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Cruising with slots27 January 2011
Since 1993, my wife the beautiful AP and I have been longing to travel to Alaska. We'd seen documentaries about our 49th state, including a mind-boggling one titled "Braving Alaska," which is available on DVD and highly recommended.
Unfortunately, something always came up to prevent such a trip, not the least of which was my writing, touring and playing schedule.
But this past summer we finally decided to go on a cruise ship up Alaska's inner passage with eight of our friends. Six of them had already done this tour but they said it was so great they'd love to do it again. This would be our first cruise.
So the beautiful AP and I flew to Vancouver, British Columbia, and spent three days touring that lovely city with our friends (if you want a great restaurant in Vancouver, try the Five Sails) and then we boarded the Island Princess and headed out to the deep blue sea.
Now, almost all cruise ships of any size - and this particular ship had about 3,400 people aboard including staff - come with casinos. Of course, these casinos are nothing like the formidable land-based casinos that inveterate casino players are used to. Certainly, the ship's casino was no Mandalay Bay. In fact, the Island Princess' casino was quite small, having one craps table, several blackjack tables and a few score of various types of machines.
When the ship was docked, the casino was closed. When the ship was at sea, the casino was open, although not all the tables could be played during the afternoons and early evenings. Indeed, the craps table didn't open until 9 o'clock each night.
If you don't know what a cruise is like here is a capsule version: You get up in the morning, go eat, attend a class of some type, and then eat a huge snack; then sit on deck, after which you eat another huge snack, then go to a lecture, and head for lunch. After lunch, you go to the top deck and have a hot dog or some pizza or both in order to top off the immense amounts you ate at lunch because they don't serve hot dogs or pizza at the buffet.
Then you waddle to some kind of meeting or class; then you eat a huge snack; then you go to High Tea in the late afternoon where you demurely sip some tea like a true gentleman or lady while devouring four thousand scones; then you go dress for dinner where you eat and drink like a medieval king or queen in a gourmet restaurant; then you attend a show, where you have some more drinks; then you go for a huge snack of ice cream and other delectable treats.
Your day is now done and a huge crane appears to lift your bulging body and take it to your room because your legs can no longer handle such weight. Oh, and the age range of the cruisers on our ship had us nickname the ship Assisted Living on the Sea. I was in the bottom 25 percent of age on the ship and I'm 63!
I did spend time in the casino, although I only played for two of the seven nights. Even when the small casino had slot players, I never heard any screams of joy from jackpot winners. Indeed, I am not sure anyone came out ahead during my perusal of the machine play. I am purely guessing now, but I'd say the ship's machines were quite tight, although the players didn't seem to mind this one bit. The slot play was for small amounts on lower denomination machines. It didn't have the frenetic pace of land-based slot play.
None of the slot players I saw looked as if they were in that feverish category called "All I Want to Do Is Endlessly Play the Slots and to Heck with All Other Things!" The ship's slot players were of the extremely laid back variety. Most just played twenty to a hundred dollars and that was their gambling entertainment for the day. You didn't see that wild look in anyone's eyes as you do in Las Vegas or Atlantic City or elsewhere after such a person has played for countless mind-numbing hours. You would never mistake a ship's slot aisles as a slot haven, or heaven, for that matter.
While the casino got some limited action, the real action was truly found elsewhere - at ship-board entertainment, land touring, whale watching, salmon-slaughter watching, hiking (for the 20 or so people who could actually walk more than a half mile), history tours and national parks tours.
Alaska is a thoroughly wild state. Although it can fit more than two Texases in it (I understand that Texans hate that!), there are only 600,000 residents. The biggest city is Anchorage with 200,000 people. The capital of Juneau has about 30,000 people and no roads leading in or out of the city. You can only get to the capital by plane or boat. Its single highway ends at a mountain.
One port "city," Whittier, the final stop on our tour, has only 200 people living there and they all live in one apartment building that also houses the Post Office and the School District.
There are more bears in Alaska than people. There are probably more gift shops too!
If your taste runs to unmitigated slot play, the kind you can only get in the big land-based casinos, you will not find a cruise at all satisfactory. The feel, the sensibility of the ship's casino just doesn't have that adrenaline flow that you feel in your pores in a regular gaming palace of Lady Luck.
Would I recommend an Alaskan tour? Absolutely, as long as you don't get antsy about not playing as you are used to. It was a great experience, despite the lack of energy in the casino.
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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