September 11th reminded us all that life is a gamble. Trips were cancelled, as many feared travel was too much of a gamble. By October, when the Golden Princess sailed with every cabin filled, we were encouraged to see the public gambling that cruising is safe. Normal casino gambling took the place of gambling with life.
In the early days of cruising, when passengers were facetiously referred to as "newly wed or nearly dead," gaming was limited to bingo and a few slot machines. Then, the enormous entertainment and income producing potential of gaming became apparent to the industry. Programs to attract "high rollers" from land-based casinos were initiated. Since many passengers are new to cruising and gaming, most casinos now offer introductory, free sessions on the first day at sea. Professional dealers review the rules, etiquette and offer tips for winning.
Casinos, centrally located where passengers frequent, vary in size and style. All, except for Carnival's ships in Nassau, remain closed while in port. Julie Davis, a public relations representative for Cunard Line says, "Passengers on the famed Queen Elizabeth 2 don't necessarily book a cruise solely for gambling, but do enjoy gambling as a bonus highlight." A spokesperson for exclusive Silversea says their casinos strive for "European elegance." The recently launched Silver Whisper's petite casino is completely separate from other public areas. Up-scale Radisson Seven Seas and Seabourn Cruise Lines offer passengers intimate, sophisticated gambling venues. Trendy Windstar's 148-passenger, four-masted ships' cozy casinos have only four slot machines and one blackjack table. Their, 308-passenger Wind Surf's casino has been enlarged to accommodate passengers who requested more gambling. The liner now has 21 slot machines, one roulette table, three blackjack tables, and one Caribbean poker table.
Celebrity, Costa, Orient, and Norwegian Cruise Lines ships present a greater variety of machines and tables, including dice (Craps), baccarat, video poker, and keno. Holland America Line's fleet has a full complement of games operated by Carnival Corporation. The near 3000-passenger behemoths such as Royal Caribbean International's Voyager of the Seas, Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Destiny, and the recently launched Princess Cruises Golden Princess offer Las Vegas style glitz and excitement in their huge casinos.
Opulent Crystal Cruise Line's Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony casinos are operated as Caesars Palace at Sea by legendary Caesars Palace of Las Vegas which will also operate the casino in Crystal's new ship, Crystal Serenity, now under construction. They are the only shipboard casinos affiliated with a famed gaming establishment.
Carnival Cruise Line's Paradise, an entirely non-smoking ship, appeals to modern, health conscious vacationers. As non-smokers, and somewhat infrequent gamblers, we enjoyed playing the slots in a smoke-free casino. Carnival's massive Carnival Victory's South China Seas Casino, while exotic and intriguing, is smoke filled when crowded with gamblers.
World Explorer's Universe Explorer often sails with students, as a universe at sea. An enormous library substitutes for a casino. Disney ships project a family image and have chosen to eliminate casinos. The recently launched Norwegian Star, minus a casino, will cruise the Hawaiian Islands where shipboard gambling on ships is banned.
As gambling returns to normal, Lady Luck cruises, and the siren song of the jingling slots, and thrilled cheers of winners, lures passengers back to the casinos. Contact the SeaLetter travel agents, Jackson Klarin Travel, at 1-800-683-7077 for information about fares, itineraries, and reservations.
Photos courtesy of Jack White.
Jack and Toni White of Rancho Mirage, California have, for many years, been freelance travel writers specializing in cruise travel. Their articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, including the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Vancouver Sun. Prestigious Palm Springs Life magazine published their article on filming the movie "Out to Sea" on the Holland America Line Westerdam. They also write regularly for Mature Living and Plus, formerly Senior Life.
Jack graduated from USC as an architect. His background in architecture allows him to review, write, and produce photographs from a unique perspective. Toni attended UCLA after graduating from Hollywood High School where she had been the Feature Editor of the Hollywood High School News, where one of the writers was comedienne Carole Burnett. Toni lived abroad for many years in South America and in the UK and has a familiarity with different cultures that influences her writing. The Whites love to travel and especially want to share their passion for cruising with you.
Toni & Jack White may be reached at: JACNTONI@aol.com.
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