Margaritaville at Sea expands with a bigger ship: Here’s where it will go

Margaritaville at Sea announced plans for its newest ship, but it won’t be sailing from any of South Florida’s three ports.

The Margaritaville at Sea Islander — a rechristened Costa Cruises ship purchased earlier this year by the Riviera Beach-based budget cruise line — will sail four- and five-night cruises from the Port of Tampa beginning June 14, according to a news release on Monday.

The 12-deck ship will accommodate 2,650 passengers departing from Florida’s west coast with Gulf of Mexico stops in Key West and the Mexican port towns Cozumel and Progreso.

The plan marks a significant expansion for the cruise line, which launched as Bahamas Paradise in 2014, then was rebranded in 2022 in partnership with the late Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville brand. Since then, the line has sailed two-night voyages between the Port of Palm Beach and Freeport, Bahamas, aboard Margaritaville at Sea Paradise, a ship that fits 1,300 passengers, roughly half the capacity of the Islander.

Pool deck of Margaritaville at Sea's newest ship
Margaritaville at Sea’s newest ship, Islander, is big enough to fit a variety of new restaurants, bars and attractions. It sails on June 14 from the Port of Tampa and will regularly visit Key West, and the Mexican port cities of Cozumel and Progreso. (Margaritaville at Sea/Courtesy)

The larger size allows the brand to offer additional features, like a combination poolside bar and live music stage under a retractable dome, plus additional dining rooms and bars and a larger casino.

Margaritaville at Sea says the Islander is undergoing an extensive transformation and its 1,100 staterooms will be redesigned with signature bedding, pillows and linens, and “custom styling reminiscent of the sand, sea and sky,” the news release said.

In an interview, Chris Ivy, CEO of Margaritaville at Sea, said the company set out to purchase a ship it could sail from Tampa.

“When we went through the process to identify the port, we researched what would be the best fit,” he said. “We decided on Tampa because it enabled us to go to Key West and other Gulf Coast locations.”

A stateroom on the Margaritaville at Sea's newest ship, Islander. All 1,100 of the ship's staterooms will be redesigned when the ship sails on its first voyage on June 14 from Port of Tampa, the cruise line says.
A stateroom on the Margaritaville at Sea’s newest ship, Islander. All 1,100 of the ship’s staterooms will be redesigned when the ship sails on its first voyage on June 14 from Port of Tampa, the cruise line says. (Margaritaville at Sea/Courtesy)

Maritime Executive in October reported that the cruise line had purchased the ship from Adora Cruises, a partnership between Carnival Corp. and the China-owned China State Shipbuilding Corp., which operated it under the Costa name until the cruise industry shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Since the pandemic, the ship spent most of the past three years anchored off Cypress before going into dry dock in the spring.

The ship’s size prevented it from sailing from the Port of Palm Beach, and Port Everglades spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy said the Broward County port might not be able to host the ship during weekdays of the busy winter cruise season.

Built in 2000 as the Costa Atlantica, the Islander weighs 85,861 gross tons and is 959 feet long.

More than 700 of the ship’s 1,100 staterooms have balconies — a first for the brand, Ivy said. Upgrades will include Grand Terrace suites, corner suites “and ultra-exclusive Islander suites,” according to the release.

Other elements not found on the Paradise will be a 14-story atrium and bar, the Daydreaming Sports Bar, the three-story LandShark Bar at Sea, and a tiki bar at the ship’s adults-only pool. The 5′ O Clock Somewhere Bar will be adjacent to the pool in the middle of the ship and feature a stage for live entertainment “so guests can watch the entertainers while they’re relaxing in the pool,” Ivy said. A retractable dome will make every day a pool day.

The casino will be larger than the one on the Paradise, and the cruise line is developing an energetic new stage show for the main auditorium, he said.

Venues that will be replicated from the Margaritaville at Sea Paradise will include JWB Prime Steakhouse, Frank and Lola’s Pizzeria, Margaritaville Coffee Shop, and Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Onboard activities will include a cornhole and mini-golf course, a pickleball court, and a splash-and-slide attraction.

It will cost more to sail on Islander compared to Paradise, but that’s because the ship will sail longer trips, is larger, newer, and includes upgraded staterooms and more activities, Ivy said.

Prices for the first four-night cruise to Cozumel, with an introductory discount, will start at $209, excluding fees and port charges. Five-night trips will start at $269 per person.

Bookings are available beginning Monday at Margaritaville at Sea’s website, The first sailing on June 14 will be a four-night cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, with two days at sea.

Five-night sailings will go to Key West and either Cozumel, Mexico or Progreso, Mexico.

Continuing a policy that’s been in place since the Bahamas Paradise days, guests must book through the website. Bookings will not be available through Orbitz or other travel sites.

In addition to launching Islander, the cruise line is introducing three-night cruises aboard its flagship Paradise beginning next fall. Those will feature a sea day that the cruise line calls Saturdays at Sea.

Margaritaville at Sea’s owners say they hope the new ship signals the start of a new chapter for the company that will eventually include more ships, ports and destinations.

“Our aim was always to expand the business,” Ivy said. “We’re really confident that this is the next step to do so. If other opportunities become available, we’ll continue to look at them.”

Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at

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