Gambling on Cruises

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Casino entrance from promenade level.

Sun, beaches, and exotic destinations are not the only activities aboard cruise ships; gambling on cruises is one of the most popular ways to pass time at sea. Savvy passengers, however, know how to make the most of their cruise casino dollars without sinking into debt.

Types of Gambling on Cruises

Games of chance can be exciting, exhilarating, and entertaining all at once. Cruise ships are known for their vibrant décor, and in no other area of the ship are the wild colors and fantastic themes more apparent than in casinos. At the same time, gambling venues are frequently welcome and opening, and offer low-risk options for uncertain players so everyone can try their hand without apprehension.

Casino Games

Ocean-based casinos offer the same games as land-based casinos, such as roulette, blackjack, poker, video poker, craps, and of course, slot machines, including progressive prize machines linked to all the cruise line's ships. There are a variety of denominations available, from small penny and nickel slots and dollar table games up to five dollar slots and much higher priced tables.

In contrast to land-based casinos, however, cruise ship casinos generally do not offer the exclusive "high roller" stakes tables because of the lower interest in such venues. Most travelers may be willing to spend a few dollars at a table now and then, but very high minimums discourage passengers who would rather use their money for shore excursions or other expenses. Similarly, there are fewer tables and slot machines on board cruise ships, simply because of the lack of available space, though the variety is exceptional.

Bingo Games

Gambling on cruises is not confined to casinos. Bingo games are frequently held in lounges or other high-capacity meeting rooms, and space may be at a premium so interested passengers should arrive early. Cards are typically sold either as a single card or in a set of three (often at a slight discount compared to individual cards). There are no dabbers or chips required; the cards have punch holes over the numbers, and when the number is called, simply fold the appropriate space back. Take care not to remove the center free space number, however, because doing so invalidates the card and a win will not be honored. Bingo games may be played for straight prize money, large jackpots, or free cruise vacations.

Lottery Tickets

Many cruise ships offer scratch off lottery tickets, but they are usually only for sale immediately proceeding bingo games. Tickets may cost from $1 to $5 depending on the available prizes and the relative odds of winning, and many passengers find them a pleasant warm up to pricier games.

Casino Shore Excursions

If gambling on the ship is not enough, many cruise destinations offer tours to land-based casinos. The Atlantis Hotel and Casino in Nassau, for example, is one of the largest casinos in the Caribbean. Cruises to France may include a day at Monaco and its glittery temptations, while a tour of Athens may include a trip to the Loutraki Casino, one of the largest casinos in Europe.

Tips for Gambling on Cruises

Even experienced gamblers may be unfamiliar with how to gamble on a cruise ship. For a fun and easy gaming adventure, remember:

  • The cashiers are typically located in the rear of the casino.
  • Unlike onboard shopping boutiques and tour reservations, casinos operate on a cash-only basis and will not permit passengers to charge gambling to their cabins.
  • Casinos only operate while the ship is at sea or when local laws permit gaming while in port.
  • Table games and both very high and very low denominations of slot machines are usually in the center part of the casino. Moderate machines are located in the front for easy access.
  • Different ships may have different age requirements for gambling on board. Consult a travel agent for regulations for specific cruise lines.
  • Slot tournaments and other special events fill up quickly and spaces may need to be reserved in advance.
  • When the casino is closed the gaming staff may offer complimentary gambling lessons for novices.

Tournaments

Slot machines.

Slot tournaments are a popular pastime on cruises. They are open to any player, and work through a flat registration fee rather than per-pull accumulation. Players need to meet one of two goals in order to win the tournament: either to have the greatest accumulated winnings with a set number of pulls or in a certain time frame, or to reach a specified winnings total before other competitors.

Blackjack tournaments are also popular, and often use an elimination framework to narrow the registered players to a single winner. Tournament prizes are often either cash well in excess of the registration fee, or the grand prize may be a free cruise.

Players Clubs

Many cruise lines offer players club benefits to passengers. These clubs are typically free to join, and as more play is accumulated, members are eligible for additional prizes and benefits. The exact terms and conditions vary depending on the cruise line, and passengers should check with the casino staff for details about what is offered on their voyage.

Cruises Without Gambling

Passengers interested in gambling on cruises should be aware that not every cruise ship offers gaming facilities. Disney Cruise Line, for example, does not have any casinos because of its family-oriented atmosphere. River cruises may also be unable to offer gambling options if their itinerary includes areas where gambling is prohibited.


For passengers interested in spending a few dollars and taking the chance of winning a few more, gambling on cruises can be a great pastime. From simple video poker and slot machines to table games, tournaments, and casino shore tours, there are plenty of gaming options on most cruises to satisfy even the most daring player.

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Gambling on Cruises