The Real Love Boat officially set sail on the Regal Princess last night and while it may have been host Darren McMullen’s first-ever cruise, it certainly won’t be his last.

In case you missed the quirky reality show’s premiere on Wednesday night, The Real Love Boat is a reality dating series that’s loosely based on the hugely popular original series, with the Princess Cruises ship being inspired by The Love Boat’s famous setting on Pacific Princess.

Host Darren McMullen, who is hosting the series while guiding contestants through the stormy seas of romance, spoke to Cruise Passenger about his cruisy new gig, while hinting he’s been bitten by the cruising bug after embarking on his first voyage.

“Cruising around the Mediterranean, it wasn’t the toughest gig I’ve had in the world!” McMullen laughed. “I was a cruise virgin, so I didn’t really know what to expect – but I definitely missed [cruising] when I got off after spending about a month onboard.”

The Real Love Boat kicked off this week. on Network 10. Credit: Network 10

“It’s great – everything’s taken care of, and there’s about 100 bars, 10 pools, jacuzzis all over the place, you’ve got bingo night, comedy night, bands, karaoke – it’s just like a massive floating city, it’s huge!” he said of his experience on Regal Princess.

“Until you’re actually on board, you don’t realise just how big they are. I mean, there were things on the ship that I never got to see and I was exploring every day.

“After watching the episodes, I only just found there was golf and a tennis court that I never saw,” he said, adding, “Hopefully we can continue to do it again and again with new itineraries around the world.”

The cruise ship’s enormity of both size and choice of entertainment wasn’t the only thing McMullen learned during his time aboard Regal Princess.

“I didn’t realise there was somewhat of a hierarchy system within cruising,” he admitted. “I was given this little blue medallion because I was a newbie, but I started to notice people wearing silver ones, gold ones, and black ones.

“I soon found out they were the highly coveted frequent cruiser medallions, and there were cruisers who had worked their way up to platinum or black status and they’d wear  the medallions with pride around their neck.”

He added, “I thought that showed a really great sense of community.”

Also joining McMullen onboard this season is Cruise Director Hannah Ferrier, Head of Entertainment Daniel Doody, and Princess Cruises’ Captain Paolo Arrigo, who will guide singles through the murky waters of love as they explore Spain, Greece, France, Italy, Turkey and Montenegro.

The reality show is brilliantly timed for Princess and the rest of the Australian cruise industry, which is now ramping up operations thanks to the return of sailings after a two-year hiatus.

Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, UK & Europe Stuart Allison, told Cruise Passenger at The Real Love Boat’s launch: “It’s been a long time coming for ships to be seen back in this part of the world, so to have a show like this on TV for the next two months, just as the industry starts to bounce back, it’s perfect timing,” he said.

“I certainly think a show like this helps us to reach audiences that we maybe wouldn’t have reached in the past, so I think that’s going to be good for Princess and good for the cruise industry.”

The Real Love Boat will continue on Thursday, October 6 at 7:30 pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.