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Can Jimmy Buffett Take On Royal Caribbean and Carnival?

The former Bahamas Paradise cruise line will be rebranded to the singer's Margaritaville brand.

For the many fans of Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville isn't a place, it's a state of mind. 

One's own private Margaritaville can be a backyard party, happy hour at the local watering hole or even Buffett's own retirement center. But now in a move that seems a long time coming, Margaritaville is also a cruise ship vacation. Ahoy, Parrot Heads! 

The enormously popular songwriter, author, and businessman has partnered with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, which had previously offered low-cost, mostly two-day trips to Grand Bahama Island for the now rebranded Margaritaville Paradise, tying the company to the singer's popular brand of resorts and restaurants. The move is part of an overall larger resort franchise titled Margaritaville at Sea.

Starting with the maiden voyage on April 30, the newly christened and updated ship will sail two- and four-day trips from the cruise terminal in West Palm Beach, Fla., stepping up the small cruise lines' efforts to siphon short-trip business from industry leaders Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report and Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report, which both run multiple ships out of multiple Florida ports.

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Can the Margaritaville Brand Threaten Carnival and Royal?

Royal Caribbean has ships sailing three- and four-day itineraries out of Port Canaveral (Orlando) and Miami on a near-continuous basis. The three-day trips run Friday through Monday and tend to appeal to a younger crowd looking for a quick getaway. 

Buffett will be attempting to take some of that business by leveraging his brand and the Margaritaville name/lifestyle to rebrand the former Bahamas Paradise Grand Classica, an older ship that's somewhere between half the size of the ships Royal Caribbean and Carnival are using for their shorter voyages. 

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The singer built his empire on the promise of cheeseburgers in paradise, the allure of drunken tattoos, and a general milieu of sea salt and no worries. It's the sort of thing a younger generation currently refers to as a whole mood.

Now, the Margaritaville Paradise will continue in the tradition of Buffett's 25 plus resorts and hotels and more than 60 restaurants by offering fans a full immersion into the Jimmy Buffett Lifestyle, with entertainment and delicacies designed to keep the worries of the outside world far away.

Following a multi-million refurbishment, the ship will include 10 passenger decks and 658 cabins, as well as Margaritaville restaurants such as JWB Prime Steak & Seafood, LandShark Sports Bar, and Margaritaville Coffee & Pastry Shop, as well as the Euphoria Lounge, Sunset Bar, and 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar. 

There will also be on-board amenities such as the Par-A-Dice Casino, a Stars on the Water Theater, St. Somewhere Spa, the Fins Up! Fitness Center as well as pools and shops. The decor will have a casual luxury feel to it, complemented by nautical colors.

Buffett Is Making Waves

Buffett's move into the cruise ship world is already attracting attention within the industry.

"Margaritaville has been expanding a lot into the travel sector recently with new resorts and hotels, but the move to cruising is as intriguing as their choice to partner with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line," said Matt Hochberg, owner of the Royal Caribbean Blog, which is not affiliated with the cruise line. "Two brands looking to carve out a piece of the cruise market."

Former Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line CEO Oneil Khosa will now become CEO of Margaritaville at Sea, while John Cohlan, who first met with Kosha two years ago about the partnership, will remain the Margaritaville CEO.