Back From Sea Duty

About a month ago, I wrote a piece about the Margaritaville at Sea Heroes Sail Free promotion. I saw the words “free” and “cruise” and had to find out what it was all about. So, I booked a trip for my wife and myself. We picked September 29th as the sail date. Bad choice. It turns out that was the day hurricane Ian made landfall here in Florida, and no one was going anywhere. No worries, it was simple to rebook the trip, this time for October 13th. We got back a couple of days ago, and I’m going to tell you all about it so you can decide if it’s an adventure you may want to pursue as well.

I’ll provide you with the facts; the good, the very good, and what could be better. You make the call.

Sign announcing the port of Palm Beach
The Margaritaville at Sea cruise sails out of the port of Palm Beach. Photo by the author.


Every story has a beginning, and this one begins with me writing my article and then booking the trip. I’ve been on maybe a dozen cruises in my life, so I’m no stranger to the booking process. In the past, I’ve experienced the old “bait and switch” where you go to buy one thing they try to sell you a far more expensive package. I’m glad to say that didn’t happen here. When I called, I was caller 99 in the queue, but it only took 15 minutes before I was talking to a friendly representative from the company. This has been an enormously successful program, and many people have already taken advantage of the free sailing.

Let me back up for a second, I tried first to book the cruise online, but the system would not let me because my wife and I both qualified for the promotion. When I got back from the cruise, I checked the Margaritaville at Sea website and found an important change in their offer that you should know about if you are considering booking the trip. The company now requires that there is at least one paying guest in the room. If one person qualifies for the “hero” rate, the other will be “offered the best retail rate available for the date selected.” Fair enough, it helps the company extend the popular “heroes” program so more people can participate.


As the first act of my first lecture on my first day of college, the professor scribbled “TINSTAAFL” on the whiteboard. “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” corny but true. If you were hoping to get on a cruise ship for three days, eat all you want, visit a beautiful island nation and return home with zero out-of-pocket expenses, that’s not going to happen. I’m not saying this isn’t a great deal; it is. But…you still have to pay port taxes ($88.44 per person as a one-time charge), pre-paid gratuities ($29.90 per person as a one-time charge), and a $12 per person per day fuel surcharge. That roughly works out to $275 for two people for the three-day, two-night cruise. I’m sure we more than made up for that expense in the food we ate. No issue there. I should note that the Margaritaville people were transparent about the charges, and there were no surprises. Thumbs up for that.

Parking at the Port of West Palm Beach is limited, and valet parking is the only option at $22 per day. However, the state of Florida waives parking fees at seaports for disabled veterans, so I didn’t have to pay that fee. Keep that in mind if you have DV plates.


This was smooth sailing (excuse the pun). On other cruise lines, I’ve followed the herd, slowly advancing my luggage foot by foot only to wait some more. This was normally followed by a document check and more waiting.

Waiting in line to show our documents
No long lines here in the document check area. Photo by the author.

Suffice it to say boarding was quick and painless. In the photo above, you can see that the lines are short. We waited maybe 10 minutes and were called to the agent, where we had photos taken before we got our sea pass cards. The terminal was clean and modern, and the signage was good. Before we boarded the ship, we were given the opportunity to make dining reservations in their signature JWB Steakhouse, add shore excursions to the experience or purchase a drink package. We opted to buy the drink package for $98. For your money, you get ten mixed drinks (or beers) of any type.