Why a 9-Month-Long World Cruise Is TikTok’s Latest Obsession

4 minute read

TikTok is the perfect place to develop niche obsessions and find communities of like-minded content creators and consumers. And sometimes, those obsessions find their way out of their niche online spaces when they get popular, get shared across other platforms, and create discourse, causing audience sizes to balloon. From the #BamaRush craze of 2021, which saw the Alabama Sorority Rush take over the internet and even lead to a documentary on Max, to the private chefs of TikTok, who kick off each summer as they make their way to the Hamptons and give their followers a look into the world of the rich (and what they eat), the habits of others, especially when they do something unusual, consistently draw in viewers. The internet’s latest obsession is a nine-month world-spanning cruise that set sail on Dec. 10.

The Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise, taking place on the Serenade of the Seas ship, is set to take passengers to over 60 countries across all seven continents. There are four legs of the cruise: The Americas (Dec. 10 to Feb. 11), Asia Pacific (Feb. 11 to May 9), the Middle East and the Mediterranean (May 9 to July 10), and Europe & Beyond (July 10 to Sept. 10), according to the Royal Caribbean website. People can opt to join any part of the tour, or stay for the whole thing, and the cheapest option for interested parties starts at $59,999 per person, with the more expensive options going for $117,999 per person.

Serenade of the Seas is attracting a lot of social media attention; the hashtag #UltimateWorldCruise has over 155 million views, and #WorldCruise has over 128.9 million. The content is coming from land and sea, turning the voyage into, as one creator put it, a “nine-month-long reality show.” On the cruise ship, creators have gone viral on TikTok for broadcasting their day-to-day lives, showing their rooms, and talking about spending their kids’ inheritance on a great trip. Just as popular are videos on TikTok from creators who aren't on the cruise, but simply commenting on the journey.

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One creator, @whimsysoul shared a virtual bingo card for those invested in following updates from the cruise ship. Some of the spots include “staff dates passenger,” “pirate takeover,” and “minor mystery to solve.”

@whimsysoul

Ultimate World Cruise Bingo Card!!! who's playing with me? 🛥️ 🌊 🌍 🍿 #ultimateworldcruise #royalcaribbean #worldcruise #cruise #bingo #travel #whimsysoul

♬ original sound - Kara | travel girlie

One creator, who is on the ship, with the username @nchimad appointed herself the “Sea Tea Director” and has promised to post about any drama that is sure to come up on the nine-month voyage. In her Dec. 14 video, she pointed out that the price of admission also comes with a deluxe unlimited beverage package.

@nchimad

I’m staying on cruisetok for the next nine months😂 I want to see everything!! #royalcaribbeancruise #9monthcruise #whewchile #oceano #fyp #foryourpage

♬ original sound - ✨SeaTea ND✨

Another concern creators have brought up is a potential COVID-19 outbreak on the ship. According to @nchimad, an anonymous source tipped her off to a positive case on the cruise on Dec. 22, but it doesn’t seem to have created an outbreak (which is also on the bingo card).

@nchimad

#greenscreen 🚨SEA TEA ALERT🚨 Shout out to my “TeaNonymous Crew” FIRST KNOWN POSITIVE COVID TEST ON ROYAL CARIBBEAN ULTIMATE WORLD CRUISE! Follow me for all “SeaTea”! #royalcaribbean #ultimateworldcruise #covid #cruisetok #fyp #foryou

♬ Npsy Hussle Type Beat (Remastered 2023) - liuslz

So far, most passengers seem to be enjoying their time on the cruise, according to their videos. However, Black TikTok creator Brandee Lake shared in a video that she dealt with microaggressions from passengers and the crew while on the ship, saying that she was mistaken for an employee on the ship and that she was asked how she could afford the cruise.

“If I get asked if I work on this ship one more time,” Lake says in the video. “It’s gonna be a long nine months." Royal Caribbean did not immediately respond to TIME's request for comment.

@iambrandeelake

The first few days definitely had some bumps... Apparently it seemed far fetched to some that a Black woman (and family) could be a guest on the once in a lifetime experience. #ultimateworldcruise #serenadeoftheseas #aroundtheworldcruise #RoyalCaribbean #melaninatsea #blackworldcruiser

♬ original sound - Brandee Lake

In Lake's most recent videos, she has posted general updates from the ship.

As the cruise ship makes its way toward Antarctica, TikTok creators and influencers are planning lots more content. One TikToker, Marc Sebastian, says he will be joining the ship for a couple of days to scope out the drama and interact with the passengers to report back to his followers.

@marcsebastianf

if anyone says anything about my pimple i stg YOU trh preparing for a cruise to antarctica in 6 days and lets see your skin!!! special shoutout to @Kara • San Francisco for the bingo card #ultimateworldcruise #worldcruise #royalcaribbean #cruise #serenadeoftheseas #Uwc #target #vlog #antarctica #haul

♬ original sound - Marc Sebastian

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Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com