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Videos from Royal Caribbean's Ultimate World Cruise are captivating TikTok viewers

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Move over, "Below Deck" and "The Love Boat." The newest tales of life on a cruise ship aren't playing out on television. They're going viral on social media. A Royal Caribbean cruise is taking travelers around the world for nine months, captivating viewers on TikTok. Here's NPR's Rachel Treisman.

RACHEL TREISMAN, BYLINE: Shortly after the ship set sail from Miami last month, passengers of all ages started documenting their experience on TikTok.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK)

BROOKYLN SCHWETJE: Hey, guys. Welcome back for another day in my life. And today, we are in Fortaleza, Brazil.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK)

JOE MARTUCCI: Hey, kids. It's been a fun day looking at Christmas decorations and lounging out at the pool.

TREISMAN: That's Brooklyn Schwetje and Joe Martucci, just some of the emerging, quote, unquote, "cruise influencers." Their videos started gaining traction around the holidays. People at home were spending extra time online and getting invested. Kisha Peart is one of them. The New York-based waitress and actress normally posts about dating and relationships, but as a former cruise ship employee herself, she decided to make a video sharing her thoughts.

KISHA PEART: Then I started recapping what was going on. It's like it took off. I think I gained over 30,000 followers since the cruise started.

TREISMAN: Peart is one of a handful of content creators covering the cruise in real time based on the videos coming out of the voyage, they're introducing new characters, answering viewers' questions and sharing the latest gossip.

PEART: Someone has already gone home. They've had weather mishaps. A person got sponsored to come on the boat. Cliques have formed. Oh, and they're running out of wine.

TREISMAN: There are a lot of questions and predictions about what might unfold over the next eight months. One creator, Kara Harms, even made a bingo card.

KARA HARMS: Petty neighbor drama, stowaways, pirate takeovers and, of course, you know, lots of diseases.

TREISMAN: Harms, the founder of a lifestyle travel website, says she hasn't seen anything like this in the social media space. Sure, there have been long cruises before.

HARMS: But not in a way where we're seeing it from, like, 30 different points of view. So it truly feels like a TikTok reality show.

TREISMAN: Though there are some key differences.

JAMIE COHEN: Reality shows are planned well in advance. In this case, it's kind of like as if you were to just throw everybody into the space and let the plot unfold in real time.

TREISMAN: That's Jamie Cohen, a media studies professor at Queens College who began his career as a reality TV producer. He says there's always the risk that people on board or on land will stir up drama for views. And he has some advice for the many people watching these videos.

COHEN: I think it's important to enjoy them. I don't think there's a reason to try to change reality.

TREISMAN: Cohen says internet audiences have a lot more power than they realize. As for the TikTokers, they don't appear to be going off the grid anytime soon. Rachel Treisman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.