It only took about two weeks for Royal Caribbean’s 9-Month Ultimate World Cruise to essentially become the hottest reality TV show happening live on social media. But what is it about the World Cruise that is attracting so much attention and why is it getting out of hand?
What Is So Captivating About Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise?
Royal Caribbean made waves when the cruise line announced its 9-Month Ultimate World Cruise near the end of 2021. The 274-night cruise, which set sail on board Serenade of the Seas on December 10, 2023, will visit all seven continents and call at 150 destinations across 65 countries when all is said and done.
As this is the longest cruise ever offered by Royal Caribbean, it’s no surprise that the sailing is drawing a lot of attention online.
It’s also the first time that a world cruise of this caliber has been offered by a family cruise line. Usually, these types of extended voyages are reserved for more luxurious brands like Cunard Line and Viking Cruises.
But while some attention on Royal Caribbean’s world cruise was expected, no one could have predicted the extent to which it would take over social media. It only took about two weeks from embarkation day for content from the sailing to go viral on TikTok.
At the time of this writing, the hashtag #ultimateworldcruise has earned over 150 million views on TikTok, with several passengers propelled to online stardom from posting about their time onboard the 2,490 passenger Radiance-class ship.
Viewers at home are eager to catch up on the drama unfolding at sea, as well as to follow along on the voyage, living vicariously through influencers.
Joe and Audrey Martucci, who are currently onboard Serenade of the Seas, saw their TikTok skyrocket to over 89,000 followers after they started posting content about the cruise. The couple has been dubbed the unofficial cruise mom and dad by their followers.
When asked why the cruise content is so interesting, Audrey Martucci told Good Morning America: “They’re enjoying coming along for the trip through our eyes and getting to see places that they wouldn’t normally see.”
Others are eager for drama to unfold, seeing it as inevitable with the mix of alcohol and passengers living in close quarters for an extended period of time.
TikTok users sounded off in agreement to a viral TikTok video from Marc Sebastian saying that reality TV cameras should be all over the ship.
“There’s going to be mutiny. There’s going to be blood. Someone is going overboard. I want to watch. Bravo, where are you?”, says Sebastian in his video, which has been viewed 1.3 million times.
Sebastian joined the cruise for 18 nights during the South American and Antarctic segment, during which time he posted several videos detailing “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of his cruise experience, and went so far as to call it “an eternal hell.”
Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media at the University of Alabama, also likened the cruise TikToks to reality TV, noting that many of the storytime posts and sagas are posted episodically.
However, the professor also urges consumers to remember that wishing drama on people is a “morally gray” area and that there are real people impacted by the posts, even though consuming content as if it was reality television can make it feel less real.
“For the world cruise TikTok, I think it’s OK to think of the content we consume on TikTok as reality television,” Maddox told NBC. “But I think it’s important to remember these are real people, and that even reality television is scripted and coerced and is forced drama.”
Another TikToker named Christine Kesteloo (@dutchworld_americangirl), lives on a cruise ship and has nearly 883,000 followers. She responded directly to Sebastian’s videos, insinuating that influencers like Sebastian are creating drama where there is none for views.
“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,” says Kesteloo.
But whether the drama is exaggerated or not, the clicks and likes just keep on coming with no signs of the social media buzz calming down anytime soon.
The Biggest World Cruise Headlines Making Waves On TikTok So Far
In reality, most people on the World Cruise are enjoying themselves. But it’s what goes wrong that is driving views on social media – and plenty has already gone wrong.
Only three weeks into the Ultimate World Cruise, bad weather led to massive amounts of flooding on deck 12 onboard Serenade of the Seas.
There’s also been videos both ranting and raving about the quality of the food onboard, as well as theories about what will happen to passengers after nine months of only eating cruise food.
One of the most controversial rumors to have gone viral is that a caste system was forming on the cruise, where Royal Caribbean’s elite pinnacle members received preferential treatment over passengers in lower tiers of the cruise line’s royalty program.
There were also videos alleging that passengers only joining the cruise for a segment, instead of remaining onboard for all 274 nights, were being excluded by passengers completing the whole voyage.
Similarly, another TikToker named ND Cohen, who has dubbed herself the “Sea Tea Director,” posted that a British passenger onboard Serenade of the Seas named Emily Blinkhorn told her the American and non-American guests were being treated differently onboard.
According to the influencer, who currently has over 190,000 followers, Blinkhorn alleges that American passengers were given a lot of advice and help abroad the cruise, particularly in regards to Visa requirements, while non-Americans were left to figure things out on their own.
Most recently, passengers have taken to TikTok to address rumors that the World Cruise, which is currently scheduled to end on September 10, 2024, may be cut short due to unrest in the Red Sea region.
One TikTok user named Adita (@aditaml2759), who has 57,000 followers, posted a video saying that the cruise might end early and asked for clarity from other passengers or Royal Caribbean.
“I don’t like putting rumors out there, but I think we also, the passengers that invested so much money and so much time to see the world, we deserve to know what is going on, what the plans are, what Plan B is,” Adita says in her video.
Royal Caribbean International later responded that there are currently no plans to change the Ultimate World Cruise itinerary – but not before the video received over 5,000 views and hundreds of comments.