On December 10, 2023, Royal Caribbean launched their first nine-month world cruise on Serenade of the Seas. Passengers who booked cabins for the entire 274-night, 60+ country cruise paid between $53,999-$117,599 per person. Shorter stints on the ship were also available.

Leading up to the ship’s December departure, passengers began posting about the cruise on social media with the hashtag #RoyalCaribbeanUltimateWorldCruise. The public was hooked. By December 22nd, the hashtag had more than 54.8 million views on TikTok. By February 13th, #RoyalCaribbeanUltimateWorldCruise had amassed almost 100 million views. The cruise had become a viral sensation.

Want more information on travel industry trends? Check out our Travel: An Industry Snapshot report for insights and brand data. 

Much Ado About Nothing?

Why was the public obsessed with the Ultimate World Cruise? The drama – or at least the anticipated drama. Largely viewing the cruise as a reality television show, spectators marveled over the possible crazy scenarios that could happen over the next 9 months. One TikToker created a Bingo card of different cruising scenarios – everything from “first fight” to “pirate takeover.” Beyond individuals’ social media posts, top-tier media outlets ran stories on the viral cruise.

Onlookers’ extreme interest in this cruise was discussed on Royal Caribbean’s blog page. In their post, the writer challenged onlookers’ drama narrative – “TikTok and the media have become obsessed with Royal Caribbean’s first ever world cruise for all the things that happen on pretty much any cruise. I’m not sure why this cruise has become so obsessed over. Maybe it’s the slow news cycle that occurs around the holidays, but a number of major media outlets have written about how TikTok blew up with so-called drama on the Ultimate World Cruise…”

TikTok Users’ Interest In Royal Caribbean Grows

Looking at data from QuestBrand by The Harris Poll, we can see TikTok users’ interest in Royal Caribbean increase in the last quarter of 2023.

The graph below tracks consumers’ familiarity with the Royal Caribbean brand. While familiarity increased among the general population of US adults in December, the percentage more significantly jumped among TikTok users (defined here as US adults who had used TikTok within the past 30 days).

At the beginning of November, TikTok users’ familiarity with the Royal Caribbean brand stood at 60.6. By the middle of December, Royal Caribbean’s familiarity score reached 73.3 among this demographic.

Royal Caribbean Brand Familiarity – US Adults & TikTok Users – 12 Week Moving Average

QuestBrand. 1/1/23-3/31/24. Base: General population of US adults, n=5,235. Base: US adults who have used TikTok within the last 30 days, n=1,860.

In addition to brand familiarity, Royal Caribbean also experienced an increase in positive consideration over this same period (especially among TikTok users). This signals that consumers were more likely to consider booking a cruise with Royal Caribbean in December of 2023 than they had been at the start of the year.

While TikTok users’ positive consideration peaked in mid-December (59.8), their consideration scores remained elevated into the first quarter of 2024 – a positive sign that the popular cruise line may acquire new passengers in the months ahead.

Royal Caribbean Positive Consideration – US Adults & TikTok Users – 12 Week Moving Average

QuestBrand. 1/1/23-3/31/24. Base: General population of US adults, n=5,235. Base: US adults who have used TikTok within the last 30 days, n=1,860.

The way that TikTok users think about and describe the Royal Caribbean brand also changed after the ship left Miami on December 10th.

After Serenade of the Seas started on its world tour, TikTok users significantly more often described Royal Caribbean as “Stylish” (+11.2), “Practical” (+10.0), “Good Value” (+7.0), and “Trustworthy” (+7.0).

Attributes TikTok Users Ascribe To The Royal Caribbean Brand Pre v Post Ultimate World Cruise Launch

QuestBrand. Base: US adults who have used TikTok within the last 30 days. 9/1/23-12/9/23, n=292. 12/10/23-2/29/24, n=217.

What Can We Learn From This Viral Cruise?

Is Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise spectacular – yes. Would we like to be on the boat – absolutely. But is it all that out of the ordinary? Not really.

This sensation has shown the power of a viral social media event. Regardless of the reality behind the situation, if people are talking about a brand, it will have some impact on brand equity. Fortunately for Royal Caribbean, viewers’ interest was largely positive, so positive consideration grew. However, a negative viral sensation could easily push a brand’s image in the other direction. 


Catherine Ake

Senior Marketing and Content Strategist

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