By Dani Dennison Meyering
Margaritaville finally has a cruise line, well at least a cruise ship. As a Parrothead, I have been so excited about this development since it was announced. The cruise line’s first cruise ship is the Margaritaville at Sea Paradise, and it just set sail for the very first time.
It is a ship that’s actually been in service since 1991 and was given a significant makeover during its transition over to the Margaritaville At Sea brand. Attractions Magazine and I were invited to participate in the inaugural media event for one jam-packed night. Here’s what you need to know and what to expect if you decide to book the first Margaritaville cruise experience.
- A small repurposed cruise ship
- Casual, approachable fun
- Multiple bars with Margaritaville themed atmosphere
- Tropical, comfortable cabins
- Adult focused activities and amenities
- Lots and lots of Jimmy Buffett music
- A quick two-night getaway with a day in the Bahamas
Pricing for a Margaritaville at Sea cruise is as low as $169 to $189 per person, depending on the sailing date. Peak periods are in the $220 per person range.
How big is the Margaritaville At Sea Paradise cruise ship?
The Margaritaville At Sea Paradise is relatively small, especially compared to the big cruise lines on the ocean nowadays. But Margaritaville the brand didn’t start out so big.
Jimmy Buffett, the man behind the brand, has humble roots, and many fans like myself recall his days of performing in no-name bars. Look at him now! His 1977 hit song “Margaritaville” catapulted his career, and now there is a brand that extends to multiple facets of life that will keep his legacy going for decades.
Over recent years, the resorts and other vacation experiences served as the company’s focus. Thinking back on those humble beginnings, the very first Margaritaville Hotel at Pensacola Beach Florida started just like the cruise ship has.
Margaritaville At Sea Paradise operated as the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s ship since 2018. Now the ship belongs to Margaritaville At Sea, and was given a significant makeover. I loved seeing lots of Margaritaville branding in the places where it matters most: the cabins and the bars.
It can carry 1680 passengers and roughly 590 crew members. There are five restaurants and seven bars. More about the dining and bars later in this post.
What is there to do on the Margaritaville cruise ship?
Aboard this tropical floating resort, you’ll find the Stars on the Water theater and bar, where you can catch a performance of the ship show “Tales from Margaritaville,” written by Jimmy Buffett and Frank Marshall. Jimmy Buffett has written a number of books, one of which is the best-selling “Tales from Margaritaville,” featuring the protagonist Tully Mars.
The show features a cast of six performers and a live band who pour their hearts into the performance.
If you are unfamiliar with Jimmy’s songs and the book, this show may not resonate all that well. However, you’re sure to have fun with the songs and the playfulness of the show.
Neat fact: the performance I witnessed on May 12, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. was the first time the show performed while the ship was in motion.
Besides the theater, there is a casino. In fact, it is adorably named the Par-A-Dice Casino. Within these walls on Deck 9 you can try your luck at a number of electronic casino machines, card tables, and dice games.
Entertainment and activities are offered at certain times of the day, and into the late night at a few spots on the ship. The main lounge in the middle of the ship is Euphoria, and it hosts the main entertainment for adults in the evening.
If you want to keep yourself in shipshape, there is a small but effective fitness center that overlooks the water, and it is right next to the St. Somewhere Spa. The spa is relatively small, but still offers quite a few ways to relax and pamper yourself.
The current state of the ship is interesting because many remnants of the ship’s previous branding can be found in the decor. Make it your own personal scavenger hunt if you’re so inclined. Still, the Margaritaville branding reigns supreme and gives Parrotheads like me the tropical vibes they crave.
Available Add-ons include:
- Express check-in at the port
- Express disembarkation at the port
- Special stateroom welcome
- Free internet
- Booking assistance for shore excursions
- Priority luggage delivery (pre-paid only)
- Reserved seating in the theater
- Drink packages
Dining on Margaritaville At Sea Paradise
What’s a cruise without yummy food? Margaritaville at Sea Paradise has a number of restaurants, about half of which are included in your fare.
Fins Restaurant and Port of Indecision Buffet will serve as your included spots. Feel free to have a feeding frenzy here.
A number of dining locations cost an additional fee. JWB Prime Steakhouse is the fine dining establishment aboard the Margaritaville cruise ship. This concept also exists at a handful of the luxury resorts from Margaritaville around the country and in the Caribbean. JWB costs $59 per person and it is worth every penny.
During our inaugural media event, we were presented with shareable portions of each entrée and side. The quality of the steak as well as the sumptuous sides are on par with any steakhouse that you would find at a luxury resort.
There is also a Margaritaville Coffee Shop located towards the center of the ship. As you might imagine, this coffee shop is quite popular in the morning, but also serves up specialty coffee throughout the day. The cost of the specialty coffee beverages like espresso, Frappuccino, and more runs around $3.50 to $5.00 and change.
In the morning the Port of Indecision Buffet serves breakfast. The spread we experienced during the inaugural event consisted of all the breakfast standards: scrambled eggs, bacon, turkey bacon, hard-boiled eggs, French toast, waffles, fresh fruit, and pastries. The standard included drip coffee flows nonstop and juices and water are available at a beverage machine.
Pro-tip: Seating at the buffet becomes pretty cramped during peak breakfast time. You can find additional seating just around the corner at the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar, which has a wonderful outdoor seating area with a view of the ocean off the back of the ship.
Is the Margaritaville cruise kid-friendly?
In short, those sailing without kids are probably going to have a better time than those sailing with kids. There are three complimentary kid’s programs, which include supervision. During the inaugural cruise, I only located two kids’ clubs. Both of these clubs were not available for viewing during this sailing.
At a quick glance through the windows, they look like simple one-room facilities with toys and activities for the kids. There are two pools aboard the Margaritaville At Sea, but one of them is for adults only.
The live show could be fun for kids who do enjoy live theater and performances. It is a 45-minute show with mostly upbeat Jimmy Buffett music. There are a handful of slower moments in the show, but they aren’t very long. Most of the show is made of upbeat songs with colorful costumes, lighting, props, and fun energy.
The included dining options are fairly casual and kid friendly. One of the items I am working on finding out more about is the ability to bring on allergy-friendly food or other dietary needs onto the ship. A lot of kids have food allergies, my son included, and that is a concern of mine.
Margaritaville Cruise and Stay Vacations
One of the really interesting features and unique characteristics of Margaritaville At Sea is that it can be combined with a land vacation in the middle of the cruise. The Margaritaville at Sea travels to Grand Bahama Island.
At Grand Bahama Island guests can participate in shore excursions including dolphin experiences and swimming with the Bahamian pigs.
Or you can take it a step further and get off the ship to stay a few nights at your choice of two different all-inclusive resorts on the island. After four or six nights you head back home with one more night on the ship.
If I were to bring my son aboard Margaritaville At Sea Paradise this would probably be the way we’d do it. The kids’ activities are enough to keep young kids happy for a night, but two nights in a row might be rough. By adding a few nights at an all-inclusive resort, it would be more entertaining for kids and more relaxing for parents.
All Margaritaville At Sea cruises leave from the Port of Palm Beach on two-night sailings. This is intended to make it a great choice for a quick tropical getaway. Given the current ship’s small nature, the short itinerary makes sense. And if you want some more time in the Margaritaville state of mind you can book the land package.
Margaritaville at Sea Cabins
There are just two types of cabins aboard Margaritaville At Sea Paradise. There are Inside cabins and Oceanview cabins, which have a porthole window. It is interesting to note that the inside cabins have a bigger capacity than the ocean view cabins, so families have to book an Inside cabin or a suite. In addition to the standard inside and ocean view cabins, there are a handful of terrace suites.
The ocean view cabin that I stayed in during the inaugural event was very comfortable and reminded me a lot of the hotel rooms at the various Margaritaville resorts.
In fact, my cabin – as well as much of the Margaritaville cruise experience – reminded me of the Compass by Margaritaville hotel in Anna Maria Sound Florida. The Compass by Margaritaville hotel is a smaller option than the other regular Margaritaville resorts. The select service Compass by Margaritaville hotels have all of the Margaritaville branding that you have come to expect, but features are dialed back a little bit so that they are more of a hotel rather than an all-encompassing resort.
Therefore, the room rate is much lower than what you find at the big resort. That is somewhat the same here with the Margaritaville cruise. The features certainly fit the brand and lifestyle, but they’re not to the luxury standards that the large Margaritaville resorts have come to exemplify over the years.
The ocean view cabin has a comfortable king-size bed with plenty of space between the king-size bed and the desk. In the style of cabin I stayed in, on Deck 7, the bed is closer to the ocean view porthole wall, and it gets a little narrow on that side of the bed.
The large flat panel TV hangs above the bed in the corner. I did not have a chance to go through any of the channels. A small desk faces toward the bed with a mirror and acts as a working space as well as a vanity for getting ready during the morning.
A closet has plenty of space and drawers. The bathroom is very standard. The sink has lots of counter space, making it great for placing your toiletries and other items. The shower, however, leaves something to be desired. It is in the corner and is a cylinder shape with a shower curtain that covers the back of the shower.
This shower setup also makes the floor of the bathroom quite wet. On the bright side, the towels are plush and the bathroom itself is decently sized for being in a cruise cabin.
The cabin was completely redecorated to fit the Margaritaville lifestyle and certainly look very similar to many of the Margaritaville resorts around the country and the Caribbean.
An important item to note: Most of the cabins only have one regular electric outlet in the bedroom and a second one in the bathroom. There are no USB style outlets so you will need to bring an AC adapter. There is a small mini-refrigerator, a hairdryer, and a safe. Like most cruise ships, there is not a coffee maker.
Is it worth booking?
The big question is, now that I’ve gotten a taste of Margaritaville at Sea for free, would I pay for a Margaritaville cruise on my own dime. The answer is, “Yes, but…”
As a Parrothead, I naturally fell in love with seeing the Margaritaville branding placed onto a cruise ship. I would absolutely book my own Margaritaville cruise, and plan on doing so. However, I am not sure I would bring my little parakeet with me, and would perhaps do so as a much-needed parents’ getaway.
Jimmy Buffett fans will most likely enjoy this first iteration of Margairtaville’s own cruise ship. For a quick getaway filled with tropical vibes, it is fins-up fun!