Are Margaritaville Cruises Really Paradise At Sea For A Low Cost?

Jimmy Buffet made a career of writing songs about the benefits of escaping to the beach and letting the sunshine cure whatever ails you in life. His iconic music also inspired him to create a series of businesses built on the "Margaritaville" brand, named after one of his most popular songs. These businesses include restaurants, resorts, casinos, and a new cruise line — Margaritaville at Sea. These trips have been steadily growing in popularity since the cruise line launched its first ship in 2022, but are they really paradise on the high seas? Or will the cost leave you feeling like you've been plundered by a pirate? 

According to two polls published in 2024, readers and cruise experts agree that Margaritaville at Sea provides a fun escape that can be enjoyed for a reasonable price. The cruise line's route from Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island scored the number one spot on the 10 Best New Cruise Itineraries in 2024, determined by USA Today 10Best. These short excursions have become popular with cruise travelers looking for a fun getaway on a ship filled with exciting attractions and decor inspired by Buffett's beachy tunes. The brand also appeals to those seeking to plan a family-friendly adventure, as demonstrated by its position as number three on the list of Best Cruise Line for Families in 2024 by USA Today 10Best, with activities for guests of all ages.

Keep your cruise budget-friendly

Margaritaville by Sea offers two- and three-night trips to the Bahamas on the ship aptly named Paradise, while the Islander features four- and five-night trips to destinations such as Key West, Cozumel, and Progreso. Both ships are filled with festive decor and a Caribbean spirit, with Buffet's music providing plenty of inspiration. Meals on both the Paradise and the Islander are complimentary at the Port of Indecision Buffet, Fins Dining, and the Cheeseburger in Paradise Burger Bar. However, both ships offer specialty dining options for an additional price, as well as entertainment, such as a spa and a casino. Additional drink packages and other add-ons can be tempting, although these expenses can begin to turn a budget cruise getaway into an expensive excursion. For example, guests may purchase an upcharge such as the License to Chill package for several hundred dollars over the price of the cruise, which promises expedited boarding, specialty dining, free drinks, Wi-Fi, and a spa credit. 

You can limit expenses by being selective about these extra packages, and it's also possible to save money by choosing an inside cabin. Families traveling within a budget have plenty of free activities to enjoy, such as multiple pools on each ship as well as the entertainment clubs for kids and teens. For additional suggestions on planning a family-friendly cruise, check out these other tips on surviving a cruise when traveling with kids.

Set your expectations when you create your itinerary

Many travelers have reviewed their experience aboard a Margaritaville ship, and some have mixed feelings about the value they received for the money they spent. One reviewer described a fun "party boat vibe," complete with margaritas served in souvenir cups shaped like blenders, and nights she spent singing along to Jimmy Buffet's hits during the ship's musical (per Yahoo Life). However, this same traveler also described her experience with electrical outlets that didn't work and elevators that were especially slow, indicators that the Paradise shows signs of age even after a splashy renovation. If you've decided to splurge on some additional upcharges on your trip, it might make you question whether the Margaritaville experience is worth the price or if it would be better simply to spend money on a luxurious cruise while visiting another incredible destination.

One Cruise Critic reviewer suggests that the deciding point seems to rely on how you manage your expectations. A Margaritaville cruise is a fun escape, and it's possible to keep additional expenses to a minimum as you create your cruise itinerary. If luxury and refinement are what you seek on a cruise, then this may not be the best option. However, if you're simply looking for a fun way to change your attitude with a change in latitude, then having a cheeseburger in paradise aboard a Margaritaville cruise might just be your version of heaven on earth — with an onion slice, as Jimmy Buffet says.