I boarded a cruise with Margaritaville at Sea to the Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas last June, two months after the brand started sailing out of Florida.
In the past few months, Margaritaville at Sea has been trending on TikTok as users share videos of their underwhelming travel experiences. In response to feedback from cruisegoers and fans, the ship is undergoing a multimillion-dollar construction with new upgrades and enhancements meant to improve the experience for future passengers.
With booking rates as low as $189 per person before taxes and fees, the cruise markets itself as a short, affordable tropical getaway. After additional fees ($12 a day for fuel and $15 a day for gratuities), one excursion, and other items purchased around the ship, I ended up spending just over $450.
Although I didn't expect much from this budget cruise, it still fell short of my standards as a guest. Here's what my experience was like.
The cruise ship has five dining facilities onboard, two of which are included in the booking fee. The Port of Indecision Buffet is a casual buffet that serves an unlimited variety of American food you can load up on during the specified dining hours in the morning and daytime.
However, the buffet closed at 5 p.m. every day, so we had to seek other options if we got hungry later. This seemed like a strategic way to get guests to buy from the other dining places, which were open until midnight.
Fin's Dining, the main dining room, is the other option included in the cruise fare. The vibe in Fin's was more upscale, with a beautiful ambiance. However, we were only scheduled to eat there once with a reservation that a staff member created as we boarded the ship.
Other options included a pizzeria, ice cream shop, steakhouse, and a bar and grill. The food was pretty good, but I wish more was included.
The ship had only two pools: one for guests of all ages and one solely for adults. I was very disappointed with the pools, as I thought they were pretty small and didn't seem to contain much water. The water inside one pool did not even go past my knees.
There were two jacuzzis on the ship as well, but they were often being used by larger groups.
When asked about the pools, a representative for Margaritaville at Sea said, "The pools are appropriate for a ship this size, and carefully maintained to ensure proper water levels."
Wi-Fi was available to purchase for the duration of the cruise for an additional $25 per device. I chose to unplug for the three-day trip, but my family members purchased Wi-Fi for their devices.
They couldn't get the Wi-Fi to connect inside their staterooms and found it only worked for them while they were in the hallway or in other areas of the cruise ship. Fortunately, the ship had plenty of seating spaces throughout.
A representative for Margaritaville at Sea said the ship upgraded its Wi-Fi in October to provide "stronger service" but also noted that "there are certain times when passengers may not be able to access it due to location in the Atlantic Ocean and weather."
On day two, the ship arrived at Grand Bahama Island, where we were able to leave the ship for an excursion run by a third party before heading back to the Port of Palm Beach. We had the option of booking an excursion when booking the cruise or while on the ship the day we boarded.
Passengers were able to choose between things like swimming with dolphins, swimming with pigs, having an up-close encounter with dolphins, or spending the day at either the Viva Wyndham, Taino Beach, or Grand Lucayan Resort.
My sister and I booked the excursion to swim with pigs on Crystal Beach, which cost $100 per person. This was the highlight of our trip, but the experience was not what we thought it would be.
The excursion was less about swimming with the pigs and more about feeding them. The pigs were swimming around while the we were trying to get them to come over using the apples we were given. In addition, 40 other guests from the cruise were competing for the attention of about six large pigs, which was overwhelming and overstimulating.
It was a great time, but the human-to-pig ratio was a bit imbalanced, and it was a "race" to get a pig's attention before another guest got in your way. The pigs were so big they almost knocked people over, and there was lots of pushing.
Every night the ship put on a nightly show titled "Tales from Margaritaville," a 45-minute musical production inside a large theater. The theater was a nice touch to the cruise experience, but the show was very kid-like.
Between the exaggerated plotlines, cheesy dialogue and jokes, and dance moves, I felt like I was seated to watch a middle-school play. The ship also had themed parties, a casino, dance nights, and bingo games.
For the price I paid, I didn't expect as much entertainment as I've seen on other cruise lines, but I expected the activities on the Margaritaville cruise to be more engaging.
Even the midnight parties hosted on the main deck were essentially just a small crowd listening to the tunes coming from the DJ booth. Needless to say, I did a lot of reading and writing on this cruise.
Fortunately, according to a press release from Margaritaville at Sea, the ship is planning to add multiple new shows, an arcade, and a dueling piano bar to its line up when it sets sail again in June.
On the third day of the cruise, we arrived back at the Port of Palm Beach around 8 a.m. Shortly after this time, the cruise was supposed to allow guests to begin disembarking the ship.
But due to an influx of passengers trying to leave the ship immediately upon docking at the port, staff members blocked the pathway to the doors so we were not allowed to join the check-out queue.
Instead, we were told to return to and stay in our room and a staff messenger would make an announcement once passengers could proceed with disembarking the ship.
We never received an announcement, so we were sitting in our room waiting until we went to check on the queue ourselves. This caused us to be delayed by three hours. To be fair, the process may have gotten a bit smoother since our early sailing, but I found the entire disembarking process I experienced to be highly disorganized.
When reached for comment, a representative from Margaritaville at Sea said the disembarkation "process has been greatly streamlined and improved since those first early sailings."
For my first cruise, Margaritaville at Sea could have been more impressive. It was a good preview into cruise travel, but it's not something I would do again.
I appreciate that we didn't have to book any international flights or travel far to go on this trip. I also recognize that my trip was shortly after the cruises began setting sail and any new venture comes with issues in its early stages. And I'm curious to see how the upgrades Margaritaville at Sea is currently working on could improve the experience for future passengers.
Still, I don't think my experience was worth the price. I would've rather used the money toward a major cruise line and a more elaborate sailing experience.2023-05-31T21:16:30Z dg43tfdfdgfd