With passengers enthusiastically posting to Instagram Reels and TikTok, cruise ships play a cameo in thousands of vacation videos daily — but certain well-known vessels have also had starring roles in major movies and TV shows. With the cast and crew onboard for filming during actual cruises, everything from a cruise ship’s pools and cabins to its restaurants and bars provides a backdrop as the comedy, action, or reality-show drama unfolds. So, grab some popcorn and check out these 10 films and series to see some of your favorite ships.
1. Jack and Jill: Allure of the Seas
With Adam Sandler recently awarded the Kennedy Center’s 2023 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, perhaps his starring role — actually dual starring roles since he plays the twin siblings of the title — in the critically panned 2011 comedy Jack and Jill is worth a second look? Unless you’re a Sandler fan, maybe not. But this film, which features a double dose of lowbrow comedic shenanigans and also stars Katie Holmes and Al Pacino (plus a half-dozen Hollywood celebs in cameo roles), was partially shot aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. As the family boards for a holiday cruise, Jill excitedly declares, “This boat has everything!” Sorry, dear, but it’s a ship. Check out behind-the-scenes footage here.
2. Let Them All Talk: Queen Mary 2
Filmed almost entirely during a single transatlantic crossing of Cunard’s largest ship, Queen Mary 2, this 2020 movie for HBO Max, directed by Steven Soderberg, stars Oscar-winner Meryl Streep as a celebrated writer on a deadline who takes a cruise with her young nephew and two longtime friends (played by fellow Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest and Oscar nominee Candice Bergen) as she wrestles with an impending deadline. Long-standing grievances, misunderstandings, and lots of eating and drinking in some of QM2’s stellar spaces pace the plot of this character-driven drama. Watch the trailer here.
3. The Real Love Boat: Regal Princess
Princess Cruises has had a catchy affiliation with the “crew” and theme song of “The Love Boat” ever since episodes of the 1970s/1980s TV series were filmed on some of its ships. But in 2022, it sailed into the 21st century with the debut of The Real Love Boat, a reality series filmed aboard Regal Princess in the Mediterranean and starring husband-and-wife hosts Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell. The duo, along with the ship's actual captain, cruise director, and a bartender, endeavor to guide single contestants through a series of dates (both onboard and off) as they try to make a love connection. Watch season one here.
4. Speed 2: Cruise Control: Seabourn Legend (now Star Legend)
Sandra Bullock is at the helm (sans Keanu Reeves) in this critically panned 1997 sequel to the 1994 blockbuster Speed. The plot of Speed 2 involves a maniacal computer whiz (Willem Dafoe) who hacks into the control system of Seabourn Legend (now sailing in the Windstar Cruises fleet as Star Legend) and sets it on a collision course with an oil tanker. Bullock, reprising her breakout role as Annie, might be onboard for a relaxing Caribbean cruise with her cop boyfriend Alex, played by Jason Patric, but it quickly falls on them to save the day. Watch the trailer here.
5. The Parent Trap: Queen Mary (with exteriors of Queen Elizabeth 2)
This 1998 remake of the 1961 Disney original stars 11-year-old Lindsay Lohan as identical twins Annie and Hallie, who, after being raised separately since infancy, each by one of their biological parents (played by Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson), meet at summer camp and hatch a switcheroo plan to reunite them. The comedy opens with Cunard ship Queen Elizabeth 2 (now a floating hotel in Dubai) gliding through nighttime ocean waves as the parents celebrate their wedding, but the interiors were actually filmed on the historic Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, CA. Will the scheming twins — and another Cunard cruise — rekindle their parents' romance? Watch the opening scene here and the official trailer here.
6. The Bachelorette: Valiant Lady
The second Virgin Voyages ship, Valiant Lady, hosted the long-running ABC reality series The Bachelorette in early 2022 when co-bachelorettes Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia sailed around Europe as they dated a roster of eligible bachelors in their quest to find the one. Both ended up with wonderful memories of the 2,700-passenger, adults-only ship as well as port calls in Le Havre, France (for Paris), Zeebrugge, Belgium, and Amsterdam, The Netherlands — but alas, neither ended up having their post-filming relationships and engagements survive in the real world. The full season can be watched on Hulu.
7. Out to Sea: Westerdam
What do you get when you cast Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as widowed buddies who set sail onboard a cruise ship — Holland America Line’s former Westerdam, which is no longer in service, having been replaced by a new Westerdam in 2004 — as gentleman dance hosts in a bid to “sip champagne with some lonely rich broads?” (Matthau, it turns out, is a gambler deeply in debt.) Some hilarity does ensue, but the 1997 comedy, which also starred Dyan Cannon as Matthau’s younger love interest, played to mixed reviews. Watch the trailer here.
8. Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Carnival Dream
“Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,” a 2011 live-action cartoon movie starring Jason Lee as Dave Seville with cartoon “munks” voiced by Justin Long, Jesse McCartney, and others, has the group of singing rodents embark on a family vacation aboard Carnival Dream as it cruises the Western Caribbean. Dave and the high-pitched and mischievous Alvin, Simon, and Theodore — along with the Chipettes — end up overboard and “chipwrecked” on a deserted island with a volcano that’s about to erupt, creating an exotic setting for them to constantly break into song. Watch the trailer here.
9. Like Father: Harmony of the Seas
Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, and Seth Rogan star in Like Father, a 2018 film about an overworked bride left at the altar who ends up on her planned honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean anyway — with the father she hadn’t seen for more than 25 years. Filmed onboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, the movie showcases cabins, public spaces, and activities (including the lead characters trying FlowRider), as well as island locales such as Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The film is on Netflix, and you can watch the trailer here.
10. The Love Boat: Sun Princess, Pacific Princess, and Island Princess
With its earworm of a theme song and memorable cast, The Love Boat was a hit when it aired for 10 seasons on CBS. And, even though the three ships that appeared in the series — Sun Princess, Pacific Princess, and Island Princess — haven’t been part of the Princess Cruises fleet for years, the cruise line maintains its nostalgic affiliation and has even sailed themed cruises with original cast members such as Jill Whelan, Fred Grandy, Ted Lange, Bernie Koppel, and Lauren Tewes onboard. The series can be watched on Paramount+.