What's real and made up on the 'Hacks' episode featured on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

20 May 2022

HBO's Emmy Award-winning show, "Hacks" just premiered its second season, that has one episode predominantly shown onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Photo HBO Max

Episode 4 in the second season is titled, "The Captain's Wife", and is centered around the main character's attempt to kickstart her comedy career by performing on a lesbian charter cruise.

Royal Caribbean fans would instantly notice the ship featured in this episode is Navigator of the Seas, which sails from Los Angeles down to the Mexican Riviera. 

Anytime a cruise ship is the focus of a television show or movie, cruise fans like to analyze how truthful the cruise experience is to reality.  In this episode, I found most of what they portrayed as accurate. As we'll see, there are a few things the show got right and a few areas they clearly took "poetic license" to make things look better.

Overall, I thought it was a very positive portrayal of Royal Caribbean and it was fun to see this week's episode prominently focus on a cruise ship. I'll let you be the judge.


Photo HBO Max

When the main characters arrive onboard, they start off at the Lime & Coconut pool bar, which is absolutely what the pool deck looks like today.

The pool deck is used quite a few times for the day scenes throughout the episode. It's clear they probably filmed while the ship was in port before the next sailing began, as the pool deck is the only area that actually looks like it does in real life.

"This is amazing! No wonder you love cruises, they're like the Vegas of the sea", Hannah Einbinder exclaims as soon as she boards the ship. I was glad to see cruise ships portrayed positively in this episode.  It's not uncommon for cruise ships to be the subject of stereotypes and clichés rooted in ships of the past.

Read moreWhy the cliche about cruise ships is totally wrong


Photo HBO Max

After getting onboard the ship, Einbender's character heads to the Solarium bar for a drink.

This scene is filmed in the Solarium, which is the adults-only area of the ship. The bartender even has a Royal Caribbean nametag on and the same shirt the bar staff wears on the pool deck.

Photo HBO Max

If you want to nitpick, there was no exchange of a SeaPass card after she got the drink, but it's perhaps because this a charter sailing. 

Something else accurate is she asks the bartender about if they can make mocktails. When Royal Caribbean revamped their drink menu in 2021, they added a focus on mocktails. 

Read more8 mocktails to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

"It's a ship, not a boat"

Photo HBO Max

A recurring joke is anytime one of the characters refers to the ship as a "boat", someone immediately corrects them that they are on a ship.

This actually a very important distinction that crew members and repeat cruisers alike will almost always correct people on, because it's basically insulting to refer to a cruise ship as a "boat".

Vernacular understanding often explains that a ship can carry a boat, but a boat cannot carry a ship. That is a vessel is a boat if it is small enough to be carried, and a vessel is a ship if it is large enough to carry one smaller than itself. 

Read moreThe top 7 cruise ship things you're still saying wrong


Photo HBO Max

All the interior shots are clearly on soundstages and not representative of what Navigator, or any Royal Caribbean cruise ship actually looks like. As I said before, I think they only had time to shoot while the ship was in port so they limited it to outdoor scenes.

The buffet certainly resembles the Windjammer buffet, although this version is quite narrower.

In short, there is indeed a buffet on the real thing, but there's more to it than we see.


Photo HBO Max

Jean Smart's suite almost looks like a real suite, but Navigator's interior motif is not nearly as nice as the show.

Besides the fact the room looks quite spacious, the room aesthetics are far different than the look of Navigator of the Seas' cabins. 

Photo HBO Max

It doesn't look that different from what Royal Caribbean suites sort of look like on newer ships, but it's certainly more modern looking than what you'll find onboard a real ship.

Piano bar

Photo HBO Max

In the evening, the main characters go to get a drink at a piano bar.

Navigator of the Seas has a piano bar, which is known as the Schooner Bar, but this is definitely not the Schooner Bar.

Photo HBO Max

Like the suite, this piano bar looks more modern and glitzy.  Unlike the Schooner Bar, there's no nautical theme at all present.

At the end of the scene, Jean Smart sings one of the songs instead of the piano player. This is definitely something that happens at the Schooner Bar, although rarely do the guests ever sound as good as Ms. Smart did in this.


Photo HBO Max

Jean Smart's character performs her comedy act onboard in the theater, which is a real location on Navigator of the Seas, but looks completely different in the show.

It's a shame they couldn't have filmed in the actual theater on Navigator of the Seas, because it's a beautiful space.

Aerial views

Photo HBO Max

Perhaps the most common mistake made about cruise ships on film is how they look. While they never name the ship in the episode, they use aerial shots of Symphony of the Seas.

Interestingly at the end of the show when the main characters disembark the ship unceremoniously, Navigator of the Seas is back in view from afar.

Royal Caribbean UK launches new family focused television ads

18 Dec 2019

Royal Caribbean UK launched a new series of television ads aimed at showcasing how a cruise vacation can help families come together.

The new advertising campaign was developed by Truant London and officially kicks off on December 26.

Jodie Whittaker, best known for her work on Dr Who, narrates the new television commercial.  It will begin appearing across major TV channels and video-on-demand on December 26.

The new ads focus on bringing extended families together and reconnect during a cruise vacation.

Royal Caribbean will also sponsor The Masked Singer in January. 

Royal Caribbean creates interactive quiz to help travelers discover their adventure personality

16 Jan 2018

Royal Caribbean has created a new first-of-its-kind quiz to help those that want to travel to discover more about who they are and what places around the world would most likely energize and excite them.

Through March 2018, visitors can go to MyAdventurePersonality.com to play with and see which adventures are best suited for them.

The 13-question quiz draws on various personality types, and specifically assesses a person's underlying motivations and interpersonal needs that most affect their travel preferences. Once complete, quiz-takers receive a unique description of who they are as a traveler, along with insight into destinations and activities that best suit them – from relaxing on a Caribbean beach to dogsledding across Alaska.

Travelers can share their results by tagging @RoyalCaribbean and #ComeSeek on Facebook and Twitter, and invite their friends and family to learn more about their own adventure personality.

Co-created with Myers-Briggs, the new tool serves to guide adventurers in planning more fulfilling vacations than ever before, and maximizing their value for spend as well as their precious time off.

"Royal Caribbean encourages everyone to act on their wanderlust. Now we've created a fun, engaging tool to help travelers do just that by digging into their adventure personality," said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer, Royal Caribbean International. "It's exciting that Royal Caribbean is the first in the travel industry to partner with CPP–The Myers-Briggs Company. By combining our nearly 50 years of experience with the research expertise of Myers-Briggs, adventure seekers of all ages not only can better understand their adventure makeup but also their fellow explorers. It's also worth mentioning that there's roughly a zero percent chance of a wicked Nor'easter in the Caribbean Sea."

Spotted: Royal Caribbean airport charger

04 Jun 2016

It looks like Royal Caribbean is looking for ways to advertise beyond the traditional means, with this charger spotted in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. 

Photo by Michael Poole

The C Terminal has this phone charging station that subtly hints a cruise can recharge you, just like this station recharges your phone. 

If you find yourself in Atlanta, check out this little taste of Royal Caribbean!

Royal Caribbean starts review of its global advertising strategy

18 Feb 2015

Royal Caribbean is embarking upon reviewing its global creative agency business and aims to have a decision by May 2015.

The review will focus on the work of incumbent advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, who has been the lead creative agency for Royal Caribbean since 2007.

AdWeek speculates that some recent personnel changes at Royal Caribbean may have impacted the working relationship between JWT and Royal Caribbean.  Royal Caribbean has a new CEO in Michael Bayley and Marketing SVP Carol Schuster left Royal Caribbean.


Royal Caribbean awards UK brand contract to Lexis

07 Nov 2014

Royal Caribbean has awarded Lexis a four-way pitch for the UK and Ireland account.  

Lexis will manage the Royal Caribbean UK's corporate, consumer and crisis PR as well as raising its the awareness amongst a ‘new to cruise’ consumer audience, by tackling misconceptions of cruise vacations.

Royal Caribbean UK's PR was previoulsy managed by Siren Communications.

Royal Caribbean UK & Ireland Director of Marketing, Jo Briody, commented on the deal with Lexis, "Lexis impressed us with its understanding of our core challenges and with its creativity. We are leading change in the cruise industry and want to take a fresh approach to our communications. Lexis shares our passion for the brand and demonstrated the ability to challenge misconceptions and positively influence people outside of the cruise sector."

Royal Caribbean partners with New York City to provide free Wi-Fi to subway platforms

16 Oct 2014

Royal Caribbean announced today a partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to bring free Wi-Fi access to underground subway platforms in Manhattan and Queens, New York.

The new partnership is part of an advertising intitiative by Royal Caribbean to bring attention to the brand new cruise ship coming to the New York City area, Quantum of the Seas.  Royal Caribbean is planning ads on billboards, screens and digital displays across the city.

The free Wi-Fi is part of the advertising deal because Royal Caribbean will be introducing super fast high speed internet aboard Quantum of the Seas.

This is not the first time Royal Caribbean has advertised heavily with the MTA. In February 2012, Royal Caribbean transformed select MTA subway cars into cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean sponsors YouTube network AwesomenessTV

30 Jun 2014

Royal Caribbean has pulled marketing funding for television ads in lieu of sponsoring two new series from teen-centric YouTube network AwesomenessTV.

For its part, AwesomenessTV has produced two shows for Royal Caribbean, the first of which will premiere on July 6.

"YoMuscleBoi's Royal Caribbean Adventure" follows AwesomenessTV star YoMuscleBoii as he cruises around the Caribbean, doing things like riding a Royal Caribbean ship's surf simulator and trying his hand at the world's longest zip line over water.

The second series is a scripted show called "Shipping Julia." Premiering August 3, the six-episode series will tell a Romeo and Juliet-style love story set during a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Royal Caribbean senior vice president of marketing, Carol Schuster, confirmed the company did re-arrange some of the funds, "We did take money from our TV budget to do this."  There's no word on how much but Schuster did characterize it as a "sizable investment."

So why did Royal Caribbean invest in a teen-centric YouTube channel?  Teenagers influence their parents, Ms. Schuster said. "Teens are our sweet spot from a guest perspective," she said. "They really get the most out of our ships."

AwesomenessTV's network of YouTube channels attracted 7.98 million U.S. desktop unique viewers in May, according to ComScore.

AwesomenessTV had another edge in getting Royal Caribbean's attention. DreamWorks Animation bought the company for $33.5 million last May with earn-outs that could add another $95 million to the deal.

Royal Caribbean debuts new television commercials

17 Jan 2013

Royal Caribbean has rolled out its new advertising message, dubbed "Designed for Wow" in television commercials that began airing on January 7th.

This new marketing campaign follows last year's "The Sea is Calling" theme.

Royal Caribbean Executive Vice President of Marketing, Lisa Bauer, says the new commercials are based on market research.  She also said the "shell phone" that was a major part of last year's commercials will not return for this year's ads.

The 30-second commercials show various activities unique to Royal Caribbean ships, combined with reaction shots from passengers.

Featured are the zipline and Aqua Theater from the Oasis-class ships, but also the Flow Rider surfing experience and ice skating rinks found on older ships.  

Royal Caribbean sends actors to New York subway to promote cruises

16 Feb 2012

Earlier this month Royal Caribbean launched a promotional campaign in New York's S-line subway, where they decorated the subway cars with Royal Caribbean prints to make it look like a ship.  Today, Royal Caribbean has sent a number of actors to ride the subway line and personalize the promotion.

Photo by Ellen Wilson

Photo by Ellen Wilson

The surfers with the sea shells to their heads are promoting the "Sea is Calling" advertising campaign.  But Royal Caribbean is having a little fun too with some people portraying characters from the Broadway play "Hairspray" that is shown on Oasis of the Seas.

Photo by Claire Tucker

And if that wasn't enough, these Royal Caribbean people are also offering "surf lessons" inside the subway cars.  Only in New York, right?

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