Coast Guard Lifts ‘No-Sail’ Order for Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cruise Ship

Time was wasting away for would-be cruisers on Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville cruise ship this week, after the coast guard stopped the ship from sailing on schedule. But the order was lifted Friday after safety issues were corrected.

Imagine boarding a cruise ship, getting set to start drinking in a lounge chair by the pool and then being told to pack your things and get back off again?

It sounds like a bad prank on people who paid several hundred dollars to spend two days drinking on the sea but that is exactly what happened when the U.S. Coast Guard issued a “no-sail” order for Margaritaville at Sea Paradise.

The ship had been scheduled to leave the Port of Palm Beach Wednesday on a two-night, three-day cruise to the Bahamas. But the U.S. Coast Guard slapped a no-sail order on the ship, keeping it in port until safety violations were corrected.

That was accomplished — the violations having been related to the operation of automatic doors — and the ship was scheduled to sail Friday afternoon.

Oneil Khosa, CEO Margaritaville at Sea, said in a statement:

“On July 13, Margaritaville at Sea Paradise was unable to move forward with its planned departure due to corrective action the United States Coast Guard flagged during a routine inspection. All guests were disembarked from the ship and received compensation for the inconvenience. 

“Margaritaville At Sea’s top priority is to ensure the safety of our guests and crew members. Our cruise line’s shoreside and shipboard teams worked closely with the United States Coast Guard to expeditiously address the issue and were cleared for sailing this morning following an inspection of work completed.   

“For purpose of clarification, the ship’s certificate of compliance was temporarily suspended while work onboard was completed in the port, primarily related to the closure of automated doors. We cooperated fully and completed all necessary work to return to safe service and welcome guests back onboard in under 48 hours.”

According to published specs, Margaritaville at Sea Paradise carries 1,680 passengers and 600 crew. The ship was built by Italy’s Fincantieri S.p.A. in 1991 and sailed previously as Costa’s neoClassica and the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Classica. Gross tonnage is 52,926.

What Is Margaritaville and Why Is it so Big?

The Margaritaville brand was begun by country singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett in the 1980s as a tie-in to his hit song of the same name. The brand has since expanded to include dozens of “tropical-style” casual dining restaurants, bars, resorts and casinos popular with a certain type of traveler who sees vacation as synonymous with drinking by the beach.

In 2021, a $370 million Margaritaville restaurant opened in New York’s Times Square.

The Margaritaville at Sea Paradise was the brand’s first cruise line and was heavily marketed as an affordable way to spend time at sea — prices for an inside cabin start at just $169 (alcohol, which is where the prices can really add up, is not included in the cheapest package options.)

While Margaritaville Holdings is a private company, analysts estimate that it brings in somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion a year.

What Else Is Happening in the Cruise Ship Industry? 

The cruise ship industry has had a bumpy ride ever since the covif pandemic hit many Western countries for the first time with the outbreak aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Most cruises were halted for more than a year and, since 2021, have been slowly starting up again with a few limited sailings. Protocols have been in constant flux but, as countries such as the U.S. dropped most covid-related restrictions, many were eager to return despite their enclosed nature making them a prime site for transmission.

According to the July Ships in Service Report from Cruise Industry News, 380 ships and over 600 cruise ship berths were in use in July — just 90% of the world’s capacity.

At one point last winter, every single cruise ship out at sea in the world had identified covid cases.

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