Serenade of the seas cruise ship
Voyage of a lifetime: nine months cruising the world
Written by Ornella Bressan
On 23 May 2024

Imagine leaving your home to cruise for almost a year to see Earth in all its beauty. The Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise has left its Miami port in December 2023, and 665 passengers have decided to put their life on hold to bond with like-minded travellers over global discoveries.

At the time of the interviews, we are in January, one month into the voyage, 12 countries out of 64 completed, two out of eleven world wonders seen, and three women have shared with us how it feels to cruise long-term.

Living on a cruise with Dr Jenny

Jenny Hunnicutt, widely known as Dr Jenny Travels online, 34, is a PhD Researcher in Health and Rehab Sciences from South Carolina in North America. She is a full-time traveller that has been sharing her adventures on Instagram, but when she got on the cruise, her friends and followers convinced her to open a Tik Tok account and her success has been on a rise ever since. She says:

Jenny on her first day in front of her house for the next nine months

“Waking up on the ship every day is definitely a surreal moment, and it’s just amazing that my husband and I are finally here doing this. We are full-time travellers and I call us that because we don’t have a house. We have an RV and when we’re not in there, we’re somewhere travelling the world. We used this trip [the world cruise] as a catalyst to restructure our whole lives and go remote in our work, in our business, in order to travel.

Everything has been blowing me away. I’ve noticed the cabin cruise we’re living in now is actually smaller than our RV, and the RV is what motivated us to live a minimalist lifestyle, so we’re already used to tiny living.

What I love about this trip are these enrichment opportunities the cruise offers, like dance classes, and lectures about the places we’re visiting. For example, when we went to Brazil, they brought a group called “Brazilian Roots” on board and they taught us all about samba – which is a big part of their culture.

Jenny smiling at the camera with a big Brazilian headdress on her head
Jenny taking a class about Brazilian culture

They had the group teach us how to play the drums, how to play the samba beats, and how to dance samba. They also brought in a professor from Florida [USA] who taught us about the culture and history of samba. What makes these lessons special is that we get to learn them from people that are from all these countries we’re going to be visiting.

Even the food – It’s been 28 days since we’ve been here and they’ve changed the menu every day, which is pretty unheard of. The food on the ship is changing as we’re travelling the world. For example, now that we’re in Antarctica they [the cruise crew] told us that we’re going to have sea bass, which is my husband favourite dish on board so far.

And then there’s the people. All these people that we’re with on the ship, in some way or another gave up a lot in their home life, whether it be family, pets, or their home, or even just leaving for nine months. There’s this energy where all of us are in this shared experience where we all have a love to travel to want to do this. Bonding with people over that established love of the world has been one of the coolest things to experience.

Coming back to these enrichment lessons, the impact it had on me made me fall in love with Rio so much that I added it on top of my bucket list. We went to a churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse, and it’s the kind of steakhouse where they cut the meat right there at the table, which was the one thing that my husband really wanted to do in Rio, so I’m really happy we made it happen.

I truly feel very thankful and fortunate to be here because I know this is something truly so special that not everyone can or will see in their lives, and so I don’t take that for granted.”

Check out Jenny’s latest update

Balancing social life with work with Amike

Amike Oosthuizen, 26, from Victoria, Johannesburg in South Africa, is a regulatory officer for an agricultural business. She has been sharing her special trip on Tik Tok and Instagram, quickly gathering thousands of followers who are living ‘vicariously’ for any sorts of update. She says:

Amike celebrating New Year’s Eve on the cruise

“It is such an amazing experience! When I was finally on board, I had crazy thoughts in mind, but the one that hit the most was realising that the ship was going to be my home for the next nine months. It’s strange to think that about a boat but I didn’t feel scared. I was just excited.

I came here with my husband, my mom, and my dad, and it is not as stressful as people make it sound. I actually don’t spend most of my time with my parents. We live on two completely different floors in a big cruise, so I think that helps.

We do try to have lunch or dinner together and when we get off the ship, we try to do the travelling together as well, but sometimes my parents would leave earlier and go back to the ship, so my husband and I would continue visiting on our own, whilst other times we split because my dad likes riding bikes and I don’t, so we [Amike and her husband] would carry on walking.

We enjoy spending our time with them, which makes everything feel special, and I think that’s why we haven’t got to a point where we’re tired of them, but if we had to share a whole room together – then it would have been another story.

Amike and her family in Rio de Janeiro seeing one of the seven Wonders of the world; Christ the Redeemer

As for my husband, we’ve always loved doing a lot of stuff together and keeping each other company the whole time, so it hasn’t been a problem for us at all. I think if you do need your own space and your own time then you would struggle here, because you are in each other’s space a lot, and the rooms are quite small too, so that makes a difference.

But I would say one thing I have struggled with the most has been balancing the trip with my work and Tik Tok.  My husband and I work for the same company, so we try to fit as much remote work as we can and stay as updated as we can. Obviously, we’re not doing 100% now, which is difficult to reach because we want to experience everything here [on the cruise] and not stay on the ship working whilst knowing we’re staying here for only nine months to see the world.

Amike and her husband during her voyage to Antarctica

Then there’s Tik Tok, where I try to not make it look too big of a job but editing and doing the voice-overs do take a bit more effort because of the work I have in the middle too.

Regardless, so far this trip has been such an experience. It’s honestly a privilege to travel the world together at such a young age. Visiting Argentina, Rio and Uruguay has been so eye-opening for me because they reminded me so much of Europe with stunning architectures.

The whole trip has been so cool because of all these new places that we would have never actually visited on our own. Seeing so many countries in such a short period of time really does open your mind to how many different cultures there are in the world.”

Check out Amike’s latest update

Understanding ports with Leslie

Leslie Nilsen, 54, from Arizona in the United States, closed her mortgage broker business to fully dedicate her time to travel, becoming a full-time travel blogger. She says:

“Travelling is like air to me. Necessary for life. It changes your soul, but it is also reliant on time and money.

Leslie and her husband in Argentina after seven days spent on sea

My husband and I had always spoken about taking a world cruise. It was just never feasible because The World ship was the only option. To do that one you actually buy a cabin to sail for years, so when I saw The Ultimate World Cruise back in 2021, I paid without hesitation. A non-refundable deposit of $16,000 went down, knowing that whatever it took I would be on the ship.

So far, there are ports where we had plans for and others where we just explore. The ship advises the ‘on board time’ each day, which is the time you must be back no later than. If you are late, you are left at the port to get your own transportation to the next port, unless you are in an excursion provided by the cruise.

We have never willingly skipped a port, but we have missed a few due to the weather. Our captain is stellar and makes the ultimate decision as to whether it is safe to port. When that happens, they can add another port but most times those days become sea days and we just go off to the next port.

We haven’t been on land for seven days now. We were in Antarctica, which restricts the number of people that can be on land at one time, and we have too many on board, so we just sailed. Nonetheless, it was extraordinary. The seven days were trying because we passed through the Drake Passage, one of the most treacherous waters in the world. But this summer we’ll be in Europe, and we’ll have back-to-back ports.”

Check out Leslie’s latest update

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A post shared by Leslie Nilsen – World Travel Blogger (@pointmysoulnorth)

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