All the drama on board the 9-month cruise going viral on TikTok

 (ES composite)
(ES composite)

“There’s going to be mutiny. There’s going to be blood. Someone is going overboard. I want to watch. We’re witnessing Fyre Festival...put me on the cruise.”

These were the words of Marc Sebastian, just one of the hundreds of TikTok users who, in the last few weeks, have developed a new and all-consuming obsession — Royal Caribbean’s nine-month Ultimate World Cruise. Or, as it has been dubbed on the app, the "nine-month TikTok reality show".

Advertised as “the most epic cruise to ever set sail”, the Ultimate World Cruise is Royal Caribbean's longest-ever cruise. With a 274-night itinerary, prices for the full trip start at $53,999 (£42,462) per person. They can go up to an eye-watering $117,599 (£92,474) excluding taxes and fees, according to Royal Caribbean’s website. Passengers who’ve booked for the whole shebang (some people are on board for only certain segments, more on this later) will visit 65 countries, including Antarctica.

Since the ship set sail on December 10, TikTok has been flooded (no pun intended) with guests' posts documenting their trip. Passengers have become overnight celebrities, with their followers skyrocketing overnight.

Accounts chronicling the cruise from users on land have also quickly emerged, with creators obsessively analysing passengers’ videos and anticipating the ship’s potential for drama. It's Triangle of Sadness meets Titanic meets Below Deck — and it has got TikTok in a chokehold; in only two weeks, the hashtag #UltimateWorldCruise has attracted more than 150 million views. “I’m so invested in this 9 month world cruise happening cause I know it’s gonna be some MESS,” one person posted on X.

“I cannot WAIT for the nine-month cruise documentary ala (sic) Fyre Fest,” another said. “It’s already giving Lord of the Flies.”

One TikToker made a virtual bingo card that went viral, with predictions including “petty neighbour drama,” “a wedding,” “stowaway” and “pirate takeover".

And so far, #cruisetok has delivered on the drama. There are already allegations of a class system emerging, rumours of swingers, a flood, allegations of racism, and outrage at the cramped conditions. One creator, who refers to herself as TikTok’s “sea tea” director and updates her followers with “breaking news”, claimed that someone had already left the cruise.

If you’re wondering just how entertaining a group of tech-illiterate retirees could be, think again. Part of the fun of the UWC is that it has attracted everyone from social media-savvy Gen Zers and millennials to boomers and the elderly. (One couple made videos on board joking about how they spent their children’s inheritances on the trip).

 (Royal Caribbean)
(Royal Caribbean)

Passengers are documenting everything from relaxing on a private island in the Bahamas to MTV Cribs-style tours of their cabins (called staterooms). What might look like mundane visits to the ship’s laundry room, workouts, and trips to the all-day buffet have become blockbuster hits on the app.

Here's everything you need to know about who's on board and all the drama so far.

From Gen Z influencers to wealthy retirees — all the main characters on board

Amike Oosthuizen (@amikeoosthuizen/Instagram)
Amike Oosthuizen (@amikeoosthuizen/Instagram)

The ship, called the Serenade of the Seas, has a capacity for 2,476 guests — although so far, no one knows exactly how many people are actually on board. However, eagle-eyed fans spotted that recent footage from traveller @brooklynschwetje shows a cruise meeting when it was revealed that 1,093 membership passengers were on board.

The most prolific creator so far has been @amike_oosthuizen, a South African influencer with more than 200,000 followers who is on board and working remotely with her husband. Her video titled “what I eat in a day on a  nine month cruise”, where she takes viewers on a trip to the ship’s all-day buffet, had 3.9 million views at the time of writing. Some of her food included fruit, yoghurt, a muffin, oatmeal, and a smoothie. For lunch, she has a salad, a burger patty with cheese, and a plate of vegetables. She finishes the day with fish, noodles, corn, and slices of watermelon.

Mike and Nancy, an older couple whose TikTok bio says they are "finding fulfilment in life's second phase", have been sharing wholesome content on their account @livingphase2, racking up almost 30,000 followers at the time of writing.

Another star of #cruisetok is Joe Martucci, a 67-year-old recent retiree from Florida, posting from the ship with the handle @spendingourkidsmoney. Joe’s four children encouraged him to post video updates on TikTok, which he’d never used before, he told the New York Times. His first video had nearly half a million views at the time of writing — and he has more than 70,000 followers.

Lindsay Wilson, a 32-year-old teacher on board from Arizona, told the New York Times that the attention “was very, very weird". She said that she and some of the other passengers who had amassed new TikTok followers had connected in person and talked via group chats about their newfound celebrity status.

Some of these users, many deeming themselves as The Ultimate Real World Cruise cast, have started to hang out with each other on the ship and post content together.

Even some of the staff on board have started posting videos, such as Julian Mendoza with the handle @cooljul1.

“Really tiny” rooms


Of course, part of the fascination with #cruisetok is an obsession with the ridiculous lives of the super-rich and what they choose to spend their money on. This is perhaps why TikTokers sharing in-depth on board room tours, often showing off their relatively small living conditions, have gone particularly viral. Schadenfreude sells.

One passenger, Ale Kenney, who is on board with her husband Andrew, recently shared a video of her room which has racked up almost three million views.

“The closet is really tiny — I’ll leave that to the imagination because if I open it, everything’s going to fall out,” she says at one point, gesturing to a small cupboard next to the door.

“Our bathroom is really tiny, but we make it work. We added a couple of storage options — this magnetic shelf from Amazon — and then just crammed our medicine and my makeup down here.”

Pointing at the bathroom cupboard, she laughs: “This opens up but it’s very teeny tiny. And that is it from our luxury bathroom experience.”

She and Andrew decorated the walls with a banner, pictures, and sketches — and the room has a sea-view window.

“This feels like dystopian (sic) jail” one user commented. Another said: “I can’t imagine being on a cruise for 9 months without an outside stateroom. I would go insane”.

Swingers rumours, a flood, and racism allegations — the drama on board so far


Social media has been quick to compare the cruise to the hit reality show Below Deck, which follows crews working on luxury yachts, with users eagerly awaiting an explosion of controversy. But has there been any drama yet?

Well... sort of.

There was a brief moment where it looked like there were some swingers on the ship, when a woman and her husband put a pineapple (a symbol used to signal to other swingers) on their door. Sadly, the woman later clarified that she just “liked pineapples".

New footage from inside the ship, largely posted on TikTok, has shown a flood on the 12th deck, with passengers reporting strong winds and storms outside. One user shared a video of the flood with the caption: “Our first storm of the Ultimate WC, 60mph winds, flooding, forward elevators closed until further notice.”

The main point of tension, however, has been an apparent class system that has emerged. The cruise is divided into four segments — Americas, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Med, and Europe & Beyond — and each is available to book individually, so not everyone on board is going the full distance. There have been rumours of animosity between the “segmenters” and those on board for nine months, with the segmenters reportedly receiving different treatment to the full-boarders. However, the only real injustice so far seems to be some full-boarders allegedly gatekeeping the cruise's Facebook group.

Perhaps the best update so far has come from Mike and Nancy, an older couple who have been chronicling their journey on the ship on TikTok. In a video posted on January 2, the couple dropped the bombshell that the ship was running out of wine.

“Well, all of you on TikTok who’ve been asking for drama on the Ultimate World Cruise, we finally have some drama for you. They’re running out of wine. Can you believe it?” Mike said. “They’ve told us here that we’ve gone through more wine than they could’ve ever anticipated. They’re hoping to get restocked, they’re trying at all the different ports. They tried to restock in Barbados, that didn’t work, they tried to restock in Rio, they got a little bit. We’ll keep you updated.”

There have been more serious allegations, though. A week into the ship’s voyage, Brandee Lake, a black content creator and passenger posted a video (which has 2.6 million views at the time of writing) in which she claimed that she had been mistaken multiple times for a crew member, once by a passenger and another time by a staff member.

“If I get asked if I work on this ship one more time,” she said in the TikTok. “After I said I was not working, then I was asked if I was independently wealthy — like, basically, how did you afford this?”. Alongside the video, she wrote the caption: “Apparently it seemed far fetched to some that a Black woman (and family) could be a guest on the once in a lifetime experience".

Brandee later told TODAY that after she posted her TikTok the cruise’s hotel manager made it a point to greet her during dinner. Royal Caribbean did not respond when approached for comment about the allegations.