How would you define a reality TV show? Probably as a group of strangers thrown together in a luxurious or foreign locale, engaging in various activities where romance, conflict, and hysterics could ensue. By that definition, cruises are a reality show without the cameras, which makes Royal Caribbean’s nine-month Ultimate World Cruise the perfect reality show. Oh, and thanks to iPhones and TikTok, the cameras are there too.
What exactly does a 9-month cruise look like?
The Ultimate World Cruise is a 9-month voyage around the world, which left Miami on December 10, 2023, and is slated to return on September 10, 2024. Taking place on the Serenade of the Seas, the cruise will tour the Americas, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Mediterranean, and Europe. And yes, that even includes Antarctica. Passengers can choose to board for the full nine months, or simply join for one of the various legs. Obviously, the full nine months will set passengers back a hefty sum, ranging from $54,000 to $117,000 per person.
The cruise differs from a typical 7-night voyage in several crucial ways. Mainly – you’re not just on a short-lived vacation with your fellow passengers. You’ve essentially moved into a floating apartment building with them for almost a full year. You’re also putting your real life, relationships, and potentially careers, on hold. So what kind of person takes a trip like this? Who can just depart from their everyday responsibilities for a 9-month jaunt around the world? Surprisingly, it’s not just retirees and millionaires.
@little_rat_brain Might have froze myself half to death but my paint did stay on the table during arts and craft, so there’s that . #ultimateworldcruise2023 #9monthcruise #9monthcruisetok #ultimateworldcruise #drakeshake #drakepassage #9monthcruisedrama #ultimateworldcruisebingo ♬ Feeling Good – Michael Bublé
Several passengers have been documenting their voyages on a day-to-day basis and sharing their videos on TikTok. Now, people are following their journey like they’d follow a reality show. According to these passengers-turned-social-media-reality stars, here’s what it’s like to live on a cruise for nine months.
Who takes a 9-month cruise, anyway?
As it turns out, you don’t need to be a millionaire with a ton of savings in the bank and absolutely zero responsibilities back home. This is the age of remote work, and the era of taking some time off the 9-5 grind to find yourself.
“My husband and I have always dreamed of traveling the world,” Jenny Hunnicutt, one of the cruise’s passengers, tells Matador Network. “The day that Royal Caribbean announced that it was doing the longest world cruise ever, we gave them a call with a list of questions. One by one they answered our questions and the next thing we knew we were putting down a deposit!”
@drjennytravels I hope everyone had a very happy new year! 🍾 Cheers to 2024! #drjennytravels #ultimateworldcruise #worldcruisetok #cruisetok #uwc #royalcaribbean #Serenadeoftheseas #royalcaribbeanworldcruise #9monthcruisetok #9monthcruise ♬ original sound – drjennytravels
Jenny and her husband didn’t exactly leave behind a traditional lifestyle, either. It’s actually not as hard as you think to take off for several months, assuming you’ve set yourself up the right way professionally and lifestyle-wise.
“In 2021 I went completely remote in my business, sold everything, bought an RV, and started traveling the US,” she says. “For this world cruise, we left the RV stored in Las Vegas and are planning to return to it when we finish the 9 months at sea.”
For little_rat_brain, another passenger, the cruise functioned as a little life intermission, while also serving her travel goals.
“I’m an artist, so my schedule is flexible,” she says. “I was in between major milestones and the timing worked out. Not only was this the only cruise that would allow me to see so many different places across the world and meet so many new people, but it was also the fact that I would only have to unpack once.”
And though she does have a house to consider, she’s not exactly letting it fall into disrepair during her stint at sea. Relatives are caring for her house.
As you might expect, however, longer cruises like this typically appeal to an older demographic – people who have the time and means for a longer getaway.
“While the people on this ship come from a wide variety of demographics,” says passengers Nancy and Mike, “as you can imagine, many of the people on board are retired, simply because of the length of this adventure. Life is short and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Our children are all grown and married, and our grandchildren won’t remember we were ever gone, so this really seemed like the best time.”
@livingphase2 #livingphase2 #royalcarribeancruise #royalcaribbean #royalcaribbeanworldcruise #worldcruisers #ultimateworldcruise #secondphaseoflife #uwc #rainjacket ♬ original sound – MikeandNancyLP2
And all they needed to keep their business back home running smoothly? WiFi.
“We own our own business and have a general manager running it while we are away,” they say. “We have internet so we have contact with our business regularly. Our bills are paid online, and we have a housesitter managing our home while we are away.”
What life is like onboard
Life aboard a 9-month cruise is quite different from your typical week-long voyage. On shorter cruises, you might make “vacation friends” who you hang with for a couple days and vow to stay in touch, only to inevitably lose contact three months later. You might get to know a few crew member’s names just as the cruise is drawing to a close. On a nine-month cruise, your fellow passengers aren’t just incidental travel companions bound together by proximity, they’re like neighbors in adjacent apartments in a floating shared community. They’re not just people you might run into at dinner once or twice during the week, they’re semi-permanent fixtures of your world for nine months, with whom you’ll have the time to form actual relationships.
@little_rat_brain Another bingo card down . #ultimateworldcruise2023 #9monthcruisetok #ultimateworldcruisebingo #northsea ♬ It's Five O'Clock Somewhere – Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett
According to little_rat_brain, “for the past 26 nights I’ve had dinner with seven other people, and over time, we have become so interconnected. Not only do we look for each other at the different activities, but we’ve already made plans to meet up once the cruise ends and visit each other across the world.”
Hunnicutt agrees, saying that she’s “already formed what I would consider lifelong friendships with many of the passengers. And unlike a short vacation cruise, we are also getting to know the crew and their life stories. Everyone here has a shared love for travel, and we all gave up quite a bit in life in one way or another to do this cruise, so it’s a really special experience.”