Kate O’Loughlin: The Carnival World Cruise: brand titanic… or life raft?

Cruise - Kate O'Loughlin

This month I’ve been obsessed with the Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise content circulating my social media feed…

‘Obsessed’ is a monthly deep dive into social and cultural trends that can help marketers inform the way they think. Led by Kate O’Loughlin, Initiative strategist and self-confessed obsessive, ‘Obsessed’ will be a magic school bus to expand marketing mindsets and help brands remain relevant amongst an ever-changing cultural landscape.

This month I’ve been obsessed with the Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise content circulating my social media feed…

But what even is the Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise (other than, uh, a cruise) and why are there over 5 hours of content across 30+ TikTok accounts?

Let’s take a tour of the ship…

The Ultimate World Cruise is pretty much what it says on the tin… a world cruise stopping at 60 different countries, visiting 11-world wonders, all over a 9-month period.


The voyage set sail in early December and since then has blown up into an internet sensation, with the cruisers on board who post their daily antics now amassing more than 150,000 followers each. What started with questions of intrigue from spectators (“How can you afford a 9-month cruise?” “Who could stay on a boat for 9 MONTHS?!”) has now turned into an organic form of unscripted reality TV, with each person aboard the ship being deemed ‘characters’ and their daily life as ‘the plot’.

Little Rat Brain

From the ship mum, Adita, to hilarious prankster, Little Rat Brain, each of the 9-month cruisers has found a beloved niche among followers. As with any reality show, the content ecosystem doesn’t just stop with people on the cruise itself. There are now dedicated gossip accounts like the Sea Tea Director who provide daily Cruise recaps that could rival the Punkee-MAFs edits, as well as influencers such as Marc Sebastian who have had brands sponsor them to enter the ship in a reality TV ‘intruders’ type move.

World Cruise

Sea Tea Director

World Cruise

Marc Sebastian

The tip of the iceberg…

In a category that has become increasingly irrelevant amongst P18-34, the Ultimate World Cruise has sparked the ultimate organic conversation (see what I did there) amongst Gen Z demographics who may otherwise have never looked twice at cruising. The immediate adoption of reality TV-esque archetypes through the lens of this cruise has created an organic shift in perception amongst younger audiences. Overnight the conversation shifted from “I could never” to “I need more.”

While the gossip pages and ‘ship dramas’ could be viewed as a PR disaster by Royal Caribbean, the social obsession with a holiday format historically seen as for ‘families and retirees only’ has opened the door for cruising companies to capitalise on a lost market. Some might say the TikTokification of the Ultimate World Cruise has stopped the ship from sinking… sorry, couldn’t resist.

According to Morning Consult, 57% of Gen Zers have stated they would like to become an influencer if given the chance. It’s no surprise then that an audience motivated by new content hooks and the idea of fame would latch onto a fast-track to their own future social success. What 25-year-old wouldn’t jump at the chance to amass their own following overnight, just by taking a holiday?

Why you should be obsessed with the World Cruise…

From life insurance to legacy luxury brands, Gen Z is quick to dismiss products or companies that feel out of reach to them as ‘irrelevant’. Rather than trying to force a ‘cool’ or ‘youthful’ rebrand, companies should look to create future products to satiate younger demographics’ extrinsic motivations. The key is to find a common ground, which in this case was reality TV, for them to rally behind.

For cruising this is a time to lean in. To avoid the newfound Gen Z interest jumping ship, it’s critical the category create ways to eventise their product offerings so that audiences view cruising as a form of IRL entertainment they too can be a part of… or better yet, give the people what they want and literally turn it into a movie.

Will the World Cruise become a content-Titanic?

Christian Hull

The instant popularity of the World Cruise content means it does run the risk of becoming ‘old news’. However, with Australian influencer Christian Hull soon to board the ship, I think this trend hasn’t lost its sea legs. It will be interesting to see a local take on the experience as there is yet to be an Aussie voice, and in my opinion, it will re-energise Gen Z to dive into cruising content yet again.

Top Image: Kate O’Loughlin

To Top