We're a Month Into the Ultimate World Cruise That's Taken Over TikTok, and the Drama We Were Promised May Actually Be About to Materialize Here's the ultimate guide to the Ultimate World Cruise.
- For the past month, TikTok has been captivated by the goings-on inside a nine-month world cruise.
- Viewers have predicted explosive drama, but so far it hasn't really delivered.
- But as we enter month two of TikTok's "reality TV show," that may be about to change.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
What if you took hundreds of strangers, gave them each a camera, and put them in an isolated, confined space to live in for the best part of a year?
This exact scenario has now been playing out for a month, and it's not a social experiment or an ethically questionable reality TV show. It's the most viral vacation ever taken — the Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise.
The 274-night voyage — with a starting price of around $60,000 — kicked off on December 10 in Miami. The cruise's planned itinerary includes 65 countries and more than 150 ports of call. It's unclear exactly how many passengers are on board, but the Serenade of the Seas ship hosting the trip has a capacity of 2,476 guests, according to its operator, Royal Caribbean.
The voyage seemed almost destined for virality. But despite the best efforts of enthusiastic passengers, eager viewers, and an algorithmic boost, the cruise, now dubbed a "TikTok reality show," has failed to deliver on the drama.
It seems this past month may have just been the warm-up though. Those keeping close tabs have noticed a sharp uptick in the plot unfolding on the ship as we enter month two.
Here's a recap of what's happened so far, just in time to grab the popcorn for when things could get really good.
@nchimad Replying to @user0986584638 #greenscreenvideo #greenscreen Here are some details about Royal Caribbean's Ultimate World Cruise! For everything you get, the price isn't bad….but I still can't do it?? #royalcaribbean #ultimateworldcruise #cruisetok #fyp #foryou ♬ original sound - ✨SeaTea Director, ND✨
Viewers anticipated explosive drama in the days following the cruise's departure
As early as December 11, the first full day on the ship, passengers began sharing their experiences.
It started with room tours — lots of them. Some people took inspiration from MTV's "Cribs" and used classic TikTok transition edits to highlight their transformation, while others offered in-depth looks at every detail of their cabins.
Quickly, creators began to share their predictions for what might go down on board.
On December 15, a creator named Kara Harms posted a bingo card for the trip. Likening it to living in a dorm room, she predicted that over the course of the nine months, we'd see "mass STIs," an impromptu wedding, a pregnancy resulting in a "cruise ship baby," people missing or even falling off the boat, a low-stakes mystery, and the emergence of new travel influencers and sponsorships from brands. (Spoiler: only one of these predictions has come true — keep reading to find out which.)
Others went even further with their predictions, guessing there'd be "some type of civil unrest" a "Titanic"-style tragic love story, and feuds resulting from a rivalry between the people who go the most viral.
CruiseTok was beside itself.
"I guarantee there's going to be love, fun, excitement, and drama," said cruise follower Bad YaYa in the first of at least 24 videos she's created for her Ultimate World Cruise playlist. "It's gonna be like a whodunnit, love murder mystery — hopefully without the murder — but it's gonna be a lot of fun."
@bad_yaya01 Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise ? 9 months long! This is my dream Novella! So let's get comfy, grab a drink, some snacks and enjoy the show. #royalcaribbean #cruisetok #cruiseship #worldcruise #royalcarribeancruise #fyp #cruise #ultimateworldcruise #mydream #ninemonthcruise #novella ♬ original sound - Bad YaYa xoxo ?
Stories from aboard the cruise began to emerge
More and more passengers — or, as some have called them, "cast members" — began posting on TikTok.
Angie Linderman shared that she decided to embark on the cruise at 37 after losing both her parents to cancer and finding out she carried the BRCA2 gene mutation, which increases the chances of certain cancers.
"To me, there is no thought of retirement," she said in her viral video explaining the choice. "There is no way I'm waiting to do shit til I retire."
Cruiser Joe Martucci, known as @spendingyourkidsmoney on TikTok, became a viral hit after he created his account to post a video he initially made for his children, and which they found so amusing they encouraged him to share online, the New York Times reported.
"Hey kids," he began the video, in what has since become his TikTok catchphrase. "Remember the time you thought you had an inheritance?" the 67-year-old said, laughing on the cruise balcony, as the ocean and picturesque blue skies stretched out behind him.
As the "cast" grew and interest ramped up, accounts dedicated to collating all the information available about the happenings aboard the cruise gained traction, as did crew members' accounts that shared their side of the experience.
Viewers learned more about the amenities and daily routines aboard the cruise ship, and as the onboard TikTokers began meeting each other and collaborating with some of the creators recapping the drama from land, the sense that this really was a reality TV moment increased. Many of the passengers seemed in on the joke.
If the drama was ever going to materialize, it seemed now was the time.
@little_rat_brain THE COLORS were so bright ?? it was such a gorgeous place and everyone was SO nice . #ultimateworldcruise2023 #9monthcruisetok #9monthcruise #brazil #morrobranco ♬ original sound - Little Rat Brain
Small kernels of controversy began to hit TikTok by the second week of the cruise
Soon, rumors of minor dramas began to circulate.
One creator who's ostensibly posting from the cruise has been accused of faking the whole thing after sleuths deep-dived into his videos, and Martucci (of "hey kids" fame) said he believed people were impersonating him online. Ultimate World Cruise followers also discovered the Facebook group where those who had already signed up for the cruise had been communicating (hosted by Royal Caribbean, the group boasts 438 members).
There were some less lighthearted developments too, but they're hardly what we'd call "drama." One TikTok-famous passenger, Anthony McWilliams, said he disembarked in Brazil and was told he would not be able to reboard the ship until it reached Uruguay the following week due to Brazilian port laws. At the time, his story caused a bit of a stir, but 12 days later, on January 5, he announced to TikTok that he was "back home" aboard the ship.
@anthonyantoine1021 Guess who's BACK?! My room & belongings were well taken care of while gone. 12 days later, It feels good to be back on board! #ultimateworldcruise #anthonyantoine #worldcruisetiktok #royalcaribbeanultimateworldcruise #worldcruise2024 ♬ original sound - Anthony Antoine
That same week, another passenger posted on TikTok about "flooding" on the ship, which a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told USA Today was caused by "heavy wind and rain." Again, the news spread across CruiseTok causing concern, but within a day, it seemed everything was pretty much back to normal.
The Pinnacle drama that never was
Of all the stories that have emerged so far from the cruise, only two can really be categorized as "drama," in the true internet sense of the world. And, arguably, even that's a bit of a stretch.
The first brush with drama came when an Ultimate World Cruise TikTok recapper who goes by @uksecrettravel posted a viral video saying she had heard that some guests were unhappy because so-called Pinnacle guests — those who are part of the highest tier of loyalty membership Royal Caribbean offers — were being treated "very differently" to the standard passengers, especially the "segmenters" who are only on the ship for a portion of the nine-month journey.
But as soon as the rumor began to spread, others pointed out that giving loyalty members perks is literally the point of loyalty programs, and passengers getting what they'd paid for doesn't exactly constitute the social injustice it was implied to be.
The second big moment was "pinapplegate." What's that you ask? A TikToker onboard documented a passenger named Adita who had an illustrated pineapple stuck on her cabin door. Viewers were convinced it was a secret code to signal that she and her partner were swingers. Apparently, pineapples are a swinger-specific symbol?
After a bunch of cruise-drama TikTokers breathlessly reported on this development, Adita weighed in, sadly telling viewers that no, they were not swingers, they actually just really liked pineapples. Case closed.
Then a pot-stirrer entered the group chat
As with all good reality shows, the key to keeping viewers engaged is to shake things up, and that's what happened on January 6, when a TikToker and miniatures collector named Marc Sebastian entered the timeline.
Sebastian had been following the viral accounts and begging for a sponsor to get him on the cruise to document it from the inside — and publisher Atria Books delivered. On his first day aboard, Sebastian rushed to TikTok Live to say that people had been "so rude" and given him dirty looks, and that only one passenger had spoken to him.
In his first videos from aboard the ship, Sebastian spilled more tea than the wholesome original cruise TikTokers had in almost a month — he named the passengers he had already formed alliances with, fanned the flames of the anti-Pinnacle sentiment, and filmed the moment he was asked not to swear by a fellow passenger and retorted, "Don't tell me how to speak, thank you very much."
Now this is the stuff of reality TV. If month two continues the way it seems to be kicking off, the predicted drama may still materialize after all.