Margaritaville Expands Cruise Line with Second Ship Homeported in Tampa

Margaritaville cruise ship
Rendering of the rebranded cruise ship due to return to service in June 2024 (Margaritaville)

Published Dec 4, 2023 1:16 PM by The Maritime Executive


Margaritaville Holdings, the resort and consumer products company inspired by famed singer the late Jimmy Buffett confirmed plans to expand its fledgling cruise line as it looks to capture a bigger share of the short cruise market. Started in May 2022, the cruise line confirmed that it has acquired a second cruise ship which will be launched in June 2024 as it expands to Florida’s West Coast and the growing market in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was first reported in October that the cruise line acquired a secondhand ship from Adora Cruises, the joint venture startup in the Chinese cruise market set up by CSSC Corporation and Carnival Corporation. It had been rumored that the Florida-based operation was looking to expand after launching its first program as two-night cruises to Freeport in the Bahamas from the Port of Palm Beach, Florida. The cruise line reports that more than 250,000 passengers have sailed on its first ship, the Margaritaville at Sea Paradise (53,000 gross tons).

"Since we launched our first ship, Margaritaville at Sea Paradise, last year, we've been working to expand what our guests have been asking for: more amazing views, longer itineraries, and new ports of call," said Christopher Ivy, CEO of Margaritaville at Sea. "The addition of the Islander is an exciting moment for Margaritaville at Sea and marks the next chapter of growth for our business."

Introduced in 2000 as the Costa Atlantica, the ship operated a range of itineraries for Carnival Corporation’s Costa brand primarily in Europe and the Caribbean before becoming closely associated with the Chinese market. In 2018, Carnival announced that she and her sistership Costa Mediterranea would be acquired by the new Chinese venture. While they were transferred to the joint CSSC company, the ships did not enter service due to the pandemic and China’s restrictions on travel. The Mediterranean just resumed service this fall in China, ahead of Adora’s launch of China’s first large domestically built cruise ships in 2024 and 2025.

The new ship at 85,861 gross tons is larger than the line’s first ship. The ship, which is being renamed Margaritaville at Sea Islander, will have accommodations for 2,650 passengers with 1,100 cabins of which 700 feature private balconies. The company said the vessel, which remains laid up currently in Cagliari, Italy, will undergo a transformation including the branded spaces leveraging the Jimmy Buffet theme. This includes the LandShark Bar, Cheeseburger in Paradise, as well as a steakhouse, taco bar, pizzeria, and coffee shop with new additions including family-friendly spaces.

The second cruise ship will be based in the Port Tampa Bay. She will be operating four- and five-night cruises to Key West, Florida, Cozumel and Progresso in Mexico, and time cruising at sea. The new program will start on June 14, 2024.

The brand has also announced plans starting in August 2024 to introduce a three-night cruise from Palm Beach to Freeport in the Bahamas. The new cruise which will sail on Fridays adds a day at sea as the brand looks to expand its two-night runs to the Bahamas into more of a cruise experience to capitalize on the strong rebound in cruising after the pandemic and growing interest in short cruising.

Margarita Ville at Sea was launched as a partnership between the resort company and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. The company’s one cruise ship was rebranded and redecorated for the launch of the Margaritaville brand mirroring the hotels and resorts, gaming properties, RV resorts, and food and beverage venues, all launched under the Margaritaville branding popularizing the late singer’s song and lifestyle.