Familiar Faces: The Love Boat reunion and look-alike contest

A Love Boat look-alike contest took place across the United States in 1997.

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Twenty years after setting sail as captain of The Love Boat, Gavin MacLeod was still happily at-sea. By that time, he'd stepped comfortably away from his role as Merrill Stubing and was instead the spokesperson for Princess Cruises. It seems that even after the show was canceled, folks still associated MacLeod with big ol' ships. 

It was in this role that Gavin MacLeod docked in Philadelphia in 1997, willingly landlocking himself for a weekend at the historical Bourse building. There, MacLeod presided over a Love Boat look-alike contest, wherein folks from all over the Philly region competed for the chance to win a Panamanian cruise aboard the Dawn Princess. It was part of a nationwide publicity stunt, searching for any and everyone who looked like Stubing or his crewmates. Folks from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware appeared in their best boat uniforms, trying their best to call to mind fan favorites like Gopher, Doc, Isaac, Julie, and Vicki.

The stop in Philly was part of a 10-city tour to promote Princess Cruises and their then-new 77,000-ton ship. There were trivia contests as well, in addition to a live performance of the show's theme music. 

The tour was kicked off in style in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. That was the scene of a historic sight, as MacLeod was joined by the rest of the Love Boat cast for the first time in over a decade. In a ship christening ceremony, MacLeod was flanked by the likes of Lauren Tewes, Jill Whelan, Fred Grandy, Ted Lange, and Bernie Koppell. 

In addition to the memorable commemoration of the Dawn Princess, TV fans were treated to all six original crew members posing for pictures for the first time in over a decade. The 1997 event marked the first time Julie, Captain Stubing, Vicki, Gopher, and company were seen in public as a unity since 1984. This was before cast appearances were more common at comic cons and fan expos, making it truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Love Boat fanatics to snap that special shot. 

To cap each night off, of course, Gavin MacLeod left the crowd with his famous send-off from the Princess commercials: "It's more than a cruise, it's The Love Boat!

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7 Comments

Runeshaper 9 months ago
That sounds AWESOME 🤩 Must have been GREAT for the fans!
bradyguy Runeshaper 1 month ago
Dang! I'd like to see some of the winners (and losers!) of the Love Boat Lookalike contest...
bradyguy bradyguy 1 month ago
The story MIGHT be apocryphal...but reportedly Charlie Chaplin once entered a "Charlie Chaplin Lookalike Contest"....and came in THIRD!!
Runeshaper bradyguy 1 month ago
Haha that’s crazy!
Andybandit 9 months ago
I love the Love Boat and seeing which celebrities came on the show.
Pacificsun 9 months ago
That kind of an in-person fandom, is what makes a cult favorite, perpetual. No easy feat, aligning everyone's schedule to make it work. And it sounds like the cast was graciously accommodating. Nice story!
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