The brand-new series sees a handful of singles boarding the majestic Princess Cruises ship, the Regal Princess, as they travel around Spain, Greece, France, Italy, Turkey and Montenegro hoping to leave with more than just memories.
“I think we all knew it was going to be an exciting show,” Darren told 10 Play, “but I don’t think we understood just how big and crazy and different it was going to be than all the other types of dating shows.”
Fans will get to not only live vicariously through the eligible singles as they make their way across some stunning destinations, but Darren also said the group looking for love are “not your quintessential reality-style people”.
“These people were genuinely there to find partners and the love of their life, which adds a whole nice element to the show,” he said. On top of that, Darren is joined by Cruise Director Hannah Ferrier, and Head of Entertainment Daniel Doody — the three acting as meddling cupids, helping to nurture sparks with some of the passengers.
“We have this wonderful thing called the Captain’s Table where we get to absolutely grill the contestants and make sure they’re all there for the right reasons,” Darren explained. “I haven’t seen any other dating shows before where the host gets to go apeshit at the contestants,” he added, laughing.
Initially, Darren was just meant to pop up, hand out destination dates and reappear when someone was “getting evicted” off the ship.
“It plays in like the old Love Boat of the ‘70s where the crew would get involved in everyone’s business, get nosy and let love blossom onboard,” he said.
“I think because I had just come off Celebrity Apprentice, I had a bit of Lord Sugar energy about me… I just wanted to make sure everyone was there for the right reasons.”
Guns blazing, Darren said he’d sit at the Captain’s Table and absolutely admonish anyone he thought wasn’t being sincere.
“I was like, ‘WHO’S NOT HERE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS? GET OFF THE BOAT AND DON’T GIVE ME ANY OF YOUR BULLSHIT. IF YOU GIVE ME ANY OF YOUR BULLSHIT I’M GOING TO KICK YOU OFF THE SHIP!’
“I loved the Captain’s Table. It was the most fun part of the show for me,” he added, laughing. “I was pushing so hard for a ‘walk the plank’! We couldn’t get it past health and safety but it would be so good.”
Unlike other shows, Darren said his role became much more involved and, as he began to get to know the contestants, watching their dates and chatting with them at the Captain’s Table, he also acknowledged that in order to feel like he was connecting with the passengers he had to open himself up to them.
“I felt it was important they all trust me so they’d open up and be vulnerable with me,” he explained. “In order for that to happen, I had to drop my guard and be open and vulnerable with them and speak about different situations I’ve been in that led me to this point as well.
“In doing that, it gave them permission to let their guard down. We had some beautiful moments at the Captain’s Table too where grown men would be crying, breaking down over things that had happened in their life with relationships and why they didn’t want to repeat those things,” he continued.
“I think it was really great. If guys can feel comfortable — especially in Australia where we put these walls up — to be emotional and vulnerable in front of strangers and TV cameras.”
While Darren, Hannah and Doody are playing matchmaker on The Real Love Boat, the host said he has very little interest in continuing the trend back on dry land.
“In my day-to-day life, I’m not a matchmaker. People are coming to me all the time like, ‘Hey Darren can you set me up with one of your friends?’ And I’m like… no.
“I’m not going anywhere near that because, inevitably, it’s probably going to end in disaster and then I’m going to have an awkward situation with two of my friends, and I can’t be bothered with that. You need to find your own boyfriend or girlfriend!”
But Darren’s track record speaks for itself. Two couples that met through the season of NBC’s Love In The Wild which he hosted back in 2011 are still together. He’s hoping that trend continues with matches made on The Real Love Boat, despite it being a completely unique experience.
“It was clear to all of us, this is very different to anything we’ve done, and we couldn’t believe some of the gold we were capturing. We never foresaw it was going to go to this crazy level… we’ve got a dating show like no other.”
The Real Love Boat sets sail on Wednesday, October 5 on 10 and 10 Play on demand