To share it all with the folks at home, Martucci started recording updates for his four adult children, who encouraged him to post the videos online. Almost overnight, a star was born.
Unbeknownst to Martucci, an insatiable interest in his cruise had been growing since his ship left port in Miami. How could anyone stand to be on a cruise for nine months? How could anyone afford to with rates starting at $61,000? Across the internet, people were clamoring for as much information as they could find.
Dozens of TikTok accounts have popped up to document all-things Serenade of the Seas. Some are run by a few of the 600-something travelers staying on board for the entire 274-night itinerary. Others are spectators on land. The culmination of their content — with hashtags like #ultimateworldcruise, #worldcruise and #9monthcruise — has racked up hundreds of millions of views. The cumulative effect is comparable to a reality TV show, complete with “cast members,” drama and intrigue.
Unlike a traditional reality show with meddling producers and forced cliffhangers, content from the nine-month cruise comes from average Joe Martuccis. That’s what makes #CruiseTok so captivating.
“Those of us who haven’t been on a cruise before or don’t even like the idea of it are probably thinking ‘these people must be crazy,’” said Beth Fletcher, 39, who started a series recapping Ultimate World Cruise news called “Ship Happens” on her TikTok account a few days after it departed. “Like, we want to know more.”
While the internet loves the folksy content Martucci and others share, it’s also thirsty for reality show infighting.
“Everybody likes to think there is conflict,” Fletcher said. “My first couple of posts, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, if I was traveling in a small cabin with anyone in my family, after a week or so I would want to throw them overboard.”
Such plot twists have yet to actually emerge. To understand the appeal of TikTok’s favorite cruise, you’ve got to meet the “cast.”
Joe Martucci: @SpendingOurKidsMoney
Martucci’s family asked him to post his recaps online for their friends to see. He started a TikTok account with the handle “spendingourkidsmoney,” because he often jokes the cost of the cruise could have been their inheritance. On Dec. 18, he published his first public check-in. It’s now been watched more than a million times.
“People tell me, ‘Joe, you have 76,000 followers in three weeks, that’s amazing!’” Martucci said. “And I sit there and go, ‘Well, how many am I supposed to have?’”
The most wholesome account on Serenade of the Seas, the Martuccis are a fantastic antidote to the increasingly chaotic nature of many viral videos. No real editing, no second takes, just your “cruise mum and dad” checking in.
“If I mess up, we just let it run,” Martucci said. “I have a little speech dyslexia, especially when it comes to pronouncing words … and Audrey’s always correcting me but we just leave that in.”
To feel like you have parents on the Ultimate World Cruise, this is your follow.
Angie Linderman: @angielinderman
Passenger Angie Linderman became a breakout star thanks to an early Q&A sharing how she ended up on the ship.
After both her parents died from cancer, Linderman discovered she also had an elevated risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She had a preventive double mastectomy and plans to have both of her ovaries removed in the near future. “To me there is no thought of retirement,” she shared in a TikTok. “Doing all of the things I can do now is kind of the motto.”
Linderman spent her inheritance to book the Ultimate World Cruise with her brother’s family, and is continuing to work remotely along the way.
“She will be inspiring lots of people who receive cancer diagnoses, and cancer survivors, to go out and just live your life as if every day could be a last,” Fletcher said.
Adita (last name unknown) has been drumming up fan interest with her sassy, slightly wacky videos that wink at the potential of her and her husband being swingers. The main culprit for the rumor: her obsession with pineapples. When shown upside down, the fruit is known to be a signal in the swinger community that you’re game. Many of her posts wink at the theory, although Adita has (perhaps unconvincingly) denied the claim.
“She says that they aren’t and that she just likes pineapple,” Fletcher said. “But that’s a heck of a lot of pineapple.”
Daniele Salvatore Arbisi: @singing.sailor
For a behind-the-scenes look at working life on the cruise, there’s the @singing.sailor Daniele Salvatore Arbisi. Originally from Essex in the United Kingdom, Arbisi comes to the ship as a performer and has amassed a following for his crew cabin tours, thorough travelogues from port days and helpful Q&As, like when he tapped the ship’s captain to find out the best side of the ship for whale watching.
“He’s very, very talented,” Fletcher said. “His content is fantastic … he’s got a real good likability and he’s very funny.”
Anthony McWilliams: @anthonyantoine1021
Anthony McWilliams was working in public health at Emory University at a job he loved when tragedy struck. “I lost my husband to cancer in 2018,” McWilliams, who goes by Anthony Antoine on social media, told The Washington Post. “From diagnosis to his passing was literally eight months and one day.”
His late husband left him with a request: travel the world. “He said traveling would be my salvation,” McWilliams said. So he retired and hit the road that year.
Now McWilliams is one of the most beloved passengers on the ship — both to fellow cruisers and online fans. After a mix-up with Brazilian cruise regulations, he had to fend for himself on land for a week until he was allowed to return. “Everybody was cheering for me to come back on,” he said.
“That’s my No. 1 travel rule, to not wait on the others. If you’re waiting on the others, you’ll end up going nowhere.”
Could you spend nine months sharing a room with your sister? That’s the social experiment Shannon Marie and Brandee Lake are carrying out in real time for fans. So far “it’s working well,” Shannon Marie told The Washington Post.
“We travel together a lot, so we know each other’s hotel style, like ‘Okay, you take long showers,’” Lake said.
When she’s not spending time with her parents, who are also on board, Brandee keeps in touch with her audience through “sea day chats.” She made headlines in the first weeks of the cruise after sharing a post about her experience being regularly confused for a staff member, as she and her sister are among the few guests of color on board. “She was like, ‘Oh my God. Is this going to be the case for the next nine months?’” Fletcher said. “That seems to have settled down now, but obviously that leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.”
Shannon Marie is more inclined to share street art from their on-land excursions. Both sisters answer tons of the public’s questions and dance their way around the ship. If you can’t get enough of their videos, you can also listen to their podcast.
Traveling with their parents, Brooklyn and Madison Schwetje take their roles as the eyes and ears on the ship seriously, posting tons of content for their growing audience. They share vlogs of unglamorous sea days, featuring bad weather and laundry duties, as well as the highlights, like what it’s really like to visit a World Wonder.
One of their most popular posts was an extensive tour of the ship Madison took in the wee hours of the night, giving us an eerie and fascinating look at the massive ship almost completely empty.
“They know how to create a post that’s engaging,” Fletcher said. “They’re good at highlighting things that people want to see.”
Little Rat Brain: @little_rat_brain
For a dose of Gen Z bizarro comedy, there’s “Little Rat Brain,” whose real name has been kept private. Even the other “cast members” call her that in videos and interviews.
“We love Little Rat Brain,” Martucci said.
Little Rat Brain, who’s traveling with her mother, shares expertly edited, highly silly updates of life on board, from experiencing the “Drake Shake” (the sort of turbulence that comes with crossing the Drake Passage) to itinerary changes.
A seasoned social media user, Amike Oosthuizen posts highly satisfying day-in-the-life videos that bring you into her world. Since the South African boarded the cruise with her parents and her husband, she’s taken us along for sea day gym sessions, what it’s like to dine on board and how she learned to do gel manicures ahead of the cruise so she could save money.
Her mother, Renske Lammerding, has actual reality TV experience as a cast member on “The Real Housewives of Pretoria” But Oosthuizen told The Washington Post people gravitate most to her everyday experiences.
She knows people are waiting for drama to erupt, but unfortunately (for them, not for her), “all of the people I’ve met on the ship are just so nice, and they’re all here with their loved ones for a vacation or to travel the world,” she said. “I just don’t think that expectation will become a reality, to be honest with you.”