Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is a well-known hospitality brand, extending its presence around and beyond the United States. In April 2022, Margaritaville launched its Margaritaville At Sea cruise line, allowing guests to sail from the Port of Palm Beach, Florida to Grand Bahama Island.
With booking rates as low as $189/person before taxes and fees, the cruise offers what is, for many, an affordable tropical getaway for a few days.
I hopped on the Margaritaville At Sea cruise in June for a firsthand experience of what the 3-day, 2-night cruise ship offers. This blog post will tell you everything you need to know about the Margaritaville At Sea experience and what you can expect onboard.
Booking A Margaritaville At Sea Cruise
The cruise line’s website provides an easy-to-navigate, great overview of the cruise ship and clear instructions on how to book a cruise. Depending on how many people you’ll be traveling with while booking, you will select the number of staterooms and individuals you want to register for the cruise. You can book a maximum of 4 individuals into one stateroom. You’ll enter the general details (name, birthdate, phone number, and zip code) of each individual, enter your payment card information, and you are all set to sail!
What is the cost of the Margaritaville At Sea Cruise?
The cost of the cruise can be a bit tricky because the advertised price will not be your final total due to a series of taxes, fees, and add-ons throughout the cruise. The starting price will vary depending on what day of the week you choose to sail. Sundays – Wednesdays are $40 cheaper than the usual $229-374 price advertised on Fridays and Saturdays. If you want to save some coins, sailing on a weekday will be your best bet. The cruise line always offers promotions on their website, so prices constantly change.
What is included in the price?
The price paid when booking covers the following:
- A room on the cruise ship
- Round-trip ocean transportation
- Meals at the specified dining facilities onboard
- Onboard live entertainment
- Supervised kid programs
What is not included in the price?
There are additional costs per person that you will be automatically responsible for by the end of your cruise. These include:
- Valet parking at the port ($22/day for a total of $44 if sailing for two nights and three days)
- Fuel charge of $12 per day (total of $24)
- Gratuities of $14.95 per night (total of $29.90)
- Grand Bahama Island excursions
- Dining at specialty restaurants offered onboard
- Bar beverages
Add A Package to Your Cruise Option
Margaritaville At Sea cruise offers a variety of packages guests can add to their getaway before sailing or upon arrival at the Port if they haven’t sold out. The three specialty packages give sailors different options like express check-in, dinner at the on-ship steakhouse, wine tasting, and other add-ons that make the vacation even more special.
The cruise line’s drink packages include the following:
- Unlimited Soda Package | $24.78* (includes souvenir cup)
- Boat Drinks Packages (10 drinks) | $99* (Retail value $120)
- No Feathers Non-Alcoholic Package | $89.67*
*Please note, an 18% service charge will be automatically applied to all drink packages, bar purchases, specialty dining, and Spa & Salon tabs.
Preparing to Sail: What Documents to Bring
• U.S. Citizens: Passport books or cards are preferred by the cruise line and must be valid for at least six months from the return date of sailing. While passports are strongly encouraged, you can sail to the Bahamas with Margaritaville without one! Non-U.S. citizen passport holders must provide an original or certified U.S. birth certificate with a valid U.S. driver’s license.
• Non-U.S. Citizens: Bring a valid home-country passport and visa, if required. Those who purchase a Cruise & Stay package are required to have a passport and a completed Bahamas Travel Health Visa before sailing.
The Margaritaville At Sea website will have all of the most updated information regarding the required documentation to sail.
COVID Testing Requirements
Vaccinated guests: Must provide a negative test result no more than 3 days before sailing (antigen, PCR or NAAT). Antigen testing is offered at the port for $45 if vaccinated guests can’t get one before boarding the cruise ship.
Unvaccinated guests: Must provide a negative PCR or NAAT test result, taken no less than 2 days prior to sail date, and be tested ($45 antigen) at the port before embarkation. If your embarkation day is on Saturday, you’ll want to get tested on Thursday.
I will say that I had unvaccinated members in my party, and they were not tested upon arrival at the port.
What to Bring on Your Cruise
Here is a list of things to bring on your cruise with Margaritaville At Sea besides your clothes and must-haves:
- COVID Vaccination Card (if applicable)
- Passport, Driver’s License, and Birth Certificate
- COVID Testing Results (electronic versions allowed)
- Carry-on-sized bag (to avoid taking up so much space in the room)
- Small bag to bring on your excursion
Staterooms and Suites Available
The Margaritaville At Sea cruise ship has 658 staterooms and three different types of rooms available.
- The Interior Staterooms (Starting at $189)
- The Oceanview Staterooms (Starting at $219)
- The Grad Terrace Suites (Starting at $819)
I opted for the interior stateroom, considered the most basic option of the three. At 176 square feet, the interior stateroom isn’t the largest room but still managed to impress me with the amenities and features offered in a room its size.
A Look Inside the Interior Stateroom
Margaritaville At Sea Cruise Sailing Itinerary
Margaritaville At Sea’s 3-day and 2-night cruise to the Grand Bahama Island has a general itinerary it follows:
On the first day of sailing, passengers boarded the cruise ship from the Port of Palm Beach from 1 pm – 4 pm and began sailing to the Bahamas. You are free and, of course, limited to exploring the amenities on the ship before having a good night of rest or a long night of partying on the upper decks with the DJ!
The ship arrives at Grand Bahama Island, where passengers can offboard the ship to embark on an excursion for a few hours before returning on the ship to head back to the Port of Palm Beach.
You will wake up in Palm Beach, Florida, around 7:00 am, pack up your belongings, and go through customs to enter the United States.
Arriving at the Port of Palm Beach: Embarkation Process
The cruise line will send an address to the port in the confirmation email you should have received. Once you get to the dock, an operator in a gate booth will give you a slip explaining how to navigate to where the cruise ship is in the area.
Valet parking is offered, and the rate is $22/day to park your car for the duration of the trip. This is the only parking available, so if you want to save some coins, be sure to get dropped off if you can and picked up on the day of return!
We waited in line with some other passengers to check in and were expedited as staff members had iPads to make the process run quickly. Once inside the port’s building, we went through a monitor/TSA-like system and dropped off our luggage and bags to be placed in front of our doors.
Taking the escalators upstairs to the official check-in counters, where our passports, vaccination cards, and COVID test results were reviewed. You will also be given your room keys (one per person in a suite). During this step, you are asked for a card that will be charged at disembarkation once you have returned back from the Bahamas.
Before boarding the ship, you will pass several booths. You will have the option to book an excursion, a spa service, take a picture, and set your dinner reservations for the night. The representatives at each booth are extremely helpful and will ensure that you understand the details involved in each service.
After the booths, you are instructed to watch a quick 5-minute cruise safety video giving tips and the “dos and don’ts” of cruising.
Is food included in Margaritaville At Sea Cruise?
The Margaritaville At Sea cruise offers a variety of dining options on the ship. The Port of Indecision Buffet and Fin’s Dining are included in the cruise fare, while other options incur additional costs and are considered specialty dining. I’ll list the options below, but I will say I feel that the cruise ship could have had more Bahamian food options.
Port of Indecision Buffet
This casual buffet serves an unlimited variety of foods you can load up on during the specified dining hours. In the morning, the buffet serves almost every American breakfast food you can imagine, and in the afternoon until 5 pm, you can expect to find different lunch foods.
Fin’s Dining is the only other dining option that is included in the cruise fare and is the cruise line’s main dining room. The vibe in Fin’s is more upscale, and you’ll want to have a nice dinner outfit to match the ambiance. The menu for both of the days can be found online.
Frank and Lola’s Pizzeria
The authentic Italian pizzeria has made its way onto the Margaritaville At Sea cruise ship and offers guests pizza and salad. Stay and dine in at the sectioned-off restaurant or carry out to your room.
5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill
Located on Deck 10, known as the entertainment deck of the ship, this bar is nothing but high-energy and big smiles. I passed the bar a few times on my way, and the drinks didn’t stop coming!
JWB Prime Steakhouse
The JWB Prime Steakhouse is an upscale restaurant serving fine steak and exquisite menu options on the ship. Passengers dining at this restaurant usually dress up in their finest dinner attire and enjoy all it has to offer.
Margaritaville Coffee Shop
Here you can grab a chai latte or a muffin before heading to your excursion at the coffee shop. To the right of the shop is an array of tasty gelato flavors to choose from for dessert!
Additional Charges for Drinks
Please note that glasses of water and juice are offered for free at the Port of Indecision Buffet. At Fin’s Dining, anything besides water is an additional charge at around $2.
Bars and Lounges
Margaritaville At Sea has 5 bars and lounges for passengers to enjoy on their cruise! Sway to the beats of live musicians and DJs that are hosted throughout the days on board in the Oasis Room, or head to the License to Chill Bar for a signature cocktail.
Entertainment & Recreation Onboard
Upon embarking on the cruise ship, we were given an itinerary with a detailed list of the time and locations of entertainment activities that would take place on board. The itinerary was very helpful for informing us on where to go for activities and restaurants and was a great touch by the cruise line.
The crew hosts different themed parties every night once everyone is aboard the ship and you’re headed to the Bahamas and back.
Bingo that is hosted on the ship! You do pay for a bingo card, but they were giving away another cruise when we were on, so it may be worth playing.
Tales from Margaritaville Show
A 45-minute show performed nightly. I honestly found this to be super corny and ended up leaving the show early, but you may have the time of your life! Different musicians and actors offer other musical shows throughout the ship.
Pools and Jacuzzis
The ship has two pools: one for all ages and one for adults. I was very disappointed with the pools, as they were barely filled with water and did not even go up to our knees. The jacuzzis looked nice but were also preoccupied as only two jacuzzis were on the entire ship. I hope to see improvement in this area, as I feel like it did kill the vibe.
Working out is possible while aboard the cruise ship at the on-site fitness center located on one of the upper decks. While the gym is compact, I was pretty impressed with the fitness center’s equipment and recommend bringing workout clothes just in case you’re up for a workout session while on vacation.
Spa & Salon
Book a massage, facial, or hair service to relax and unwind at the spa and salon.
If you’re up to placing bets and playing some games, stop by the casino and try your hand at Blackjack or Roulette!
What Can I Shop for Onboard?
The ship has plenty of shops to browse or purchase things to take home. From photo shops to duty-free stores, you’ll be met with plenty of options if you’re looking to buy something to take home on your trip.
Is WiFi Available on the Margaritaville At Sea ship?
WiFi is available on the Margaritaville At Sea Cruise, but it is at an additional rate of $25 per device for the duration of the cruise. We did purchase WiFi for a few devices and found that it did not work in our stateroom but instead in the hallway directly outside of our room door and around the cruise ship. For this reason, I don’t really recommend purchasing WiFi because it can be a hit or miss. I personally chose to unplug for the trip and did not have WiFi. We did mention that the WiFi was not that great during checkout and received full refunds for both of the devices.
What is there to do for kids on the Margaritaville At Sea Cruise?
Besides the pool, the Margaritaville At Sea cruise has Kid’s Clubs for children up to age 17. There is a group for ages 3-6, 7-12, and a Teen’s Club for ages 13-17. The clubs are free from 3:00 pm – 5:30 pm, but otherwise, are an additional fee that depends on whether or not you pay for one day or both days.
The itinerary of the three clubs can be found here.
Grand Bahama Island Excursions
The Margaritaville At Sea Cruise sails to the Grand Bahama Island on the second day from 8 am – 4 pm, where there are a variety of excursions you can do while on the island for the day. Unfortunately, due to the limited time of the cruise, you can only do one excursion. Here are the excursions offered:
Swimming with the Pigs and Beach Day
Swim with pigs at the beach, then spend the day enjoying the waves.
Dolphin Close Encounter
A 7 to 10 minute interaction with dolphins and chance to observe wildlife from the bird patio.
Swim with dolphins for 20 to 25 minutes.
City Tour + Market Place
Hop on a bus and get taken around the island to local spots and at the end get off the bus for a visit to the marketplace and lunch.
Brewery Tour and Shopping Area + Grand Lucaya Beach
Take a tour of a local brewery then end the day at the beach.
Grand Lucayan Resort Day Pass w Day Pass
Taino Beach Resort Day Pass
Day passes to the resorts include access to the resorts, lazy rvers, pools, jacuszzis, volleyball, watersports, and more.
Swimming with the Pigs Excursion
On the Margaritaville cruise, if you don’t choose to do an excursion once the ship docks at the Grand Bahama island for the day, you will stay on the boat doing nothing or watching music shows. To avoid this, I opted in for the Swimming with Pigs excursion.
Every excursion starts early, around 8:00 am – 9:15 am, so you’ll want to ensure you are up bright and early because tickets for excursions are non-refundable! The cruise offers towels (be sure to take at least two of them if you are heading to the beach). You’ll meet in the lounge, grab towels, then be organized into a line to board a bus leading to the excursion.
The Bus Ride
The ride to Crystal Beach, where our excursion was being hosted, was about 45 minutes from Freeport Harbor, where the ship docked. On the way to the beach, a tour guide joined our double-decker bus and gave a narrated tour of the island as we drove through. It was very informative. We learned that Hurricane Dorian in 2019 left a lot of the island damaged, and COVID has only made things worse for many businesses, causing them to close. The bus does not go into the city but west along the island’s coast to bring us to the pigs. According to the guide, there are 700 islands in the Bahamas and a population of 55,000. There is also a low crime rate due to everyone knowing each other!
Upon arrival at Crystal Beach, everyone was given wristbands, and we had about an hour of laying around, taking pictures, securing our beach chairs, etc., before the excursion began. Organized into four single file lines, the tour operator gave us instructions on how to handle the pigs in the water, how to lure them in our direction with apples, and the overall dos and donts to have the best experience.
The pigs were a lot larger than any of us expected! There had to be about 50 of us from the cruise doing the excursion. It was a great time, but the human-to-pig ratio was a bit much, and it was a “race” to really interact with the pigs before someone else was getting in your way to try to get their interaction. Imagine people screaming, pigs so big they are almost knocking people over, losing your balance, etc. It was crazy at times but a fun experience. I wouldn’t do it again just because of the number of people there, but I’m glad I got it done! Also the experience is more “feeding the pics, than swimming with the pigs.” The pigs are they only ones doing the swimming really, as the rest of us are trying to get their attention with the apples.
The rest of the day was spent on the beach relaxing. There isn’t much to do on the beach besides lay around and play volleyball after the pigs. I recommend bringing a book or something to keep you preoccupied. The only way to leave the beach after the excursion is via taxi, which can be expensive, so you are stuck there for about 5-6 hours. Surprisingly the time went by fast, and it was very relaxing.
Food of the Excursion
Food is not included in the excursion, but there is a shack on the beach that serves cheeseburgers, nachos, and other snack foods. I ordered a basic cheeseburger, but it was delicious! I was happier with the food from the shack than on the cruise ship.
Cost of the Excursion
This excursion was $99 per person. Was the price worth it? No, the excursion was supposed to be for 45 minutes, but I would say we only spent about 20 minutes with the pigs. That would have been a good amount of time if there weren’t so many people competing for their attention all at once!
Onboarding the Ship
The bus took us back to the ship, where we were met with fruit punch and cookies, which I thought was a nice touch. Overall, it was a great day in the Bahamas! I recommend getting an excursion to get the most out of your experience on the ship.
Cruise and Stay Option: Extended Stay in the Bahamas
The cruise and stay option is an opportunity to extend your trip in the Grand Bahama Island. Instead of just one day on the island, you will have 4-6 nights to enjoy an all-inclusive resort. The two resorts to choose from are the Grand Lucayan Resort and Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach. You don’t only get an excursion but get to enjoy the luxuries of the resorts for a few days.
Disembarking the Cruise
After the excursion and everyone have boarded the ship, the sailing back to Palm Beach begins, and on the third day, you arrive around 8 am. Shortly after this time, the cruise is supposed to allow guests to begin disembarking the ship, but that is not what happened. Due to an influx of passengers trying to leave the ship immediately upon docking at the port, staff members were blocking off the pathway to the doors, which caused a major delay in leaving by 3 hours.
I went to ask a staff member what the hold-up was, and it was due to customs being backed up. The staff member assured me that there would be an announcement made once passengers could proceed with disembarking the ship, but that announcement never came, so we were sitting in our room waiting until we went to check ourselves.
Your final bill is charged to the card you gave when you were boarding the ship originally, so there is no having to check out with a representative, which helped the process to go by faster.
You do have to go through customs when coming back into the U.S. since you left the country, but besides the long line, that was a breeze.
Costs With Added Fees and Purchases
The selling point of the Margaritaville cruise is its low cost in comparison to other cruises. The original cost was $300, but after my excursion, buying some small things around the ship like water bottles and ice cream, my final cost was $454,68. With the way the cruise is set up, you are bound to spend more than your booking fee, so plan accordingly!
Here is my spending breakdown:
- $300 Booking fee (Keep in mind I was booking with three other individuals)
- $14.95 x 2 = $29.90 Gratuities charge
- $12 x 2 = $24 Fuel Charge
- $99.00 – 10% discount = 89.10 Grand Bahama Island excursion
- $3.54 Bottles of water
- $8.14 Ice Cream
As you can see, while the “cheap” price point of the Margaritaville cruise may seem like an affordable cruise line option at face value, the additional costs and onboard cruise expenses you accrue, which we will cover in the rest of this blog post, can make or break whether or not the cruise is worth it or not for you.
Cons of the Margaritaville At Sea Cruise
- Certain fees like the fuel charge should have been included during booking in my opinion and part of the booking fee. I wasn’t a fan of how fuel and gratuities were added at the end. Other fees were added during booking, so it made no sense to me why others would not be included.
- Water bottles were sold at $1, which did not break the bank, but I feel that at least 2 bottles/person should have been included in the room.
- Soda is not included in dining at Fin’s Dining, and I felt like it should have been. Again, it’s only $2, but it feels like this is yet another way for the cruise line to make a quick dollar.
- The activities on the ship were not that exciting. This was my first cruise, and if I was basing all cruises on this one, I would honestly never return. For the price, a lot of things made sense, but besides live music and bingo, more could have been offered.
- The pools had very little water. I covered this earlier in this review, but I have to mention it again because what!?
Final Thoughts on the Cruise
The Margaritaville At Sea Cruise is a great quick getaway if you don’t have the time to embark on a 7-day long vacation, but overall I would not go again. For the price you may end up paying by the end of your cruise, you could have booked one with a major cruise line and gotten a better experience.