I took the Margaritaville cruise. It is like fundamental financial system at sea.

RIVIERA Beach, Fla. — There was panic in the Port of Palm Beach. Cruise ship passengers in flip-flops and tank tops scattered from the deck covered in synthetic turf to rendezvous at their muster stations. It was only a drill, but we did have an crisis: We ended up out of margarita. And this was a Margaritaville cruise.

Of course, that Margaritaville. Past the dining places, residential communities, hotels and resorts (RV, beach front and ski), in the late Jimmy Buffett’s hospitality empire, there are also two cruise ships, the Margaritaville at Sea Paradise and Islander. I embarked on the former for a two-evening sailing from Florida to Grand Bahama. It’s one of the most inexpensive cruises on the market, frequently jogging product sales this sort of as a $49 trip for lecturers or get just one, convey 3 mates “free.”

En route to our muster station, an anxious bartender stopped me and my fiancé, Dan, inquiring whether or not we would like a refill. This was the previous opportunity to get a consume for a while, he warned. Dan and I exchanged worried glances. Our novelty cup, shaped like a blender, rattled with ice. How long?

“About 30 minutes,” the bartender mentioned.

It was a warning shot. The web site had promised a “floating island holiday vacation,” but we seemed to have boarded an prolonged booze cruise operate by Spirit Airways.

Fees lurking driving each individual corner

I tried to ebook a solo reservation throughout a “Season’s Greetings Sale,” but a pop-up said I could not reserve a cabin for 1 on my specific sailing. That intended Dan obtained to arrive.

For the selling price of $239.20, we bought the most economical area with a window on the 658-cabin ship, furthermore 5 free beverages. A few actions into the reservation method arrived the increase-ons: $57 for WiFi on two gadgets and $188.80 for other taxes and expenses, earning it $485 for the two nights.

It would have been $50 more cost-effective if I had forgone a window, and significantly extra high priced if I additional a shore tour or updates, this kind of as the $749 Supreme License to Chill deal, which incorporated express look at-in, precedence baggage supply, 10 premium drinks and a $300 spa credit rating, among other perks.

My amount coated meals at certain dining establishments on board, some nonalcoholic drinks such as juice and faucet drinking water (but not soda, one particular of the least expensive beverages on the world), and entry to the ship’s dwell leisure and supervised kids’ plans during sure hours.

It did not include a “fuel supplement” of $15 for each person, for each night time, or a gratuity charge of $18 for every person, for every night time. Both of those prices appeared on my credit rating card just after we boarded.

By the conclude of our journey, introducing in specialty coffee, some food and additional cocktails, we totaled $780.36 for the place and other prices.

Major, cozy rooms meet bare-bones facilities

Without getting specific test-in, it took us 30 minutes to board the ship soon after our arrival to the port. We went by a metal detector and could not convey drinks or food items in our luggage, which was scanned by an X-ray (despite the fact that I did get some plantain chips by means of). There have been signals all over the place warning against bringing marijuana on the ship. The last challenge was obtaining by an impediment program of salespeople vying for our notice like auctioneers, pressing us to get drink offers, shore excursions and specialist pictures.

On board, it was quiet. The “informal-luxe” vessel, previously recognized as Grand Classica, was built in 1991. It’s regarded as outdated for the cruise planet but had a multimillion-dollar renovation to insert Margaritaville touches. Buffett references and beachy decorations abound, such as a gargantuan teal flip-flop statue, a brand name signature we also observed at the Margaritaville resort in Hollywood, Fla. There is a casino, an arcade and a spa that billed about $180 for massages. It seemed nicely-worn, but a lot more dated than operate-down.

Outside there were deck chairs about two small swimming swimming pools — or if you’re a glass-half-total type of man or woman, two massive plunge swimming pools — a pair of 4-man or woman hot tubs, a jogging track, some cornhole boards and a pickleball court docket with a scraggly web pushed off to the side. Dan and I brought paddles, but with the outdoor court currently being vulnerable to wind and rain, a game was out.

Our area was our silver lining: It was a great deal more substantial, brighter and cleaner than we had anticipated. The title of the Buffett typical “Nothin’ but a Breeze” was painted in excess of the porthole, and in the closet we uncovered robes and slippers. The sheets had been white and crisp with a delicate parrot motif etched into the bedspread. The mattress and pillows ended up comfortable. The shower got very hot rapidly and experienced great drinking water tension. A corner desk held $4.95 bottles of drinking water and a $29.95 bottle of Robert Mondavi pink mix wine.

The confounding procedure of acquiring beverages

At lunchtime, our options were the Port of Indecision Buffet or the Cheeseburger in Paradise Burger Bar — two of the a few places on the ship that serve the food stuff bundled in our rate. There are 3 other “specialty dining” alternatives wherever you have to pay back added, as very well as in-place eating and a bunch of bars.

The buffet had an off-placing aroma reminiscent of another spending plan cruise I took decades back, or a retirement dwelling cafeteria. Maybe it was the cleaning supplies, or maybe the food items. We grabbed burgers (practically nothing to write household about) that we dressed ourselves at an unkempt salad bar station and sat on the open up-air 5 o’Clock Someplace Bar & Grill deck. “I can see how illness can distribute swiftly on a cruise ship,” Dan, who’s a science instructor, mentioned as we ate. We discovered somebody else’s hair on his plate.

When we flagged down a server to get margaritas, we observed out we couldn’t cash in our 5 absolutely free beverages right up until we bought a wristband on yet another floor. We requested about the other drinks offers, and the server explained them at a rapid-fireplace clip:

For $99, we could get the Boat Drinks package, a price cut of 35 % off 10 alcoholic drinks, but only on beverages that expense $12 or considerably less. The $119 No Doubts Premium Drinks deal protected 10 leading-shelf drinks, and the $119 Blender Cup Package received you six 22-ounce beverages (a lot more than double the size of a normal cocktail) from a specified menu range, served in a very little blender (sans blades) that appeared like an adult sippy cup. Every involved an 18 per cent gratuity demand.

It felt like a riddle. We went with no deal, but worry-ordered the sippy-cup version of the Who’s to Blame margarita with Margaritaville Gold Tequila, triple sec and a “house margarita blend.” It was $29 and just wonderful.

We watched some others struggle to get, this sort of as the two ladies who experienced to go back again and forth with their server for a handful of minutes to determine out how to get a Grey Goose and soda, value be damned. The elaborate program — blended with the frequent pressure from workers to obtain extra beverages — grew to become a shared bond involving friends.

“The price tag [of the cruise] is fantastic, I’ll give them that,” explained Peter Austin, from the Orlando space. “But they’ve approached us I believe about 25 situations to obtain beverages. It’s pretty, pretty aggressive.”

Complimentary food — with a capture

We missed the complimentary supper at Fins Dining the initially night time mainly because we weren’t knowledgeable there ended up only two set seatings for every night until finally we had skipped each. (We hardly ever acquired our welcome packet.) That remaining us with Frank & Lola’s Pizzeria, a specialty cafe with crimson-checkered tablecloths wherever we acquired a a few-study course meal for two for $20.

The Caesar salads ended up serviceable, but the pepperoni pizza was also fatty, like they added excess oil to the cheese or sauce. It remaining us feeling queasy soon after, so we took our charming tiramisu back again to our place to take in later. Wine was sold independently and couldn’t be purchased at the pizza put Dan experienced to stroll more than to the coffee shop to seize two glasses with our beverages bundle.

There was no messing all around on Night 2 We showed up to Fins at 5:45 p.m. for the 6 p.m. seating. The sprawling eating place was embellished with white tablecloths and gleaming light fixtures. Evening meal came with a bread basket and 3 programs. You could get an excess entree for $7, which some persons all-around us did mainly because the appetizers — a few slices of tuna and a couple of arugula leaves for Dan, a slight bowl of gumbo for me — had been comically petite.

My gumbo and signature pasta with shrimp were being all right. Dan’s Tuscan mac and cheese with grilled hen, vegetables and a “cacio e pepe sauce” was inedible. “It’s like watered-down Stouffer’s,” Dan reported. We noticed two tables send out theirs back. I gave Dan my ice cream system to bulk up his brownie sundae.

For breakfast at the buffet, I received by with clean fruit and English muffins Dan went for breakfast sausage and some French toast he favored. The drip espresso was free of charge, but nearly as skinny as tea — another reminder that Margaritaville was cutting charges the place it could.

I talked to persons on the cruise who liked the foodstuff, folks who hated it and one particular team that had a excellent assessment of their foods at JWB Key Steak & Seafood, a specialty eating option.

“It’s been terrific,” explained Mark Seeley, 37, who came with his two pals from New York after looking at an advert for the cruise on Instagram. “I thought it was seriously significant high-quality.”

Parrotheads have the finest time

Regardless of the booze cruise name, Paradise was rather tame after dim.

After catching a musical functionality at the Stars on the Drinking water Theater 1 night time and a stand-up comic the other, the bash died down quickly. We could usually locate dwell tunes, and no, it was not strictly Buffett songs.

If you went in with small anticipations, you could have a pleasant time on this bop to the Bahamas. I beloved looking at men and women have pleasurable — like the rousing celebration recreation we observed a person night time in the Euphoria lounge that bought members to do wild issues (adult men putting on bras on their heads, individuals using each individual other like horses). I laughed so hard my encounter hurt.

Most of the tourists I fulfilled felt the exact same way, significantly people traveling in major groups. “We listen to a ton of folks have blended TikTok opinions, but for the price tag, it was fantastic,” stated Khaila Dennis, 23, a Miami resident traveling with her household.

We skipped the shore excursions offered by the cruise in favor of going our individual way, saving income in the process. The Austins did the exact same, as did a handful of people today we fulfilled. Dan and I rented a scooter in Freeport for $50, used the day exploring the island, its white-sand beaches and the amazing neighborhood cuisine. We shared a body fat lobster tail, fried on the place for $25, from a shack on the beach front ordered two rum cocktails for $10 and tried using a refreshing conch salad, straight out of the shell, for $11. It was a ball, a person we wouldn’t have experienced if we didn’t get the cruise.

Unless you are a die-difficult Buffett enthusiast, I’m not confident that paying out $780, moreover the rate of airfare and transportation to and from the ship, will get you the ideal family vacation for the selling price.

It’s definitely not the most effective place to get a margarita, both.