Let me explain. Yes, that’s your humble columnist above flanked by Gavin MacLeod — best known as Captain Merrill Stubing from “The Love Boat” — and Captain Andrew Proctor of the new ship, the Crown Princess.
But there’s a perfectly innocent explanation.
To make a short story long, it all started with the city building a $55-million cruise ship terminal in Red Hook.
The Queen Mary 2 was the first colossal craft to call the Hook home. But this week, the new, 19-deck Crown Princess came a-calling, and Princess Cruises invited me, and a handful of other “journalists,” to take the two-day maiden voyage into the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it (actually, it really is a tough job; I get seasick on the Staten Island Ferry!).
And this was no pleasure cruise. Sure, I spent hours gorging on buffet-line food, enjoying complimentary cocktails, napping for hours and hours, and catching up on my reading, but I also was forced to attend an official briefing from Princess President Alan Buckelew, who highlighted the many ways in which his company is an industry leader.
“Did you know,” he said, “that Princess was the first cruise line to offer 24-hour dining?”
I did not.
“We try to be innovators,” Buckelew said, with pride.
I was enjoying another of Princess’s true innovations — a 20-ounce Margarita — when all of a sudden, Gavin MacLeod is walking right towards me.
This is, apparently, the kind of thing that can happen on a cruise ship.
Now, of all the entirely useless things on which I pride myself, none stands out more than my appreciation of the true artistic gifts of Gavin MacLeod.
While other Princess passengers looked at MacLeod and saw the glad-handing, smile-flashing crowd-pleaser who skippered some fictional “Love Boat,” I looked at him and saw Murray, the wise-cracking cynic MacLeod played on the old “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
So I mentioned it to him. Next thing I know, I’m in a bear hug (good thing I’d taken my Dramamine).
Two days later, I ran into MacLeod again at the formal christening of the ship and we chatted about the good ol’ days (you know, the ones from two days earlier). But it wasn’t really the same.
He had to rush off to be the Master of Ceremonies — Martha Stewart was on hand to break the traditional champagne bottle and, let’s face it, she’s nothing without MacLeod — and I had to do my job (which consisted mainly of half-heartedly gobbling free hors-d’oeuvres).
We were like two ships that had passed.
I knew the magic was gone. Now, all I have left is this picture.