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Jimmy Buffett plays at the launch of Margaritaville at Sea Paradise (Photo/Jorge Oliver)
Jimmy Buffett plays at the launch of Margaritaville at Sea Paradise (Photo/Jorge Oliver)

Farewell to Jimmy Buffett: The Tropical Troubadour Leaves an Immortal Legacy on the Cruise Lifestyle

Jimmy Buffett plays at the launch of Margaritaville at Sea Paradise (Photo/Jorge Oliver)
Jimmy Buffett plays at the launch of Margaritaville at Sea Paradise (Photo/Jorge Oliver)
Jorge Oliver

Last updated
Sep 8, 2023

Read time
4 min read

If you examine Jimmy Buffett's vast song archive, dating all the way back to 1970, you will not find a single track that specifically talks about sailing on a cruise ship. Yet the breezy melodies, laissez-fare lyrics and irresistible tropical undertones of Buffett's body of work can be considered the sonic equivalent of embarking on a cruise to balmy shores.

Whether he sang about cheesy patties in blissful surroundings, aging pirates or finding that elusive shaker of salt, it's hard not to equate his musical musings to the relaxing and fun-filled cruise lifestyle. What's more: it's practically impossible to go on a cruise ship without hearing Buffett's unique brand of tropical rock (or, as he once referred to it, 'drunken Caribbean rock n' roll') in the background.

And Buffett, who passed away on Sep. 1 at age 76, fully and unapologetically embodied the cruise lifestyle. From his penchant for performing barefoot to his unabashed admiration for frozen tropical concoctions, his life embraced the escapism espoused in his musical opus.

Jimmy Buffet Lives on in Margaritaville at Sea

Margaritaville at  Sea sailaway (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)
Margaritaville at Sea sailaway (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)

If further proof was necessary of Jimmy Buffett's connection to cruising, we submit the fact that he is the only artist to have a cruise ship -- indeed, a cruise line -- named after one of his songs. The debut of Margaritaville at Sea in 2022 -- a cruise line that offers 2-night sailings to Freeport from West Palm Beach -- cemented the singer-songwriter's iconic place in the cruise world.

The cruise line's ship -- Margaritaville at Sea Paradise -- is a veritable floating homage to Buffett's career. From the large colorful parrot that adorns the hull to the ubiquitous breezy pastel tones, the ship boasts an aesthetic completely inspired by the artist's musical legacy. All venues throughout the vessel pay tribute to Buffett's song titles, and his memorable lyrics are prominently in strategic locations.

The cruise line's inaugural sailing in May 2022 even featured an unscheduled performance from the man himself, who delighted the crowd and crew with a 10-song setlist. He also wrote and co-produced the musical Tales From Margaritaville: Jimmy's Ship Show, which weaves in his biggest hits into the play's narrative, ensuring that his celebrated musical legacy lives on in every sailing.

And the cruise line acknowledged this in its heartfelt tribute to the singer-songwriter, published on social media: "We celebrate his life, believe his spirit lives on like a never-ending encore, and will see his radiant smile and that twinkle in his eye when we look towards the sun and will continue to share his way of life wherever, whenever we can. Fins up forever."

Jimmy Buffett theater show on Margaritaville at Sea Paradise (Photo/Jorge Oliver)
Jimmy Buffett theater show on Margaritaville at Sea Paradise (Photo/Jorge Oliver)

Jimmy Buffett's Influence Extends Beyond Margaritaville

Jimmy Buffett's relationship with cruise lines isn't limited to Margaritaville at Sea. In 2014, Norwegian Cruise Line struck up an exclusive partnership with Margaritaville Holdings LLC to feature Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville -- the singer-songwriter's popular restaurant -- as well as the 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar onboard its ships. The partnership ended up coming to an end, but Buffett's songs and joie-de-vivre are still a staple aboard NCL's ships.

Other mainstream cruise have recognized the enormous impact of Jimmy Buffett's life and career, paying their respects to the departed musician. Royal Caribbean, for instance, hosted a free margarita happy hour across the fleet the day after Buffett's passing go toast his life and career.

And RCL President and CEO Michael Bayley also took to social media to pay his respects to the singer-songwriter. "For many who worked, lived or sailed the Caribbean, Jimmy Buffett really helped make it even more enjoyable!"

John Heald, Carnival Cruise Line's brand ambassador, also posted a heartfelt tribute to Buffett on his Facebook page. "May your soul rest in peace, Jimmy. Thank you from all the Carnival Cruise Line family for the many years of music that you have blessed our cruises with."

Successful Son of a Son of a Sailor

Jimmy Buffett had a long and fruitful recording career that began in 1970 with his debut album, Down to Earth. To date, he has sold more than 20 million records and earned two Grammy nominations and six nominations to the Country Music Association (CMA), winning one CMA Award in 2003 for the hit "It's 5 O'clock Somewhere."

But these accomplishments fail to tell the whole story. His legions of adoring fans, collectively known as "Parrotheads," are among the most devoted, and hail from all walks of life.

And then there's the phenomenon known as Margaritaville. The song was inducted in 2016 into the Grammy Hall of Fame and has selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being '"culturally, historically or aesthetically significant. Moreover, the 1977 smash hit is often referred to as the most lucrative song ever written. Aside from the cruise line, the timeless tune is the inspiration behind a robust business that includes resorts, restaurants and casinos. There's even a Margaritaville drink mix that you can blend in a Margaritaville blender!

Although the Margaritaville that Buffett crooned about may not be a real place, today it is present in many of the most iconic cruise ports of the Caribbean. You can find Margaritaville restaurants in in Cozumel, Paradise Island, Grand Turk, Key West, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril and Miami, among other places.

And although these restaurants, as well as the Margaritaville at Sea cruise line, hold a special appeal for the millions of Parrotheads who adore all things Jimmy Buffett, the beauty of his appeal is that you don't necessarily have to be a Buffett fan to love his lifestyle.

"His original idea for Margaritaville was to expand the opportunity for as many people to experience the lifestyle immortalized in his iconic song as possible," the Margaritaville chain wrote on social media following the musician's passing. And with the enormous musical legacy he left behind, fun is just a song (or a cruise) away.

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