Stanley B. McDonald dies at 94; founder of Princess Cruises

Stanley B. McDonald, founder of Princess Cruises, has died at age 94

Stanley B. McDonald, an entrepreneur who founded Princess Cruises and gave his industry a promotional boost by allowing his ships to serve as backdrops for TV's "The Love Boat," has died. He was 94.

McDonald died Nov. 20 at his home in Bellevue, Wash., his family announced.

A businessman who helped bring the 1962 World's Fair to Seattle, McDonald ran a company that provided fairgoers with ground transportation, including electric cabs and pedicabs piloted by college students.

Preparing for an influx of Seattle visitors, he chartered a ship that cruised from San Francisco to Victoria, British Columbia, stopping en route to serve as a floating hotel for fairgoers. It was a "howling success," he later recalled.

Intrigued with the business possibilities of cruising, McDonald started a new company and leased a 318-passenger converted ferryboat from Canadian Pacific Railway. In November 1965, the Princess Patricia left Los Angeles for Mexico — minus the shipboard swimming pools, glitzy nightclubs, casinos, spas and round-the-clock eateries that have since become associated with taking a cruise.

The new line's early trips had some comical moments.

In Acapulco, laundry from several hundred guests was sent ashore for washing. It came back in an enormous pile, addressed as if it all belonged to one generously clad individual: Princess Patricia. Passengers had to sift through mountains of shirts, socks and underwear on tables set up in a shipboard lobby.

Off the coast of Florida, a Princess ship tried its luck with gambling. It proved to be all too successful — for the passengers — as the slots were accidentally calibrated to deliver big jackpots and plenty of them.

"Matter of fact, I had to put up thousands of dollars myself in order to pay the people using the machines," McDonald said in a 2005 interview published by Princess Cruises.

McDonald's biggest coup was one that other company executives initially rejected. Production of ABC's "The Love Boat" seemed as if it might rile paying passengers, with more than 100 cast and crew members at times taking over sections of whatever ship they were using.

"It was a big commitment for us, the small company that we were," McDonald said.

Aaron Spelling's sitcom, which showed passengers and crew members visiting exotic locales around the globe and interacting with one another, aired from 1977 to 1987.

"That show put cruising on the map," Bob Dickinson, a former Carnival Cruise Lines chief executive, told the Miami Herald in 2013. "It moved cruising into the national psyche."

Cruise ships nearly tripled their business from 1970 to 1980. Under McDonald, the Princess line is widely seen as popularizing sea trips to Alaska and the Mexican coast.

Born in Alberta, Canada, on Oct. 13, 1920, Stanley Byron McDonald grew up on a farm in Yakima, Wash. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1943 and served in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, he founded Air-Mac, a distributor of forklifts and other heavy equipment but is best known for his involvement with Princess.

Nine years after the line's first cruise, McDonald sold it to Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., remaining president until 1980. He later started Sundance Cruises, which was acquired by the Royal Caribbean cruise line.

Last month, Princess, now owned by Carnival Corp., marked its upcoming 50th anniversary with principal actors and guest stars from "The Love Boat" showing up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to help launch the line's 3,560-passenger Regal Princess. In ill health, McDonald couldn't make it but was the subject of a video tribute at the christening.

Two weeks later, he died in his sleep wearing a T-shirt from the event, his daughter Laurie Jonsson told the Seattle Times.

In addition to Jonsson, McDonald's survivors include Barbara, his wife of 70 years; his son Kirby McDonald; brother Lamont McDonald; sister Lois Gervais; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Twitter: @schawkins

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