How a luxury cruise became reality TV on TikTok

How a luxury cruise became “reality TV” on TikTok

The Ultimate World Cruise, a cruise departing Miami in December 2023, has taken on the air of a reality show. Around twenty TikTok accounts are filming the inside of this luxury trip, turning it into a reality show with twists beyond fiction.

A 9 month cruise around the world for an exorbitant price. But what could have gone wrong? On December 10, 2023, hundreds of passengers departed the Port of Miami aboard the “Serenade of the Seas,” a Royal Caribbean liner.

Nicknamed “The Ultimate World Cruise,” this voyage was originally intended to reach seven continents and 60 countries around the globe. An expensive “epic journey”. Each passenger had to pay between $54,000 and $117,000 for permission to board.

Despite the inflated price, passengers have been experiencing a series of real-time adventures for three months. Twists and turns worthy of a reality show are constantly shared by around twenty TikTokers on board, both among the passengers and crew. An extremely popular soap opera on the social network.

The self-proclaimed improvised “characters” of this epic introduced themselves after the first viral news:

Pathological prognosis

Even before the problems began, internet users were enthusiastic about the boat. “Put cameras on this boat immediately… There will be a mutiny! I want to see that!” demanded influencer Marc Sebastian on December 21st. A message liked by 1.3 million Internet users.

Interest in cruises has only increased as the days go by, with the hashtag #UltimateWorldCruise having more than 150 million views in early 2024, American media NPR reported.

“It's fun to follow something that really feels like a TikTok reality show,” Kara Harms, the author of a morbid bingo that was widely shared on TikTok, told the press.

In its grid, it anticipated various events such as a Covid-19 epidemic, a hijacking of the ship by pirates, the emergency repatriation of a passenger or the use of the cruise by brands through .

On December 15, 2023, a TikToker attempted to predict future disasters on the Ultimate World Cruise in bingo. – Kara Harms – Tiktok

Many predictions – quite vague – ultimately turned out to be true. This is the case, for example, in the event of a major flood on board or when evacuating a patient by helicopter.

Other predictions didn't come true… but not by much. This is the case when the ship is taken over by pirates. In fact, the hundreds of passengers were first supposed to venture into the Red Sea. But on February 2, travelers learned of the change to their itinerary.

Due to high levels of instability and piracy in the area and around the Suez Canal, the crew decided to avoid the area entirely.

Lack of wine and spilled pineapple

Other “dramas” were not so easy. This is the case, for example, with a wine shortage that Mike and Nancy Jacobs loudly denounced in a video on February 1st:

“You won't believe it! They told us that we drank more wine than they ever expected (…) They tried to stock up in Barbados but found nothing, they tried in Rio but found little,” explain the sexagenarians – year old, with a smile on her lips. A shortcoming that is difficult to digest with such a high ticket price.

Another interesting point for the “spectators”: a possible shuttle system between the different passengers. In videos shared on the social network, users warn of an upside-down “pineapple” on the door of a hut. An indicator that would be the sign of an open couple in the cruise enthusiast community.

The person sitting in the booth took up the topic to assure that she was not practicing swinging, but simply had a very strong fondness for this fruit.

Behind closed doors and on social networks: the ingredients of a larger-than-life show

Dramas, rumors, arguments… The lives of the passengers told in these short videos are almost in the form of a series. A closed session at sea characterized by interactions between traveling TikTokers and “viewers,” as Jamie Cohen, a media studies professor and former reality TV producer, tells NPR.

Internet users “open the door to intrigue that creates a reality around people who are simply on the boat to have fun,” he said. To capitalize on the success of these videos, one brand even paid an influencer, Marc Sebastian, to come on board and create chaos and excitement.

He only stayed on the ship for a month, without much success in causing conflict. “I really thought I would find a lot of conflicts (between passengers, editor's note), but unfortunately they are all so nice!” Is the cruise finally fun?

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