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A Parrothead’s review of the new Margaritaville At Sea Paradise cruise ship

by Attractions Magazine Staff

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. 

margaritaville at sea paradise
Photos by Dani Dennison Meyering

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.

jimmy buffet
Jimmy Buffet performed during the inaugural sailing

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. 

margaritaville at sea stacks

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!

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14 comments

Jose Alejandro Salamanca May 16, 2022 - 5:26 pm

Seems good for a weekend get a way and to have family and grandkids experience a cruise without the $1,000 price tags that come along with 7 day cruises. Cruise ships have always had 3 day cruises since the 70’s when my family first took one out of Port of Miami (The Esmerald Seas)

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Tricia k May 16, 2022 - 9:41 pm

That’s because you sailed for free I just got home from the inaugural cruise which we paid for … not a complainer it was the worst experience ship is dirty toilet bowls overflowing food at buffet was disgusting and no cold beer anywhere we will not be returning! It needs a lot of work every person I spoke to was not happy Thank God it was only two nights the only good thing about it the staff was very friendly!

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Francis P Rogers May 17, 2022 - 8:10 pm

My Wife & I both Love Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Been there 3 years for our Anniversary
they always make it ENJOYABLE everyone in the place knows it our Anniversary .
BEST PLACE TO EAT JWB Great food & Service Love it !!!!

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M. Clifton May 18, 2022 - 6:48 am

Went with husband, sister and brother in law. Very disappointed in the whole cruise. Waited in line over 90 minutes in express line to embark. Food was not good and variety was lacking. No newsletter or anything else to keep you informed. The cabin phones did not work the entire cruise. The cabins were quite nice and clean. My sister’s cabin A/C didn’t work and TV also. The crew members however were great.

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Jorge Gonzalez May 19, 2022 - 6:46 pm

Sinseramente estuve en ESTA primera Salida y para no perder tiempo es Mejor morirse unonw volver a corner in cruceroncomoneste solo le aradescona Aura ,Luis,Las dos Dominicans bartender Y a ikade in joven de Belize para mi y mi fam estan murryo

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Never again. May 19, 2022 - 9:04 pm

This was the worse cruise line that I have ever been on ,very disappointed. Very dirty horrible food.The port we went to in the Bahamas was not good.island still needs alot of fixin. Charge to go to the beach plus a charge to get into the beach.when we came back from the island an got back on the boat therecwas no food at the buffets until 6 30 pm.unless you go buy pizza. The only thing I can say was our massages were good.Never again with margaritaville at sea…

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Jeanmarie Hansen May 21, 2022 - 2:38 pm

So basically its the same substandard cruise that was when I went when, it was paradise cruise line after these reviews I’ll keep parrot&ead away from this

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connie May 22, 2022 - 1:48 pm

it was the worst crusie i been on from crap smell toliets over flowing and [email protected]#% coming from celing literly i would not rcommed this crusie to anyone please save your money did not get any slleep since 5 am till 7am the boat sounded like it was falling apart no entertainment buffay sucks over charged not to mention spending the morning in line fighting charges alond with half the prople on the boat

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V. Christian May 23, 2022 - 11:18 am

The worst cruising experience ever. The ship is advertised as a new ship when it is actually an old ship that was supposedly half renovated. The stateroom was filthy, the toilet was filled with feces upon opening the toilet cover, and there was dried up urine all over the toilet seat. It took housekeeping 45 minutes before they came and cleaned the bathroom and only after calling guest services 3 times and requesting to be moved to a cleaner stateroom. The wallpaper was peeling off the wall, and one of the pictures on the wall was hanging onto the headboard, rather than repositioned higher. The soap dispenser fell off the wall. A covid test was required at least 2 days prior to embarking, but we were never asked to show proof of having a negative covid test, let alone show proof of vaccination!! Food lack variety and taste. Where there was carpeting on the cruise, it smelled moldy. Would not reccommend this cruise at all, it was the worst experience ever!!

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Sandra Davis May 31, 2022 - 8:17 pm

Disappointed with the ship details, ambiance and the pools were the size of xlarge jacuzzi. The lines to board ship, the 6th floor smell of @$it, the Ac in room only blew warm air! AC man was grumpy and miserable when we called him to come check it out! The breakfast buffet was good with the fresh omelet made and bacon was good. The dinner buffet was fair. The Steak house was excellent. Get the lamb chops for my were cooked to perfection! The others had steak and they said it was ok same response at FINN.
The island they charged for everything! If u don’t purchase a package, you get a cab for $14 a person round trip then pay to enter Beach/pro for $12 pp then $25 for two chairs & one umbrella then u purchase food & wait one hour for delivery with hamburger with NO tomatoes!! The ship was nothing special or fancy. I wouldn’t do this cruise ship again. I was very disappointed!!

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Brent S June 2, 2022 - 12:07 am

My wife and I just spent the Memorial Day weekend on the newly refurbished Margaritaville Ship and contrary to many of the above reviews we found the experience to be a very positive one. The rooms were clean with brand new bedding. The crew was exceptionally friendly. The musical entertainment was top notch. At first we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t reserve a table at the upscale JWB Steakhouse, but as it turned out the food and service at the standard Finn sit down restaurant was impressive. For starters we had a choice of escargot and/or salmon tartar; for desert there was creme brulee. Not too shabby in my opinion. Admittedly this isn’t the caliber of Disney or Regent Seven Seas but it’s a fraction of the cost and never pretended to be on those levels. I highly recommend this 48 hour getaway without any second thoughts.

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Steven Reed June 9, 2022 - 10:43 am

I agree with Brent S. My wife and I took my 94y/o mother. It was our first cruise. It was a little hectic at check in. But the gentlemen that helped us (sorry forgot your name} got us through security and to the ship in a smooth manner. We had lunch the food at the buffet was above par for a buffet My mother is very picky and she enjoyed it. If people were surprised at he up charges. They should have read what was included. It wasn’t all inclusive. When we got to our rooms our luggage was there. Karen [not the mean one} was in charge of the section where are rooms were she made sure that we had what we needed. The room were clean the shower was fine.While a little pricy the food was excellent. Everything came it a timely manner. We could not eat our dessert so the waiter had it sent to our room. The casino was nice my mother played the slots she wanted to learn the basics of blackjack. while they weren’t very busy the dealer was very accommodating. There was a lot to do on the ship. The Margaritaville show was very entertaining. There were interactive events Natasha [cruise director] was very informative and very active in the events. Oh very friendly also. If there was a down side it was the city tour excursion Freeport is still rebuilding while some of the things at the Marketplace were closed we had an excellent lunch at Zorba’s. All in all we had a blast and will do it again.

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Becky Noren August 16, 2022 - 9:35 pm

My BF and I just returned today from our cruise. Neither one of us had ever “cruised”before. So we left our husband’s home and made a Girls Getawsy. I should mention we are 65 and 70. We had a FABULOUS TIME start to finish. Valet parking, boarding, honestly, everything ran like a well oiled machine.Ourdinner at JWB’s and FIN’S was outstanding. The breakfast buffet was really good, LOTS OF CHOICES. Our excursion to the WYNDOM was GREAT. No charge for food or drinks. Loved John Massey in The Piano Bar..must see him!! The crew is kind, helpful. Our room was very clean, we had a pot hole.
My only “complaint” honestly, there was a “room services charge on my bill for $11+..not having room service I of course questioned it. It was for the large bottled water in our room. Really..and the A/C in the Euphoria Lounge WAS FREEZING. There were grown men sitting with beach towels wrapped around them waiting for our excursion. We were also there in the evening for a show…still freezing!! BUT..we LOVED our 1st cruise experience. We “thought” Margaritaville at Sea would fit the bill and it DID!! Can’t wait to go back!

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Krista McCarthy October 10, 2022 - 4:49 pm

This will not last and can’t believe Jimmy Buffet let them use his name. The halls of the ship are musty smelling. We had to have the toilet in our cabin worked on twice, as it would not flush. The cruise goes to a port where there is absolutely nothing, if you don’t book an excursion you are screwed. A heads up about this from the cruise workers would have been nice. No communication about what is going on at all. Dining hall was not open for breakfast like it was supposed to be. Very little Jimmy Buffet music played and I have more Margaritaville memorabilia in my backyard than is on this ship. True “Parrot Heads” will be too disappointed.

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