season of this award-winning Amazon series was filmed aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Jewel. The episode followed the fictional Pfefferman family led by actor Jeffrey Tambor, his ex-wife and their three adult children as they gambled, swam, argued and strolled the decks of the ship.