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Best of Frank Scoblete
Cruising and casinos14 April 2015
I do most of my gaming on the cruise ships because I love the food, entertainment, amenities and luxury of a cruise ship. It is similar to a Vegas trip without the advantage of different casinos, but includes all the food. The games are limited to normal table games, roulette, craps and sometimes Pai Gow on the larger ships.
The plus with cruise ships over land casinos is that the entertainment is almost always free. The downside is that you have to earn your drinks through your play or pay for them. If you are budget conscious, sailings from September to December are the cheapest fares of the year. Specifically, the two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the week after New Years are the rock bottom bargains especially for the Bahamas, Florida and Caribbean sailings. An example is a 5-night cruise on Fascination out of my home area of Jacksonville, Florida for $500 a couple, about what you might pay for an average hotel.
We recently rode the NCL Epic which is a huge beautiful ship with the casino covering an entire deck and included a Cirque du Dreams dinner show, Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert, a Jazz/Blues club, Second City Improv Show and the Howl at the Moon Saloon. Great Vegas-style entertainment in a more intimate setting and smaller showrooms. Remember, all the food is covered but alcohol/soda is on you unless you buy the beverage package or earn 3,000 points for free casino drinks.
Even the smaller NCL ships have excellent entertainment. We took the premium dining package, which gave us six specialty restaurants and the Cirque du Dreams VIP seating for $119.
In my opinion, Carnival (CCL) is the value cruise line and has the lowest prices. Excellent food, great amenities like adults-only sun deck pool/Jacuzzi and excellent comedy shows. If you are looking to save your money for the casino and don't care about the shows, this is the cruise line for you. You will also see more families on their ships than other lines, because of the low fares.
OK, back to gaming.
Cheapest blackjack is $2, but with a ridiculous $.25 charge per hand. Sadly, the table was full of elderly folks, mostly women, who probably could least afford to play a high house vig game. 'Nuff said on that bad game.
The smaller ships are going to 6-5 blackjack payouts until you get to the $25 tables, although on the Epic, 6-5 was only on the $6 tables and anything else was the standard 3-2 payout. When I saw the 6-5 game on $20 and under games, I switched to Three-Card Poker and spent more time on the craps tables. Most craps games were 2x odds but several ships allowed 4x odds on anything but the 6 or 8. Texas Hold’em tables are becoming popular on cruise lines and the tables fill up quickly. Standard 5 percent house rake applies.
A word about slots: Cruise ships are not regulated like AC or Vegas casinos and have no minimum payout percentage on slots, and they do not reveal what the machines are set on. I saw some good wins of around 1,500 coins a few times, but rarely have I seen anyone come out a winner by playing slots. If you want to play small for entertainment, please do so.
Generally, stay away from the slots and play the table games where you are not at the mercy of low return. In my 30-plus cruises on four cruise lines, my wife and I have come home slot winners one time, that being a $1,000 Wheel of Fortune spin. We still play $20 now and then for entertainment but we stick to blackjack, craps and Three-Card Poker. If you still need to play slots, wait until you get to a port that has a casino. About half of the Caribbean ports of call have a casino. Aruba has a beautiful one, and Atlantis on Paradise Island is fascinating.
CCL has a great casino rewards program for repeat customers. I get to pick a few "casino cruises" a year where I get the 7-9 day cruise for around $150 of tax and port charges and they give me $350 casino cash when I get on board. They also give both my wife and me free drinks while in the casino immediately, without having to qualify.
Other perks are daily gifts in our room, such as monogrammed towels, wine, chocolates, fruit baskets, spa treatments, etc. They have drawings twice daily. On our last cruise, a casino host gave us a steakhouse gift certificate for dinner and wine, valued at $100. It was a perfect end to a great cruise.
All the cruise lines have similar casino programs, separate from the normal cruise rewards programs, which are very good if you cruise a lot.
I set my loss limits to about $500 a cruise, but rarely lose that much. My best advice is to stick with one cruise line and play every cruise to get the most out of the programs. The perks are based on the normal average bet and number of plays, but also on accumulative play. Even though we don't spend a lot, we get casino offers because we cruise about six times a year and do a lot of back-to-back cruises. And win or lose, you are only an elevator ride to your room and tomorrow you are in a new port.
Pick up a pack of Dramamine and play the casinos at sea.
FRANK RESPONDS: Great e-mail, Jack, and I am sure that many of my readers are interested in cruising casinos. I’ve been in a few, but my problem is that I go to bed early, like 9 p.m., and I wake up around 4 a.m. (In a normal casino, I am usually down at the tables at about 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m.) The cruise ship casinos were nice looking.
I agree with your advice about cruise ship slots. You have no idea what they are holding.
For your e-mail, I am sending you a copy of my book “The Virgin Kiss.”
Frank's new book is “I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps.”
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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