TikTok is turning a 9-month-long cruise ship into an official reality TV show.
On Dec. 10, Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise kicked off its round-the-world tour. TikTok’s obsession with the voyage and its partakers quickly followed suit. The hashtag #RoyalCaribbeanUltimateWorldCruise has already accumulated 8.3 million views on the platform, and with the cruise liner ending its voyage on Sept. 10, 2024, that number has plenty of time to continue to climb.
A corner of TikTok has been closely tracking activity on the cruise ship, called Serenade of the Seas, with many users pointing out that so much can happen within the span that it’s at sea, including new relationships, falling outs, pregnancy, death and more.
“Can you imagine the type of drama that is gonna happen on that boat?” user @nchimad on TikTok said in a video posted soon after the trip set sail. “If something big goes down, I want to hear from different people, different angles, perspectives.”
Read on for everything we know so far.
What is the 9-month cruise all over TikTok?
Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise is a 274-night trip that began on Dec. 10, 2023, when it left from Miami and is expected to come to an end in the same place on Sept. 10, 2024.
Passengers are currently staying on Serenade of the Seas, a ship that had its maiden voyage in 2003.
Serenade of the Seas will tour the world in four segments: the Americas, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Mediterranean and “Europe and beyond.”
Ticket rates are based on a range of 1,073 staterooms and the full 274-night trip ran from $53,999 per person to $117,599 per person. Tickets for different legs of the trip are still available to book.
Why is the 9-month cruise all over TikTok?
TikTok users have become highly invested in the cruise’s passengers, likening them to a cast of characters that would typically appear on a reality show.
For people tracking the day-to-day lives of the cruise ship passengers, many have predicted that the 9-month trip has the potential for drama equivalent to or even larger than a reality TV series production. After all, the footage being streamed on TikTok is created and edited by real people, not a major network.
“I made an Ultimate World Cruise Bingo card for anyone else who is buckling in for this nine months TikTok reality show,” user @whimsysoul shared in a video posted shortly after the ship’s voyage began.
Her curated game of predicted events includes “minor mystery to solve,” “stowaway,” “podcast following the trip,” “2nd COVID outbreak” and “staff dates passenger.”
Some users following the events of the cruise ship appear to be ogling the voyage with a sense of suspicion and a sobering dose of reality. After all, the voyage’s 9-month set up brings back memories of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine.
As user @megseestheworld notes, the entire experience reminds her of an episode of “Suite Life on Deck” when the sea days repeat themselves, a similar vibe to the movie “Groundhog Day.”
“I think that’s what it would start to feel like, with all those sea days, like I couldn’t do it,” she says in the clip.
“But then on the flip side when they get to Europe in the last segment of the cruise, like the last part of the itinerary, it’s almost too intense,” she continues. “I think I counted at some points, they’re going 18 days in port with no sea days, and the last segment means that you’re probably six months into this cruise, you’re probably going to be really tired? I don’t know, I’d be tired.”
Who are the TikTokers on the ship?
While the exact number of current passengers on Serenade of the Seas, which can hold up to 2,476 guests, is unknown, recent footage from traveler @brooklynschwetje shows a cruise meeting when it was revealed 1,093 membership passengers were on board.
A select few passengers have been consistently posting on TikTok since the voyage began, and the list includes but isn’t limited to: @aa.kenney, @iambrandeelake, @angielinderman, @brooklynschwetje, @madisonschwetje, @amike_oosthuizen, @little_rat_brain, @drjennytravels and @spendingourkidsmoney.
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.
Alé Kenney and Andrew Kenney, @aa.kenney
Alé and Andrew Kenney will celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary during the Ultimate World Cruise tour.
Speaking to TODAY.com, 29-year-old Alé Kenney says that the cruise isn’t just a massive voyage made up of TikTokers and Generation Z.
“I would say the majority, like the overwhelming majority of passengers, are retirees (or seniors),” she explains, summarizing that number as being at least 90% of the passengers.
According to the Kenneys, the two decided to hop on board the Serenade of the Seas after her father died two years ago.
“My dad got sick and passed away, and he was only 57,” she explains.
“We just kind of started running numbers and processing and thinking about it,” Andrew Kenney adds. “We were like, ‘Well, we can do it. We don’t have a mortgage right now. We don’t have kids yet.’ We’re just in a season of life where we could actually take nine months off and see the world.”
The couple declined to share what they do for work and whether they will work during the trip.
Brandee Lake @iambrandeelake, Shannon Lake @swankalamode
Brandee Lake, 46, and her 42-year-old sister, Shannon, decided to join their retired parents on their trip.
“I’m like, you’re not leaving us behind. I don’t really know what you think is going on here,” Shannon Lake quips in their interview with TODAY.com
Brandee Lake worked in marketing and advertisement and lived in Los Angeles, California, before the trip. Shannon Lake runs her own consulting business and plans to work remotely from the ship while making up her own hours.
The sisters say they’ll share the same cabin during their 9 months on the trip, and that they don’t expect to butt heads too much with each other or their parents, since they’re close and quarantined together during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Users have expressed interest in following the Lake sisters in particular to see their perspective of traveling the world and taking part in a cruise as Black women.
“We definitely are the youngest Black people on the boat,” Brandee Lake explains.
“I think that’s why my TikTok skyrocketed so fast, because I was the first Black person that people were seeing post that was actually on the ship,” Shannon Lake adds.
During their joint interview, the sisters agreed in unison that the people and staff for the “most part are amazing.”
“So friendly, so kind so much energy,” Brandee Lake says, quashing any drama that users have attempted to stir up so far. “Our people at dinner are like family already, you know, we have people who we don’t even interact with normally (who) are like family already. And of course, the staff itself is quite diverse.”
Though they both note that within days of setting sail, they did experience a loaded bump: “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 Lake wrote alongside a recent video she shared on her TikTok.
Soon after the post began to circulate, she says the cruise’s hotel director made a point to greet her at dinner.
“I think (TikTok users who watched the post) were tagging Royal Caribbean like ‘you need to fix this,'” Brandee Lake explains. “They did at least take the time to come to me and you know, ask how everything’s going now.”
The Lake sisters say that other than this, they’ve yet to encounter any reality television-worthy bits of drama to mark on a Bingo card, but they do have a podcast where they plan on sharing their journey with followers.
Angie Linderman, @angielinderman
Angie Linderman tells TODAY.com that when she first boarded Serenade of the Seas, she had less than 100 followers. Now she has over 115K followers.
“I think that it is surprising out there to people that there’s so many on the younger side who are on the cruise,” she explained. “I think that’s really resonating with people or gathering their attention, maybe.”
For Linderman, she wants to use her new platform to share with others why she signed up for the cruise in the first place. Linderman has the BRCA2 gene, which means she is at a higher risk for certain cancers.
“That is something that has kind of helped to impact my desire to travel,” she explains. “Retirement age is not a guarantee. And so (there is) an emphasis on just doing all of the things I can do now while I’m healthy, while I’m able, instead of putting them off in hopes that I can do them later, when in reality that may not happen.”
Linderman says that she left her cozy three-bedroom home in Oregon to tour the world for nine months in her current 250-square-foot balcony stateroom.
To prepare for the 9-month voyage, she arranged for a friend to stay at her home with her dog and reduced the hours of her job in marketing. For the next several months, she’ll work remotely and will be taking advantage of the various stops and sights the voyage will have to offer.
Where is The Ultimate World Cruise going?
The Serenade of the Seas’ Ultimate World Tour has an extensive itinerary that promises to take its passengers to 11 Wonders of the World and 65 countries in 274 nights flat. The destinations are broken down into four travel segments. Check out the four segments and their stretches below:
Ultimate Americas Cruise
64 nights from Dec. 10, 2023, to Feb. 11, 2024
36 destinations, including Cozumel, Mexico; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Los Angeles, California
4 Wonders, including Iguazú Falls and Machu Picchu
Ultimate Asia Pacific Cruise
87 nights from Feb. 11, 2024, to May 9, 2024
40 destinations, including Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; Manila, Philippines; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
3 Wonders, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Taj Mahal
Ultimate Middle East and Med Pacific Cruise
63 nights from May 9, 2024, to July 10, 2024
44 destinations, including Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Alexandria, Egypt; Rhodes, Greece; Barcelona, Spain; and Provence, France
4 Wonders, including the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Temple of Artemis
Ultimate Europe and Beyond Cruise
63 nights from July 10, 2024, to Sept. 10, 2024
40 destinations, including Casablanca, Morocco; Paris, France; Bruges, Belgium; and Nuuk, Greenland
This article was originally published on TODAY.com