Home YOU ASK - WE ANSWER Is it OK to try gambling in a cruise ship's casino?
Is it OK to try gambling in a cruise ship's casino? PDF Print E-mail

Q: We’re soon going on our first cruise without kids and grandkids. Now that we’ll be alone, we want to enjoy ourselves with everything aboard. Our upcoming cruise is on Royal Caribbean, and we’ve heard from friends that casinos on cruise ships are a lot of fun. The only line we’ve travelled so far is Disney, and their ships never had casinos. What can you say ... plus and minus ... about gambling at sea?

A: If you don’t go overboard ... not from the ship, but gambling in the casino ... it is OK to spend some fun time and modest money in the ship’s casino. They usually only open the casinos after the ship leaves U.S. ports, from about 5 pm to midnight or so. Do all the other shipboard fun stuff before you hole up in the casino at night.

Craps, roulette and the card games at sea are the same as you’ll find in any land casino, so you should know the rules and odds. Generally speaking, your odds are about 25 to 30 percent of winning, with the “house” always heavily favored.

Poker hand


We’ve heard all kinds of opinions about slot machines on cruises. Some say the slots pay off better the first night, so new players will be attracted when they hear others talking about it. They say the odds get worse as the cruise continues. We’re not sure this if is true, but the usual odds of winning at slots and video poker are from 15 to 20 percent, giving the “house” an even heavier advantage.

As with any casino, all the glitter, flashing lights, free snacks and comp drinks are there to get you to spend your money. Along with everything else on the cruise, they exist as profitmaking enterprises, which means it will cost you. Nothing wrong with it, but understand that the “house” always has the edge.

Many cruises feature bingo, and every game has a winner. Since you’re competing with other passengers, not the “house”, you can be a bit more optimistic about winning. For instance, if the fee per card is $5 and a 200 people, some with more than one card, participate, the winning card could mean as much as a $1,000 win, with a certain amount from each game going to the “house”. Chances of winning in the ship’s bingo games seem better, but are actually much less than in the casino.

Another factor about gambling at sea is that you’ll have a general feeling of, to use an old term, “letting it all hang out”. You’ll enjoy all the fun activities, shop, take shore excursions and do more drinking than usual. The casino depends on you to have that happy-go-lucky attitude, and hopes you’ll bet ... and lose ... a lot of money. Our advice is to do what we do when gambling on cruises. We set a daily maximum and stick to it. If you lose it, turn around and leave the casino. If you keep winning, play as long as you like.

Whatever, despite your urge to toss more money into the games, keep to your rule. Ours is $100 each per day, and whether we lose it in 25 minutes or four hours later, we leave the casino and cool down by going to the midnight buffet, a dip in the spa or take a moonlight walk on deck.

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