As Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas sails through its ambitious global itinerary, it’s not all smooth sailing. From cramped living quarters to preferential treatment complaints, the cruise is making waves for all the wrong reasons.
A Passenger’s Online Outcry
Marc Sebastian, a TikToker among the passengers on Royal Caribbean’s 274-night “Ultimate World Cruise,” has been catapulting into the viral spotlight, chronicling the not-so-glamourous aspects of his prolonged sea voyage.
Initially excited about joining Serenade of the Seas for the first leg of its journey, fully sponsored by Atria Books, his posts soon revealed a tide of challenges, including cramped accommodations to itinerary disruptions.
“I’m going to tell you ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’ but in my own way, which is ‘fabulous, pressing charges, and prison, honey,’” Sebastian (@marcsebastianf) begins many of his reviews.
In one post, Sebastian says, “You know when you’re out to dinner and someone comes up to you at the worst possible time and asks, ‘How is everything?’ while your mouth is stuffed with food? That happens on a loop here.“
He goes on to add, “It’s an eternal hell. [Expletive] drink packages. [Expletive] internet packages. I want a package where I have a little sign that sits on my table and says, ‘I am fine. Thank you,’ so 14,000 people don’t come up to my table every four minutes going, ‘How’s everything?’”
Sebastian’s candid coverage of his 18-nights on the South American and Antarctic segment, which cost his sponsors $8,500, has resonated with his 1.6 million followers. Yet, his critiques, sometimes seen as controversial, have sparked debate among other influencers and cruisers alike, highlighting a divide between expectations and reality of the high seas.
Says @dutchworld_americangirl, who has more than 880k followers and lives on a cruise ship, in response, “This person has been put on the Royal Caribbean cruise for 18 days looking for the drama – “the tea” – of living on a ship. I’ve been doing it for the last 12 years of my life. There’s no drama or tea on a ship but he’s been put there to get drama or tea.”
Unrest Over Preferential Treatment
Sebastian is not alone in his grievances. Other passengers have voiced their dissatisfaction, particularly around the perceived preferential treatment of Pinnacle members, the highest tier in Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program. Accusations of exclusive privileges and priority boarding have created an atmosphere of inequality onboard.
The discontent extends to passengers like Sebastian, known as segmenters, who join the cruise only for a specific leg, being excluded from certain activities and social media groups, essentially feeling like outsiders on their own vacation.
This sentiment is exacerbated by the fact that only about 700 passengers aboard the 2,143-passenger Serenade of the Seas are sailing the full 9-month voyage.
Following the Journey Through Influencer Eyes
“The Ultimate World Cruise” has morphed into a digital spectacle, with passengers turning to social media to document their experiences. The mix of everyday travelers and seasoned influencers on platforms like TikTok is crafting a real-time narrative of the journey, watched by millions.
Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas extensive route, the longest of its kind, spans all seven continents, with over 150 destinations in 65 countries. Sebastian’s segment, the “Ultimate South America & Antarctica Cruise,” which completes January 23 in Valparaiso, Chile, drew particular attention for its passage through the challenging Drake Passage to Antarctica, sparking content around the ship’s handling of extreme conditions.
Future segments, exploring regions from Central America to the Mediterranean, are still available, with journeys ranging from 9 to 28 nights in length. The cruise continues until September 10, 2024.