Meet the 9-Month Cruise's Star Villain or Hero, Depending on Who You Ask

We spoke with TikToker Marc Sebastian about his viral critiques of the Ultimate World Cruise.

Courtesy of Marc Sebastian
Courtesy of Marc Sebastian

Marc Sebastian, 33, can't describe his experience aboard Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas in just one word. It instead takes the LA-based influencer three: “Floating Olive Garden.” It's hard not to chuckle. Sebastian’s brutally honest videos from aboard the TikTok-famous nine-month Ultimate World Cruise have earned him 350,000 followers in the last two and a half weeks.

Sebastian's on the cruise for an 18-day leg of the journey, sponsored by publisher Atria Books. As of this writing, he's got five days left of his journey, and he can't wait for it to be over. He's not subtle about it either. When I tell him I've been considering going on the ship for a story, he passionately issues a warning. "Do not go on this cruise. I am so f*cking serious. I could not be more serious. Do not do that."

It's this kind of candor about the experience that has earned him the vitriol of passionate cruisers, including those aboard the ship. In a few TikToks, he's stitched other videos from very angry older women accusing him of being "entitled" and "ungrateful" as he's criticized an experience they hold dear.

"Me being on a cruise with old, white, conservative people who are all just complaining about anytime I ever say anything about the cruise, they're like, 'You didn't do research. You have no idea what you're talking about. You shouldn't be allowed on this cruise. You shouldn't be speaking,' blah, blah, blah," Sebastian told Thrillist.

"I'm like, wait a minute, wait a minute," Sebastian continued. "The same people who misgender their grandkids and then say, well, it's freedom of speech and I'm not going to call them that…Why is it that when I use my freedom of speech to be able to talk about things that do not affect their life in literally any way—they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you ungrateful, undeserving, entitled, whiny little bitch.'"

But so far he hasn't had any of these onboard cruisers, who have vocally criticized him both on TikTok and Facebook, confront him in real life. Sebastian has even given out his cabin room number in some of the online arguments, encouraging people to bring their concerns to him in person. So far, on one has taken him up on the opportunity. The closest call, Sebastian says, was during a recent off-ship excursion.

As Sebastian tells it, he was on a bus with a group of cruisers in Ushuaia, which is at the southernmost tip of Argentina, when a confrontation occurred. The tour guide asked the group if their journey so far had been anything like what she'd seen on TikTok. Pretty immediately, the tour guide's questions were met with choruses of people saying that it's nothing like what's been posted online. One man was particularly vocal; he referenced Sebastian specifically and said “That guy’s just awful.” Sebastian, as you'd guess from his videos, is not conflict-averse.

Sebastian says he stood up on the bus, and said: "Sir, I'm right here. If you want to call me awful, I want you to call me awful to my face, and I would absolutely love to have a conversation with you, but unless you're going to say that to me, I don't need you to say that to someone who's watching the videos." The man didn't.

It's not that Sebastian is using inaccurate or misleading information about the cruise to stir up ire. Things he's criticized really have happened. The ship did flood at one point. His comments about ugly carpeting and wall art throughout Serenade of the Seas isn't a fact-checkable matter—you can disagree certainly, but that doesn't change his read on the matter. (Sebastian's actual opinion on the art: "I said I was going to press charges against the art curator of the Serenade of the Seas. What if he took that personally? I hope he did. I would like to see him behind bars.")

And Sebastian stirring up a fuss hasn't been unintentional on his part. He's kept a captive audience for two and a half weeks, in a media ecosystem that typically eats up and spits out passing fascinations of the public in 72 hours or less. It was his idea to go on a cruise ship, sponsored by a book company, when he's not much of a cruiser or a reader, and bring in viewers and engagement through some good old fashion gossiping. A strategy he masterminded, sold to Atria, and successfully executed—his cruise ship videos have garnered over 47 million views so far.

When he first arrived on the ship, he anticipated he'd make his content around the drama between the influencer cruisers we've come to know and love, like Little Rat Brain, Angie Linderman, sisters Shannon and Brandee, and Amike Oosthuizen. But he quickly realized that there wasn't really any interpersonal conflict to talk about.

"They're all so nice and so smart. There's not a single negative word I can say about any of the influencers on here," Sebastian said, wistfully. "Trust me, I wish there was, because I really did want to come here and see [that]. I had to figure out, alright, well if there isn't a lot of drama that's happening with these people, what is going on?"

The main character of his videos became the cruise itself. His content has touched on real issues of the cruise industry: the treatment and exploitation of workers and a customer service culture that overworks staff and speaks to a hopefully fading era of overly entitled patrons. But it also touches on the less serious stuff like the wall art, the quality of the food aboard the ship, and what he describes as the absolute misery of hearing constant announcements over the ship loudspeakers. ("Oh my God, this is hell. I'm trying to nap. And there's this 'ding dong' of an announcement," Sebastian decried.)

His hatred of these things and his rather colorful descriptions of them obviously rankles dedicated cruisers, people who have entwined at least parts of their identity in being high-sea explorers on mega-sized cruise ships. What they see as bucket-list travel experiences, Marc Sebastian has seen as a nightmare. Windjammer, the food buffet on the ship, came up repeatedly during our conversation. Sebastian described the food as "sad beige matter." “I don't want people to even talk about the Windjammer around my presence until I am in a nursing home and having flashbacks about it,” Sebastian said.

It’s not a surprise that people are getting offended. Even as I laughed at his monologue describing the tyranny of Windjammer, I was like, yeah I could see how this would maybe make someone who has made it a part of their identity to love Royal Caribbean feel a certain type of way. Aside from his many detractors, though, there are plenty of people eating up his content. Many commenters thank him for his honest reviews and eagerly await his next post.

"My responsibility is to tell the story about how I feel about what it's like to be on the nine-month cruise. And if you're thinking that I'm putting on misinformation, that's bullshit," Sebastian said. "You're just angry that I have found something that you really love and that you think is great and someone doesn't like it."

He’s also made friends with other people on the ship. A recent video shows him spending time with LRB and Linderman and there's a clear comfort and camaraderie between the trio. I asked him about these friendships—he's had so many criticisms of the cruise, and it's clear that this was not a way he'd choose to spend his money. How does he feel about the value of what others are getting for what they paid?

"A lot of people use their retirement money. A lot of people had parents or grandparents pass away, and they're using their life insurance policy to make sure that they can travel the world," Sebastian told Thrillist. "I don't know if I can particularly say whether or not it's worth it for someone because I don't know their experience and I don't know how much value they're putting on seeing the world even via this very specific way of traveling. And I'm not judging anyone's choice to do this. I'm more just judging this experience as a whole."

As soon as he disembarks from Serenade of the Seas, Sebastian will be in search of the next moment to craft his very specific narrative web around. And the fish are biting. Among the offers for partnerships and projects flooding his inbox, he's already gotten offers from two other cruises, both of which he's turned down. Marc Sebastian plans on staying on dry land for the foreseeable future.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree in Journalism from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She's worked in digital media for eight years, and before working at Thrillist, she wrote for Mic, The Cut, The Fader, Vice, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.