Whether you’re looking for a vacation that takes you to sunny Caribbean beaches or cool Arctic waters, tips from people who travel the world for a living—like Royal Caribbean crew members—come in handy. Meet Captain Stig Nilsen, who has spent 40 years at sea. He also happens to be one of the two captains of the world’s longest cruise, the Ultimate World Cruise, a 274-night adventure to more than 150 destinations in 65 countries—from Europe to the South Pacific.
Captain Stig has been at the helm of Royal Caribbean ships since 1994, including Brilliance, Jewel and Serenade of the Seas. All these years have afforded him experiences in many places like New Zealand, The Bahamas and Scandinavia, and on the Ultimate World Cruise—which begins December 2023—he’ll set off on his biggest adventure yet.
As you plan your next big adventure, there are plenty of cruises and ships to consider. We asked Captain Stig for his expert tips on everything from the destinations and experiences you can’t miss to what there is to look forward to on the world cruise.
Get to know Captain Stig and discover what to see and do in destinations you can visit with Royal Caribbean, such as the ABC islands, Norway and Australia.
Q: Why did you become a captain and what are some favorite moments from your career so far?
Captain Stig: My family has generations of sailors and deep-sea fishermen. I never considered another career, and by the age of 24, I owned and operated my own fishing boat in the high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean. After a few years, I decided to change course. I attended the Merchant Marine Academy in Norway and have been in the cruise industry ever since. It’s been 27 years since I joined Royal Caribbean.
Some of my favorite moments will always be the interactions I’ve had with the thousands of guests and crew members I have encountered over the years. I can truly say I have friends all over the world.
Q: What are you most looking forward to as Captain for Royal Caribbean’s first Ultimate World Cruise?
Captain Stig: I look forward to welcoming the adventurous guests who have chosen this epic cruise. As a longtime student of maritime history, I’m also excited to share my knowledge and point out places that were visited long ago by the likes of famous explorers and adventurers Captain Cook, Francis Drake, Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen. I will do this during daily announcements and formal or informal talks throughout the cruise.
Q: You’ve visited many destinations during your time at sea. Which is one of your favorites?
Captain Stig: I am a true son of the Arctic. I was born north of the Arctic Circle in Norway and have lived there my entire life. Scandinavian destinations like Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden, which are on the list of places we’ll visit on the Ultimate World Cruise, are always close to my heart.
Editor’s note: During his time off, Captain Stig gets involved in Norwegian coastal heritage and culture by maintaining and restoring historical vessels.
Q: You were the first captain of Serenade of the Seas and are now returning for the Ultimate World Cruise. What are several top amenities and experiences guests can’t miss on a ship like this one?
Captain Stig: Our incredible chefs on board Serenade are planning delicious culinary specialties in our various restaurants. You also can’t miss the famous Chef’s Table. Guided by our chef de cuisine on board, it is one of the most exclusive and elevated experiences you can have on the ship. You’ll taste several locally inspired courses paired with different wines as we make our way around the world.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for what you can see and do in places like Norway?
Captain Stig: In the Norwegian fjords, I recommend trying one of our shore excursions. One of my favorite activities is hiking on one of the well-maintained trails in the area. For example, in Geiranger, you can hike to Storseterfossen, a spectacular local waterfall. Be sure to walk behind it to feel the power of the water as it rushes past you.
Pro tip: Shore excursions in Norway can include digging into art and history at Oslo’s Munch Museum, named after Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.
Q: What are some other top destinations you can visit on a Royal Caribbean cruise?
Captain Stig: In Sydney, Australia, you can visit the Australian Maritime Museum as well as take a stroll around the Sydney Opera House and across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And in Morocco, I highly recommend a visit to the local marketplaces.
My other favorite spots are the ABC islands in the Caribbean: Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. The water is crystal clear for snorkeling and scuba diving. An underwater trip on board a submarine is also a must.
Pro tip: One of the best places to snorkel in The Bahamas is Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island destination, where you can explore turquoise waters off the shores of white sand beaches or hop on one of 13 waterslides in Thrill Waterpark and much more.
Q: What can guests look forward to about the Ultimate World Cruise?
Captain Stig: This is a first for Royal Caribbean, which is very exciting, and I am honored to be the captain. Having the opportunity to visit so many destinations, including 11 great wonders of the world, will be a memorable and unique experience. There will be countless highlights—from the thrills of seeing giant blue whales and penguins in the Arctic to serenely cruising between the islands of the South Pacific.
Royal Caribbean ships visit more than 240 destinations, sailing around the world from the Caribbean to the South Pacific, Europe and Alaska. Wherever you want to go, there’s a ship that will get you there and offer you a wide variety of restaurants, entertainment, activities for the whole family and more.
Ready to set sail around the world? Head here to choose your Royal Caribbean cruise.