THE last time Love Boat cruise director Julie McCoy was in Australia, she almost got married.

This time she celebrated her 60th birthday with 60 Queensland fans of the show on board the Sea Princess, which shares the same name as the TV show's ship.

Wearing her original uniform and her signature smile, only her trademark clipboard was missing.

Actress Lauren Tewes said her time in Sydney in 1981 was "one of the happiest times of my life" so she was thrilled to return for another special occasion.

She said she had dreamt of returning ever since and when she stepped on board she felt at home.

Tewes said she was proud to be 60 because she had "enjoyed every minute of it".

She first visited Australia in 1979 to present a Logie award.

The bubbly Tewes was gushing as the Love Boat's captain Merrill Stubing, actor Gavin MacLeod, appeared on a big screen to deliver a surprise birthday message.

"Lauren you will always be Julie McCoy to me," he said.

"We've had some amazing experiences together, you and I, filming The Love Boat.

"When we started in the 70s who would have imagined it'd become the phenomenon that it is today.

"The Love Boat introduced millions of viewers to the concept of sea going vacations and is credited with the growth and success of cruising today.

"We were so lucky to work with some of the big names in Hollywood."

McLead reeled off Tom Hanks, Betty White and Andy Warhol among the many.

Carnival Australia chief Ann Sherry said the cruising industry was expected to contribute almost $350 million to the Australian economy by 2019.

She said Queensland was Australia's second largest cruising state with more than 200,000 Queenslanders taking a cruise last year, 700,000 nationwide.

"Much of the success of cruising can be attributed to that television show - it captures people's imaginations, hearts and minds," she said.


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