What you've missed so far on the viral nine-month Royal Caribbean world cruise

The nine-month Royal Caribbean world cruise which has become a viral hit on TikTok is now 17 weeks into its journey - and the drama onboard has continued to fascinate viewers back on dry land.

Passengers on board the Serenade of the Seas have already dealt with flooding, wine shortages and a geopolitical crisis which saw them re-routed near the Red Sea since Royal Caribbean's 'Ultimate World Cruise' set sail from Miami in December on its 150-stop voyage.

Since then, there's been more drama on board as two passengers were left behind when they didn't make it back to the cruise liner in time, while Royal Caribbean has also come under fire for offering cash to influencers in exchange for content - upsetting content creators already on board.

When more than 1,000 holidaymakers boarded ‘Serenade of the Seas’ before Christmas, few realised their trip would become TikTok's newest viral obsession.

With prices for the full trip starting at $53,999 (£42,462) per person, it's little surprise the journey has gripped so many, with the #UltimateWorldCruise hashtag generating more than 400 million views on the app so far.

From passengers posting their daily routines to viewers back on land picking their favourite couples and the various goings-on in between, the world's longest cruise is being referred to as 'a nine-month TikTok reality show'.

So what's happened since the journey started? And which passengers are finding unlikely fame from their exploits on the giant cruise liner? Yahoo News UK provides updates on what has happened so far...

Lost passengers in South Korea

Last week, when the ship was leaving Jeju, an Island part of South Korea, there were two passengers who could not be located when it was time to leave. One passenger, Adita, who was on the ship posted a video where she mentioned that two American nationals could not be found in time.

She explained that once they were located the port agents would help get them back on board. Three days later Adita added that the women had been found. She wrote: “They got back on yesterday, still don’t know what happened.”

Houthi rebels caused Royal Caribbean re-route

In February, the cruise was forced to change its itinerary due to fighting in the Red Sea.

After 11 weeks of the journey, the Serenade of the Seas had to take an alternative route because Yemen’s Houthi rebels had been attacking ships in the stretch of water in solidarity with Palestinians over Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

In a statement to USA Today, a cruise spokesperson said: “In keeping with the adventurous spirit of our guests, we are engaging them for their thoughts and preference between two alternative itineraries that will take them on an epic adventure to Africa.”

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines vessel Serenade of the Seas (credit: Royal Caribbean)
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines vessel Serenade of the Seas (credit: Royal Caribbean) (© Dan Lamont)

However, it appears that some passengers on the cruise have been left out of the meetings. Joshua Terry posted a video in which he said he’d made it into a meeting but was unable to vote on any of the decisions. In another video, Terry spoke to a customer service advisor who told him that only the ‘nine-month cruisers’ would be able to weigh in on decisions regarding the itinerary changes.

People have been offered a refund if they decide not to continue their journey, and the company said those who remain will receive some form of compensation.

Rough seas and flooding onboard

During the leg from Brazil to Uruguay on 2 January, passengers were met with a severe storm that caused flooding on the ship. The ship has 13 decks, and the storm led to elevators being out of use, guests having to move rooms, sheets of water on the gym floor and a flooded sundeck area. TikToker Adita Larson, 64, captured water streaming onto the top deck.

The adverse conditions didn't affect all passengers, however - with footage emerging on TikTok of resolute guests working out on the cruise liner's gym treadmills despite the soaking floor and mild chaos. One poster commented: "This ship is tough. Can weather the storm!" In a follow-up video, Adita said that the weather had improved and that everything on her deck was "almost dry".

Given the flooding which has already occurred on the Serenade of the Seas, there has been understandable trepidation from passengers as their cruise approaches the Drake Passage, a body of water connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, known for its choppy waters.

Influencers on board have posted footage of the large waves as the cruise navigated the treacherous route on its way to Antarctica, while one TikToker onboard said the winds "were unlike anything I've stood (in), and I've studied multiple hurricane-force winds."

The ship has several decks off-limits to passengers and seasick bags have been provided at every stairwell and lift. Royal Caribbean also told passengers on the cruise they would be tackling the Drake Passage sooner than expected, due to better conditions forecasted before the time they were meant to go.

In audio captured by one TikToker, passengers are told: “By reversing our itinerary, the passage time of Drake Passage will be reduced to 22 hours with four to five metres swell from our starboard side. I'm not claiming it will be a smooth ride but a lot better than the previously explained option.”

Creator callout upsets influencers

Royal Caribbean came under fire for posting a job advert for influencers on TikTok’s Creator Marketplace asking people to apply to come on the cruise. The call-out led to people calling the move 'a slap in the face' to dozens of passengers on the cruise that have a following. It was advertised to offer $2,000 in exchange for seven videos with a deadline of 31 March. They later apologised to the passengers and one influencer said he felt 'heard' after their conversation with Royal Caribbean.

A wedding and an engagement

Some of the passengers onboard have experienced major life events while on the nine-month cruise. Shannon Marie, an American passenger and podcaster, decided to update her 91,000 TikTok followers on her life during a recent Royal Caribbean stop in Los Angeles. While standing at the top of a hill, Marie said: “Hey all, you've been checking those bingo cards, you thought that somebody might get engaged. And guess who it is? Boom”, before displaying a flashy engagement ring.

While her followers were quick to offer congratulations, Shannon, 30, has given few details about her partner - only confirming that they weren't on the cruise with her, but that they would be reunited in L.A. She doesn’t intend to get married on the cruise, as she doesn’t have a date yet. In a reply to a follower, she said: “Lol don’t even have a date picked out. Just living in the moment. ”

One couple, however, do appear to have got married on board, after flowers were spotted by another passenger on the Royal Caribbean liner.

Joshua Terry posted a video the day before Valentine’s Day and said he asked a member of staff after seeing fresh flowers on the cruise. “Apparently these flowers are for the wedding tonight.” Royal Caribbean allow people to get married on the cruise as long it takes place on international waters and the captain can perform the ceremony. Couples who wish to have their special day on the cruise have to apply 90 days before the date they want to get married. The wedding package costs range from £1,550 to £4,450, not including additional fees for the marriage license.

A tragic passing

A passenger on the Ultimate World Cruise died in February, Royal Caribbean confirmed.

The company said at the time: "A guest sailing on board Serenade of the Seas has sadly passed away." No other circumstances about the death were given, although a fellow passenger posted a now-deleted TikTok stating the traveller in question was an elderly woman. This has not been confirmed and Yahoo News UK has reached out to Royal Caribbean for further comment.

Cruise clout

For some passengers, posting their cruise journey has seen their number of TikTok followers rocket. Users are already hugely invested in the couples, families, characters and creators onboard, with posters commenting that 'World CruiseTok' is 'better than Netflix'. Friendships are forming as travellers get to know their fellow shipmates and a number of passengers are becoming breakout stars.

The pool deck on the Serenade of the Seas. (File photo)
The pool deck on the Serenade of the Seas. (File photo) (Jeffrey Whyte)

One popular cast member is Joe Martucci, a 67-year-old retiree from Florida who'd never used TikTok before, but whose first video has now been watched half a million times. Posting from the cruise under the handle, @spendingourkidsmoney, he was encouraged to join the app by his four children, and now dubs himself, along with his wife, 'Cruise mum and dad'.

The map for the Ultimate World Cruise (credit: Royal Caribbean International)
The map for the Ultimate World Cruise (credit: Royal Caribbean International)

Dozens of accounts providing "tea" (gossip) have also cropped up on TikTok, updating viewers on the daily dramas aboard the ship. One TikToker took this a stage further, producing a bingo card of likely events from aboard Serenade of the Seas, including 'mass STIs', 'podcast following the trip', and 'passenger wedding'. Others have speculated about the possibility of a 'cruise baby' being born aboard the voyage, given its nine-month duration.

Don't mention the Titanic

One passenger has noted an unwritten rule on board — that you should avoid mentioning the Titanic.

Marc Sebastian, an influencer who gained popularity through his videos about the Serenade of the Seas, eventually earned himself an 18-night stay on the giant vessel - but appeared to offend staff on board when he compared the cruise ship to the doomed 1912 liner. Sebastian had been invited onto the cruise after he posted a TikTok video that gained seven million views which had called for a reality show onboard. A book publisher eventually paid for his 18-night stay and he’s been documenting his travels ever since.

Marc Sebastian gained a place on the viral cruise liner after promising to 'reek havoc and film everything'. (TikTok)
Marc Sebastian gained a place on the viral cruise liner after promising to 'wreak havoc and film everything'. (TikTok)

Sebastian announced on 28 December he'd been offered a stay on the cruise, where he'd promised to 'cause chaos, reek havoc, and film everything'. During the start of his trip, however, he did encounter some tension when he tried to film on board. In his video marking the end of the cruise, Sebastian said he mentioned a Titanic fact while having lunch. He said: “I brought up to an entire room of people having lunch that our ship is only 100 feet longer than the Titanic.”

After onlookers gasped and the room went silent, a fellow cruiser told him that you ‘aren’t supposed to talk about the Titanic’. Sebastian added: “It wasn't like that was in the f****** handbook, not that I read the handbook clearly.” Sebastian posted a total of 28 videos on TikTok while aboard the ship.

Visa problems

Some people on the cruise received a letter that could signal the end of their time aboard the ship. In the letter, affected passengers were told their visa information for New Zealand was missing and they needed to provide it by Friday, 2 February, which at the time was only the next day.

The letter some passengers on the Ultimate World Cruise received states they need to ensure they have their electronic visa's or face being disembarked (TikTok)
The letter some passengers on the Ultimate World Cruise received states they need to ensure they have their electronic visas or face being disembarked (TikTok)

Joshua Terry, a Canadian national on the cruise, posted TikTok’s about the matter and showed the letter people received on a livestream. He said the issue is predominantly affecting Chinese tourists and called out fans of the cruise focusing on the “tea”. Terry said: “What you guys are focusing on is sometimes the wrong things like no one is ever covered the Chinese tour groups around 100, so people don't speak much English.”