Margaritaville Sails Into the Short-Cruise Market | Travel Research Online


Margaritaville Sails Into the Short-Cruise Market

“There’s nothing better than launching a new cruise line into a market that has been closed with Covid,” says Francis Riley.

And indeed, adds the chief commercial officer of Margaritaville at Sea, the market is perfect for a three-day cruise out of West Palm Beach that sails year-round —and can be extended to six days, with a stay on Grand Bahama Island, for about $1,000.

The whole idea of getting out on the water is very much in line with Margaritaville’s laid-back luxury charm. While the 658-room Paradise, which set sail this month, is hardly a new ship; it is completely refurbished since its days as Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Classica.

“Every single cabin has been ripped out and completely overhauled, every single area of the ship is refurbished,” Riley says. And the cruise includes all the things you’d get in a Margaritaville resort—”the elevated room, pillow, mattresses, the food, the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar, the elevated dining with JWB Prime Steak House, plus of course what you’d expect in terms of entertainment, with a new show written by Jimmy Buffet.”

Though not ready for the first few sailings, the cruise will include a day on Grand Bahama Island at the Margaritaville Beach Club; “we’re building that out and it will be ready soon,” Riley says.

Already onboard though is the original Jimmy Buffett show, the 40-minute Tales from Margaritaville: Jimmy’s Ship Show, designed to “capture all of Jimmy’s songs and themes” and produced by Frank Marshall, who’s produced mega hits from Paper Moon to Raiders of the Lost Ark and five Jurassic Park movies.

Riley promises there will be music throughout the ship, kids clubs, sail-away parties, evenings on deck—and Jimmy Buffett himself on a sailing or two.


Courtesy of Margaritaville at Sea


Attracting the New To Cruise Set

Adding a cruise product to its growing brand gives Margaritaville—and the travel advisors that sell it—a unique opportunity to talk to guests at the land-based resort who have never tried cruising, Riley says, as well as offering an upscale option for past guests of Paradise. “A two-night escape will open a new opportunity for Margaritaville resort customers who don’t think cruising is for them. It’s a sort of floating island getaway that’s very safe and family-friendly for those who want to just escape.”

For the laid-back crowd, vaccines are not required, though testing is.

For travel advisors, there will be a minimum of one room on every sailing “at a very beneficial rate” starting at $149 including taxes and fees to experience the product, Riley says. “That’s a commitment we’re making to the travel industry.”

Already the company is seeing “a nice uptick” in the business coming from travel advisors, Riley says. “It’s a new exciting brand and as such there’s an opportunity to tap this prod into their customer base, attract many who are new to cruise, and drive people away from direct bookings at hotels on short breaks. We think it will appeal to customers who like to take multiple vacations.”

The trade portal offers training materials and access to reduced rates, marketing collateral, seminars at sea, and webinars. “We’re moving as fast as we can recruiting for agents and contact center people to help us build that relationship,” he says.

The biggest hurdle in attracting the attention of travel advisors is the perception that a short cruise is not worth the effort—but that’s fundamentally flawed, he says. Prices on Margaritaville at Sea start at less than $457 for the four-night program—”significantly less than an all-inclusive in the Caribbean,” he notes—and $685 per person for the six-night Cruise and Stay. With all-inclusives in the Caribbean starting at about the same price, it’s a good value—and a good revenue opportunity for travel advisors.

“The demand we will create just by virtue of the name should make this an easy sell to customers in your database who have stayed at Margaritaville. It’s something unique that will give a customer that cool thing to do.”

Just off the ship’s maiden voyage, which was delayed from April 30 to May 14 due to supply chain problems, Ray Teet of Ray & Joy Teet Dream Vacations in Port St. Lucie, FL, said he enjoyed the cruise to nowhere.

“The ship needs more work, and they have committed to continue renovating her,” he told TRO. That said, “I believe the Margaritaville concept will work very well for them and offer an alternative or composite vacation to Jimmy Buffet fans. Guests with passports can extend to a resort and make the vacation all-inclusive. And it will work very well for guests without a passport who are looking for a short vacation with a day at a beach.”

And while I’m not sure there’ll be sponge cake to nibble, there’s surely shrimp beginning to boil.


Cheryl’s 40-year career in journalism is bookended by roles in the travel industry, including Executive Editor of Business Travel News in the 1990s, and recently, Editor in Chief of Travel Market Report and admin of Cheryl Rosen’s Group for Travel Professionals, a news and support group on Facebook.

As an independent contractor since retiring from the 9-to-5 to travel more, she has written regular articles about the life and business of travel agents for Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent and Insider Travel Report. She also writes and edits for professional publications in the financial services, business and technology sectors.

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