We Just Returned from a Cruise on Margaritaville at Sea Islander – Here’s Our Day-By-Day Review

We sailed on Margaritaville at Sea Islander and share our experiences on this newly refurbished ship in our latest day-by-day cruise review.

We Just Returned from a Cruise on Margaritaville at Sea Islander - Here's Our Day-By-Day Review

Margaritaville at Sea Islander Cruise Ship Overview

Margaritaville at Sea Islander is the new cruise line’s second ship. Formerly Costa Atlantica, this 85K gross ton ship originally launched in 2000 as part of the Costa Cruises fleet. This ship was then sold to CSSC Carnival Cruise Shipping for a new joint venture for the Chinese cruise market. However, it never entered the Adora Cruises fleet and was sold to Margaritaville at Sea in 2023 instead.

This 24-year-old Spirit-class vessel holds just over 2,200 passengers at double-occupancy and underwent an extension renovation before re-entering service. Spending millions of dollars on this transformation, Margaritaville heavily invested in the accommodations. All 1,105 staterooms were fully renovated. They feature nautical decor with nods to the brand and were definitely a highlight of the ship.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

With retheming of the pools, most of the bars and lounges, dining rooms, and sports deck, guests will definitely feel like they are on island time. There’s also a fun vibe with friendly staff, family-friendly activities like mini-golf and cornhole, and two new signature productions. We liked that the ship featured all the classic cruise staples with a Margaritaville twist.

There’s the Bubbles Up piano bar, Hemisphere Dancer cocktail lounge, Havana Daydreamin’ Latin bar, the lively Flip Flip Atrium Bar, and three well themed pool bars: 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, Landshark Bar, and Tiki Bar, among others. Each features its own signature cocktail menu. Many also feature live music and various activities like trivia, dance classes, arts and crafts, or karaoke.

When it comes to food, Islander’s options were hit or miss. The casual options shined including Frank and Lola’s Pizzeria, Cheeseburger in Paradise, and the up-charge Tiki Grill and Island Eats. However, the main dining room as well as JWB steakhouse were a bit of a let down. From long wait times to dine in the MDR, to extra charges for entrees, to lukewarm food temperatures, we actually preferred the casual dining to the sit-down meals…well, with the exception of the Port of Indecision buffet.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

We did like that Margaritaville at Sea now offers dining and drink packages, but the fact that specialty coffee is not part of the drink package was a big disappointment for us.

We also missed the lack of technology. There is no cruise app, not even a place on the television to view your account balance. They even took reservations for the steakhouse with pen and paper! This also lead to another complaint of ours– excessive in-cabin announcements. While most cruise lines have reduced the number of ship annoucements, Margaritaville was the other extreme.

Further, there’s currently no online cruise planner which means you need to call to purchase packages and other add-ons after booking the cruise. There’s also still an in-person muster drill rather than a digital muster drill like most other cruise lines.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

Finally, the ship still had several maintenance issues present despite the recent updates. From clearly rusted areas just painted over on the outdoor decks, to broken seats at the bars and theater marked with caution tape, to ripped up flooring in a few different areas around the ship, we were reminded of the ship’s age.

There were also buckets collecting water from leaks and some signs of water damage found around the ship too. We couldn’t help laughing that every time we walked down a hallway, we seemed to pass maintenance staff. I guess that means they are at least addressing these issues.

Nonetheless, if you are looking for a budget-friendly cruise, Margaritaville at Sea Islander is a worthy contender. It’s an easy choice for those nearby to Tampa and hardcore Parrotheads. With the lively atmosphere and varied activity offerings, families, couples, and groups alike can enjoy themselves.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

If you’re considering a cruise on this “new” ship, here’s the cliff notes version:


  • Newly renovated staterooms
  • Signature bars and drink menus
  • Most casual food options
  • Family-friendly activities and entertainment offerings


  • Mediocre main dining room experience
  • Lack of technology and excessive announcements
  • Number of up-charges
  • Ongoing maintenance issues

For a more in-depth look at our experiences on Margaritaville at Sea Islander, continue reading our day-by-day review below.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

Margaritaville at Sea Islander Review – Day 1

On the Road Again

Home for just a short time since our Disney Fantasy cruise, we were heading back to Florida once again. This time to Tampa to sail on Margaritaville at Sea’s newly refurbished cruise ship, Islander.

We sailed on Margaritaville at Sea Paradise back in 2022 when it first launched, and unfortunately, the ship had quite a few issues. Simply put, it wasn’t ready for paying customers yet. So, we were eager to see how this experience compared. We had seen initial reports from the media sailing and were ready to form our own opinions.

Honestly, we couldn’t remember the last time we sailed from Tampa, Florida. We think the one and only time was our very first cruise together back in 2007! Since it had been a while, we planned to explore the Riverwalk a little and grab some dinner along the water.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

But, with travel these days, we ended up with a flight delay of over 3 hours from Boston. So by the time we arrived at our hotel, Tampa Marriott Water Street, we ended up just ordering room service and going to sleep.

Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season

With an early embarkation time of 10:30 AM and the port of Tampa just a short distance away, we left our hotel right around that time.

We were uncertain what the day would hold. We were unfamilar with this port, and we also assumed there would be some changes to our itinerary given Hurricane Beryl. This 5-day cruise was supposed to visit Key West and Progreso, Mexico. Given its position on the Yucatán Peninsula though, it was highly unlikely we’d get to visit this port for the first time.

However, like all cruise lines, we were confident that Margaritaville at Sea would keep us out of harm’s way. When cruising during hurricane season, travelers need to be flexible. While cruises are rarely cancelled, there might be changes to itneraries and/or missed ports of call. But, an altered itinerary with still warm and sunny weather is certainly better than being in the path of a hurricane!

Arriving at the port, we noticed signage for arrival times starting at 11 AM. Thus, we attempted to bypass the line and soon realized there was quite a bit of disorganization. With staff doing little to keep the order, guests were just squeezing their way into the terminal regardless of arrival time.

Making our way through security and the actual check-in process took about 30 minutes, but we were able to board the ship immediately afterwards.

Stepping onto Margaritaville at Sea Islander, the signature flip flop in the atrium greeted us. While we wanted to explore, our first order of business was getting a JWB Prime Steakhouse reservation. With a spot secured for Day 2, it was time to begin our normal embarkation day routine.

Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville

Starting at the top of this eleven deck ship, we explored the outdoor areas like the Dis ‘N Dat Activity Zone which features themed cornhole and mini golf. There’s also a waterslide and the Caribbean Amphibian Play Pad for kids.

Additionally, there are three themed pool areas. The main pool deck, midship on Deck 9, features the Landshark Pool and Bar and the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Pool and Bar. In line with Carnival Corp.’s Spirit Class ships, the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Pool still has a retractable roof, meaning it’s a pool day no matter the weather outside. The third pool area is aft on Deck 9. This Tiki Pool and Bar is adults-only.

While in the area, we also peeked into the St. Somewhere Spa and Salon. Given the size of the ship, this area is rather small and does not feature a thermal suite. You can still get services like massages, facials, hair care, and manicures/pedicures.

Approaching 1:30 PM, it was time for lunch. The main lunch options are the Port of Indecision buffet and two poolside stands: Cheeseburger in Paradise and Mexican Cutie Cantina. We didn’t like the Port of Indecision buffet on Paradise, and this one didn’t look much better. Thus, we opted for some tacos from the cantina.

Of note, unlike MVAS Paradise, the Margaritaville Coffee Shop and Frank and Lola’s Pizzeria are actually kiosks in the buffet. Unfortunately, this does diminish the atmosphere of these two venues.

The Mexican Cutie Cantina features only tacos and rice bowls with chicken, pork, or beef. It would have been nice to have a burrito option or some nachos as well. We’d put this venue on par with El Loco Fresh on Royal Caribbean but still think that Carnival’s BlueIguana Cantina is better.

Time to Check Out Our Cabin

With the announcement recently made, we decided to head to our cabin following lunch. Our Deck 7 extended balcony stateroom, 7175, was located on the starboard side of the ship between the forward and midship elevators. At first glance, we were pleasantly surprised.

While the cabins on Paradise were refurbished too, these looked much nicer. In fact, it’s one of the ship’s biggest selling points. It didn’t appear that the bathroom had been fully refreshed, but the rest of the room looked brand new. It featured beachside decor and island vibes perfect for the brand.

Since the weather was so hot, we spent some time in our cabin cooling off and getting the necessary photos and videos prior to muster drill. Yes, unlike our huge red flag moment on Paradise, there was a muster drill on Islander. The unfortunate part is that muster drill on this ship occurs outside.

After being crammed outside in the Florida heat for about 20 minutes during this mandatory safety briefing, it was time to get this 4th of July cruise started. This is also when the Captain informed us that our itinerary was in fact changed. We would be visiting Nassau, Bahamas instead of Progreso, Mexico.

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere

Up to the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, we grabbed our first drink of the cruise, some margaritas and boat drinks of course. While we sailed away from Tampa, the Fins Up Crew hosted a pretty typical sail away party. While we were to sail under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge around 6:30 PM, the weather was starting to cloud up and I couldn’t take the heat anymore.

We decided to head back to the room to cool off and get ready for dinner. I watched the sail under the bridge from our balcony, and Don ran up to the pool deck to watch.

By now, it was close to 6:45 PM and time for dinner. Margaritaville at Sea Islander has one main dining room, Fins on Deck 2. However, it is all open seating and no reservations. When we arrived, the hostess told us there was a 45 minute wait. Back on land, we never dine at a restaurant without a reservation. We wouldn’t even wait 45 minutes for a high end restaurant, nevermind a cruise ship main dining room.

Slightly annoyed and hangry, we went upstairs to the Islander Dining Room on Deck 3. A bit odd, but this restaurant is where suite guests dine but also an up-charge venue for other guests. It’s basically just the second floor of the Fins Main Dining Room. Islander features the same main dining room menu with a small insert of additional items with a price tag of $20 per person.

There’s still no lobster or escargot or anything of that nature on the menu. So honestly, it’s not worth the up-charge but the only way to dine without a wait. With our Ultimate Dining Chill dining package, we did get one meal here for free. But, we ended up talking to the hotel director who allowed us to dine here the rest of the cruise without a fee.

Tonight, our waiter was I Made who provided some of the best service on the ship. He was friendly and attentive and went out of his way to make sure our needs were met.

For dinner, I ordered the cuban croquettes, watermelon feta salad, and grilled brick chicken. Don ordered shrimp cocktail, ahi tuna, and striploin steak all off the Islander exclusive menu. For dessert, we tried the hazelnut “honey do” cake and chocolate cappucino icebox pie. Aside from the ahi tuna, nothing was really a standout dish for us.

Our First Evening on Margaritaville at Sea Islander

Following dinner, it was showtime. Margaritaville at Sea Islander features two signature productions, along with typical headliner acts in the Stars on the Water theater. Tonight was a pretty typical welcome aboard show at 9 PM where we met the cruise director Zee-Jay, some of the production cast, and the headliners that would be performing full shows this week. While relatively new at the cruise director role, Zee-Jay did a great job and was very visible around the ship.

After the show, it was time to check out more of the interior of the ship. Margaritaville at Sea Islander has plenty of well-themed bars and lounges that all feature a signature drink menu. So, it was time to check off the second bar on our “drink around the ship”. The Flip Flop Bar on Deck 2 is the open atrium bar which has live music and pop-up performances throughout the cruise.

With a Key Lime Pie Martini on the menu, it was an obivous pick for me. Alas, they didn’t have the ingredients to make it. This seemed to be a reocurring theme during the cruise. Since it’s a “new” ship and new menus, you’d think they would have the appropriate supplies, but that wasn’t the case.

Nonetheless, we watched the Motown pop-up performance with production cast and listened to the guitar player Pedro for a bit before calling it a night around 11 PM.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander Review – Day 2

On Island Time

Day 2 of this Margaritaville at Sea Islander review was our first port of call in Key West. Though, we wouldn’t be arriving until 1 PM. Since this port is on few large ship itineraries, we’ve only visited Key West a few times. So, we certainly had plans to get off the ship for a while today.

Up around 8 AM, Don set off on his normal morning routine collecting pictures and videos around the ship while I got ready. Of course, he also returned with our morning coffees. A big miss for we espresso lovers, specialty coffee is NOT part of the Ultimate Beverage Chill drink package as it is on most other cruise lines.

This meant that our twice-daily drinks from the Margaritaville Coffee Shop cost us extra. In fact, everything at this coffee shop cost extra money. Unlike the coffee cafes on most other cruise lines, the sandwiches and desserts here all came with a fee too. Another miss for me was that even though menus around the ship indicated skim milk was available, we were told the only milk options were whole, almond, and soy. So much for my nonfat caramel latte this week!

Around 9:30 AM, we opted for sit-down breakfast in the main dining room. Thankfully, there wasn’t a wait this time. The menu selections were pretty typical breakfast items, yet nothing was served warm. This was also a recurring trend during the cruise.

Following breakfast, we caught the end of trivia in the Far Side of the World Lounge and walked around exploring the remaining areas of the ship. While this former Costa Cruises’ ship did undergo a multi-million dollar renovation, it was evident which areas of the ship had been updated and which hadn’t like the Hot Hot Hot Night Club.

A Sunny and Hot Day in Key West

Back to our room around noontime, we watched Islander sail into Key West. It was a beautiful day with no signs of Hurricane Beryl lurking. But for us New Englanders, the weather was quite hot and oppressive.

With the ship finally cleared around 1:30 PM, we made our way to the gangway located on Deck A. While we had seen a few maintenance issues around the ship, nothing really impacted our experience thus far. But, disembarking the ship in Key West was a different story.

Not only was it disorganized and crowded, we could have done without this behind-the-scenes tour.

Nonetheless, we strolled Front Street and Duval Street for as long as we could take the heat. We also stopped in at Kermit’s for some key lime ice cream. While we contemplated grabbing some lunch ashore, we had reservations at JWB tonight so decided against it.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

Back onboard, we grabbed our afternoon coffee and cooled off in the air conditioning for a bit. Next, we continued our drink around the ship at the Tiki Bar. This bar is located in the adult-only area and has a fairly large shaded seating area.

While the Tiki Pool itself is rather small, the sun deck is spacious. It features rows of standard loungers along with some patio-style furniture on the starboard side, two coconut-shaped loungers under a thatched-roof frame, and just one hammock.

Specialty Dinner and Some Laughs

This evening, we had a 6:30 PM reservation at JWB Prime Steakhouse. Since this was a highlight of our Paradise experience, we were looking forward to dining here once again. The price to dine at JWB is $55 per person.

This menu does feature a chicken dish for myself, along with a catch of the day, and several cuts of beef. However, a lobster tail and surf & turf were both an additional $24 up-charge which seems a bit excessive. This would mean that cruisers are paying nearly $80, more than many restaurants on land would charge for a similar offering.

Don’s filet was perfectly seared to a medium-rare temperature and was certainly on par with comparable steakhouses on other cruise lines. He also enjoyed the braised pork belly. Though, my burrata and all the sides we sampled were a letdown. Honestly, we probably wouldn’t pay to dine here again.

Following dinner, we watched the country pop-up in the atrium and grabbed some drinks at Bubbles Up while listening to some piano tunes. The Bubbles Up menu features champagnes and spritzes. We enjoyed the drinks, but the piano player was rather quirky.

Next up was a double feature in the main theater. First was Adrenaline Magic at 9:30 PM featuring a pretty standard set of disappearing acts. Then, there was an adult comedy show with Jay Whittaker at 10:45 PM. While he had a great personality and was also repping our home state of MA, he didn’t have much material. He literally just talked to the audience for most of the show.

Finishing up around 11:30 PM, we called it a night.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander Review – Day 3

Happy 4th of July

Day 3 of this Margaritaville at Sea Islander review was a sea day and the 4th of July. And what better way to start the day than sea day brunch?

Up around 8 AM, Don headed out on his normal morning routine returning with lattes in hand. Showered and ready for the day, we made our way to the Islander Dining Room for the “Sparkling Wine Brunch”.

While the Fins Main Dining Room offers complimentary breakfast most days of the cruise, this brunch is an up-charge of $15 per person and was only available on our two sea days. It’s also included in the dining package.

This brunch was one of the better meals of the cruise as I enjoyed the overnight French toast with nutella, bananas, and strawberries and Don liked his chicken and waffles. While we would probably pay the $15 again to dine here, we aren’t really sure that it was much better than Carnival’s Sea Day Brunch which is free.

Since the weather was so hot this cruise, we alternated being outside with soaking in the air conditioning in our cabin while doing a little work for the remainder of the morning. A bit later, Don took a tour of the kids’ clubs to collect some photos and videos. He may have got a sneak peek at a secret venue on the ship too. More on this later.

Then, we enjoyed some late lunch at the Tiki Grill.

The Tiki Grill is one of the two casual up-charge food stalls in the adult-only area on Deck 9 aft. These menus feature a la carte items. With a dining package, guests get a $25 food credit at each. While they are heavy on seafood (which you probably know by now that I don’t eat), Don did enjoy the offerings. The only critique is that they should open earlier on sea days.

Today, Don enjoyed the Why Knot Wings and Buffalo Shrimp. If the cruise was longer, he would have easily ordered these items again. As for me, I grabbed a couple slices of pizza from Frank and Lola’s Pizzeria in the nearby buffet. This became my near daily lunch as there was not much else that I liked. On a positive note, it was some of the best pizza at sea rivaling Virgin Voyages and Princess Cruises. I only wish it were more like a restaurant as it is on sister ship Paradise.

After lunch, we headed midship to the pool deck for the 4th of July party and red, white, and blue parade where guests donned their best American outfits in hopes of winning the best dressed competition. We also grabbed some drinks from the nearby Landshark Bar…except they were out of Landshark beer today.

Continuing our drink around the ship, we then headed back indoors to check out the Havana Daydreamin’ Sports Bar. While it doesn’t look much like a sports bar, it’s very Cuban-inspired with a few televisions thrown into the mix. While enjoying our cocktails, we got sucked into watching the hot dog eating competition on tv.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

A Captain’s Toast Unlike Any Other

Tonight was Margaritaville at Sea’s version of formal night. The dress code was “coastal country elegance”, which meant there were lots of cowboy boots on display. The captain’s toast was also ocurring at 6 PM and the first production show, Conky Tonkin’ at Sea, at 9:30 PM.

Thus, it was time to head back to our room to change up for the evening’s festivities. As we all gathered around the Flip Flop Atrium, we witnessed Captain Theo do a bit of a striptease, swapping out his captain shirt for a Caribbean one and giving a toast unlike any other–with a giant margarita!

We then headed off to dinner at the Islander Dining Room. For research purposes, we did pop into Fins a couple evenings to check on wait times, and they were always around 40 to 45 minutes. We really hope the cruise line figures out a better system. Perhaps, suite guests AND those with packages are allowed to dine in Islander nightly and the remaining guests have Fins but with the option to go standby or make reservations ahead of time.

Unfortunately, we were not sat in I Made’s section tonight. So, we went from having some of the best dining room service with him to the worst of the trip.

Additionally, there are definitely some inconsistencies on the dining room menus in terms of labeling and ingredients. Each evening, there is a signature pasta dish, which is not labeled as vegetarian but also does not detail if seafood, meat, etc. are included.

For instance, there was creole pasta which simply states “creamy vodka sauce, basil oil”. While I certainly would have ordered this dish if it were just pasta, I hesitated as I thought it might have seafood in it. When I questioned our waiter, he had no idea…which was a huge red flag. While it’s a preference not an allergy for me, waitstaff not knowing ingredients (or menus not detailing such) could lead to issues.

He eventually returned to tell me that his colleague “said there’s seafood in it”. So instead, I went with a Caesar salad, Mediterranean chicken, and pina colada lush dessert. Don did the salmon poke, sausage and onion flatbread, blackened salmon, and tiramisu. While he also enjoys cioppino and frito misto, he actually does have an allergy to scallops so passed on them just in case. Once again, nothing that we ate tonight wow’ed us.

Of note, while some cruise lines have begun charging for extra lobster tails on formal night or Carnival has begun charging for the third (and beyond) entrees, Margaritaville actually only allows one. This is true even in the up-charge Islander Dining Room. All menus state that there is a $7 supplemental charge for additional entrees, which really seems like nickel and diming to us.

A Conky Tonkin’ Good Time

Following dinner, we made our way to 90’s Name That Tune in Havana Daydreamin’. This was a standing room only activity. While we didn’t win, it definitely took us back to our high school days and was a lot of fun.

Next up was a drink at the Far Side of the World Lounge. This Pacific-inspired venue is quite large but seems under utilized in the evenings. So, we ordered a round from the signature menu and moved on to the theater for tonight’s signature production show.

Since neither one of us like country music, we weren’t expecting much from Conky Tonkin’ at Sea. Yet, it pleasantly surprised us. While still a pretty typical cruise revue show, it was high energy and fast moving keeping us entertained throughout. It also featured a talented cast and many popular hits that even non-country enthusiasts will know. Of course, it’s not a Royal Caribbean signature production, but it was better than many cruise shows we’ve seen over the recent years.

In an upbeat mood after the show, we headed to the Hemisphere Dancer Craft Spirits Bar for some cocktails and live music. Here, the Blaze Band was performing, which turned out to be our favorite musicians on the cruise. We also ordered up some drinks from the signature menu, but neither one of us liked our choices. So instead, we ended the night with some espresso martinis which were quite tasty.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander Review – Day 4

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Day 4 of this Margaritaville at Sea Islander review was our itinerary change due to Hurricane Beryl. Instead of visiting Progreso, Mexico, we were visiting Nassau, Bahamas. Even though we’ve been to Nassau several times, nice weather here over tropical conditions in Mexico was the obvious choice.

Ready for the day and caffeinated by around 9 AM, we decided to try the breakfast burritos at Mexican Cutie Cantina. While not as good as BlueIguana on Carnival, they were still a pretty solid alternative to the buffet.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

With the ship cleared and many passengers already ashore, we decided to check out the Dis ‘N Dat Activity Zone. You know we are always good for a friendly mini-golf competition. We really liked the theming of this area, and it’s a great family offering too. Although, there were a couple things that had us asking why.

First, you need to sign out golf clubs and golf balls at a towel stand that’s not even immediately nearby the mini-golf course on Deck 11. Second, the course wraps back onto itself, meaning Hole 3 and 7 are side-by-side, 2 and 8, and 1 and 9. This wouldn’t be a huge deal except there is a giant air vent near Hole 3 which makes it nearly impossible to play as the ball just rolls across onto the Hole 7 course due to the air current from the vent. Oh well, we just called the game a tie.

With the Nassau cruise port recently updated, we had yet to get off a ship in port to check it out. So, today was the day we decided to do so. It’s actually a really nice area with some shops, a Junkanoo museum, and more. You can also exit the gated area to the Straw Market which is directly across the street.

Instead, we headed for Starbucks! Since specialty coffee isn’t part of the drink package anyway, I convinced Don to go so I could get my properly made iced caramel latte with nonfat milk.

Cheeseburger in Paradise

After a couple hours ashore, we headed back onboard Islander first cooling off in the room then grabbing some lunch. For lunch today, Don decided to try a Cheeseburger in Paradise. This pool deck stall is opposite the Mexican Cutie Cantina and serves burgers only. This meant more pizza for me. While not all cruise ship burger stations serve chicken sandwiches, it would have been nice if this one did.

By Don’s assessement, these burgers were really good and defintely rivaled Carnival’s Guy’s Burger Joint. It wouldn’t be a cruise without some soft serve ice cream to top off the lunch as well. There are two soft-serve stations on Islander that are open most days from 12 to 9:30 PM.

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing a little work in our cabin and enjoying the sail away from Nassau.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

Falling into Our Normal Evening Routine

Tonight was more of the same on Margaritaville at Sea–dinner, drinks, live music, and a theater show.

Back to the Islander Dining Room around 6:30 PM, we requested a table in I Made’s section. Yet, we were sat is a different section with a third different waiter. This waiter, Hedi, was good but we had I Made for two other meals and just prefer consistency.

Tonight’s dinner menu was one of our favorites. I had the Caribbean egg rolls, tortilla salad, and rotini pasta. While this pasta was also not marked vegetarian, our waiter did confirm that it only contained mushrooms. Don ordered the Cajun gumbo, flat iron steak, and 48 hour B&B pudding. All courses were solid choices this evening.

Following dinner, we grabbed some drinks at the Bubbles Up bar. Since there wasn’t much else happening this evening, we decided to attend the family comedy show in the Stars on the Water theater. While we debated heading to Hemisphere Dancer to enjoy more from the Blaze Band after the comedy show, we were tired so called it a night instead.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander Review – Day 5

Last Mango…at Sea

Day 5 of this Margaritaville at Sea Islander review was already the last day of the trip; it was also our second sea day.

Wanting to test out as many of the food and drink options on the ship as possible, we decided to try the a la carte breakfast items at the Margaritaville Coffee Shop this morning. I tried the cinnamon roll for $3 and Don the muffin man sandwich for $4. While pretty good, we did miss complimentary grab-and-go options on the ship.

We then spent the next few hours checking off some of the remaining items on our to-do list, getting a little work done, and packing. This took us to lunch time, where Don sampled more of the food from the Island Eats and Tiki Grill using our dining package credit. On his menu today were a lobster roll and conch fritters, both of which he enjoyed.

Besides the complimentary burgers and pizza, our takeaway was that you have to pay for better food on Islander. Further, the casual food (both complimentary and for-fee) were better than most of the main dining room options. Of note, there’s also sushi at Far Side Sushi, but we can’t comment on this as we didn’t try it.

Dinner and a Show

Since we had express disembarkation and planned to carry off our own luggage tomorrow morning, we didn’t have to worry about putting our bags outside our cabin tonight. Still, we wanted to make sure that we mostly packed our bags, as disembarkation was early at 6:45 AM.

Still ready rather early, we grabbed some drinks at the Hemisphere Dancer Bar and listened to part of Emman’s set before dinner. The drinks we got this time around were much better.

For our final evening in the Islander dining room, we were seated in our requested section with I Made. While this was Don’s second overall favorite menu, there wasn’t much that I would eat on the menu.

Don sampled the crab cake, stir-fried rice, and braised short rib. I did a Caesar salad and was just going to get the mushroom and goat cheese app as my entree. However, our waiter insisted that he would talk to the chef to custom the stir-fried rice to include only chicken for me (no shrimp or beef). While I said it wasn’t necessary, he did it anyway. This was appreciated as I realize I’m a picky eater. We then rounded out the meal with some apple pie.

Finishing dinner a bit too early for the show, we attempted to get espresso martinis at both the Flip Flip Bar and Bubbles Up but were told they couldn’t make them. So, we just waited in line to get into the theater instead. Tonight was the second production show Caribbean Heat Remix.

This show takes guests on a musical journey through popular Caribbean spots like Cuba, Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and more. Of course, it featured songs of artists from these destinations. While this production was also upbeat, we actually enjoyed the Conky Tonkin’ at Sea show better.

Quietly Making Noise

Earlier in the cruise, we were invited to a secret event. It was supposed to occur earlier in the day but got rescheduled to immediately following this production show. This hush, hush event is invite only and reminded us of Virgin Voyages where guests get invites to the crew bar for a secret magic show.

We were escorted down A1A and through some firedoors to a secret room, which we later learned was formerly the chapel on Costa Atlantica. This speakeasy featured memorabilia near and dear to the Buffett family, including Jimmy’s first guitar and an extensive record collection.

While not complete just yet, this intimate event will eventually include signature drinks from a whiskey cart and stories from the life of Jimmy Buffett. Kai, one of the Fins Up Crew, did a great job recounting events, his interactions with Savannah Buffet (Jimmy’s daughter and godmother of this ship), and explaining the story behind each guitar in the room. There were 6 of them!

This was actually the perfect way to end our cruise on Margaritaville at Sea Islander.

If you are lucky enough to get an invite to this speakeasy during your sailing, you’ll return home with a Quietly Making Noise guitar pick as a souvenir.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander Review – Disembarkation

Given the congestion during embarkation, we weren’t sure what to expect from disembarkation. We had priority disembarkation which meant we needed to meet in the Fins dining room at 6:45 AM.

By 6:30 AM, we were still coasting into the Port of Tampa so took our time getting ready as we knew there was no way we’d be cleared to leave by then.

We did have an early flight, but we figured as long as we were off the ship along with the self-assist departure guests, scheduled for 7:30 AM, that we’d be fine.

Margaritaville at Sea Islander review

Departing our cabin just after 7 AM, we quickly secured an elevator down to Deck 2. We could see that disembarkation hadn’t started yet, and there was a small queue of self-assist guests starting to form near the gangway. So, we figured we might as well head to Fins to meet the rest of the priority disembarkation group.

But, as luck would have it, just as we were passing the gangway, they opened it. Instead, we hopped in line and were among the first twenty or so guests off the ship. From here, it was a quick Lyft ride to the Tampa Airport. And suprisingly, our 10:30 AM flight was right on time. I think this was our first flight all year that didn’t have a delay!

Home by late afternoon, we had under two weeks to settle in before our busy stretch of travel. Next up is back to back trips on Utopia of the Seas and Atlas Ocean Voyages World Traveller. Stay tuned!


Did you find our Margaritaville at Sea Islander review helpful? Do you have plans to sail on this “new” cruise ship? Drop us an anchor below to share your thoughts on Margaritaville at Sea.

Heidi is a physical therapist by profession, cruise enthusiast at heart, and Princess all the time! She is a self-confessed thrill seeker, obsessive planner, and over-packer. She is always looking for the latest and greatest adventures onboard and ashore, enjoys researching top things to do in ports of call, and loves dressing up for formal nights.
Heidi Bucolo
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1 comment on We Just Returned from a Cruise on Margaritaville at Sea Islander – Here’s Our Day-By-Day Review

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  1. Scheduled to cruise on the islander in February 2025, hopefully, they work out some of the kinks like fully stocking the bars. Since drinks are a big money maker for cruise lines you think this would be a no-brainer.

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