Jerry O’Connell had never been on a cruise.
Once he embarked on shipboard adventure, he says that now, “I get Jack and Rose,’ referring to the fictional lovers who met aboard the Titanic in the 1997 movie of the same name.
He says that he found, “There’s something so romantic about cruising because there’s nothing to do but be conscious of yourself and those who are around you.”
His wife, Rebecca Romijn, agrees, adding, “Water is sexy.”
These thoughts will surely help the duo in their latest gig — hosting the new series The Real Love Boat.
The reality series is inspired by the beloved scripted show The Love Boat which aired in the ’70s and ’80s. In this iteration, singles sail the Mediterranean aboard a luxury cruise ship looking for love, partaking in destination dates and challenges, with surprise twists that test the couples’ compatibility and chemistry.
O’Connell says that he and Romijn are the perfect choice for hosting the series because, “we as a couple consume an unhealthy amount of unscripted television.” He cites Survivor and The Amazing Race as favorites, adding, “when they came to us, we just couldn’t pass it up.”
“To get to [host] was truly a dream come true for us,” says Romijn. “Watching real love stories happen in front of our eyes, it was very exciting. We were in the most beautiful locations in the world, watching connections happen. It was a real front‑row experience for us.”
Executive producer Jay Bienstock says that the timing for the launch of the series is perfect, because, “You cannot underestimate the power of nostalgia. You can hum [The Love Boat] theme song all day long, and it will make you smile.”
He says that when viewers see Ted Lange, who played bartender Isaac on the original series, and Jill Whelan, who played Captain Stubing’s daughter Vicki, arrive on this ship, “You feel like you are in the midst of friends. It feels like you’re coming home.”
As for the ship itself, Bienstock points out that it had 3,200 paying customers onboard during filming. During the voyage, the ship visited ports in the Mediterranean, including Marseille, Santorini, and Crete.
“It’s really magical, and it’s the perfect environment to fall in love,” he says. “It’s fun to imagine that, at any port, at any given time, our singles may find the love of their life.”
Bienstock adds that the singles are ‘regular people who have great stories, have been in love and fallen out of love.’
“We have a firefighter and a nurse, a youth basketball coach — real people looking for real love.”
Like the original series, this version needed crewmembers to serve as matchmakers. So, the creative team enlisted real-life onboard workers Captain Paolo Arrigo; bartender, Ezra Freeman; and cruise director, Matt Mitcham.
According to Bienstock, the trio have over 40 years’ experience working on cruise ships.
“They’re the real deal. Those roles are their day jobs,” says Bienstock, asserting, “They are not TV people. They are ship people, and over the years, they have made matches for many people on their cruises, and they did so on ours. It was this interesting combining of television and real life.”
Captain Arrigo says that, “I was not acting. I was just playing myself. All of the things that were done on the show were basically things that I would have done in my day‑to‑day life.”
He does admit that he was a little starstruck working with Whelan, saying that he watched the original Love Boat with his grandfather and when he and Whelan were shooting a scene, “To me, it was incredible that I was right there with this amazing person that I was watching through a screen since I was a kid. I was just blown away, and so honored to be part of it all.”
O’Connell admits that he was very surprised by his reaction to the participants while working on the series. “I was shocked at how emotionally attached I became to our couples and how much I was rooting for them. It actually became not only a journey to make a television show, it became an emotional journey for me.”
Romijn makes an interesting comment when she points out that given their age, the contestants are probably too young to have seen the original series when it initially aired.
But, as she and O’Connell are child of the ‘80s, she says, “We watched the original Love Boat. We wanted to bring back the same warm feelings that the original show brought with this new Real Love Boat. We are a dating adventure show. The challenges are incredible. Our locations are completely dreamy. We’re very proud to be a part of it, and we hope everybody enjoys it.”
‘The Real Love Boat’ airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS and is available for streaming on Paramount+.