As I write this I have embarked on my second cruise, earned as part of the comps that originally came out of one of my locals, and more recently through the URComped folks, who have to date taken fantastic care of me (shout out to Tyler!).
But for those of you who have never cruised before, and don’t know what to expect on cruise ship gambling, I thought a primer on what to expect might be helpful. There are definitely differences between a cruise ship casino and land-based ones.
Gambling Conditions Are Less Favorable
The rumors you hear about cruise ships casino are generally true. You can see it visibly on the rules of various table games like Blackjack, as well as the pay tables of Video Poker, but there’s been visual evidence of slots being set below the expected average as well.
The reality of being in international waters with no competition means the cruise ships have a captive audience. So when you go, be prepared for your money to not stretch quite as far as a general rule. As always, short-term results can outperform or underperform the expectation, but I personally felt like I could feel the difference on the lower pays overall.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t gamble, necessarily, but instead just set the right expectations for your bankroll.
Cruise Ship Casinos Aren’t Huge
Given everything that a cruise ship needs to operate must fit within the confines of the vessel, it may not be surprising to hear that the casinos on cruise ships will tend to be smaller than their land-based counterparts. As such, the selection of games you may be used to at your home casino may lead you to initially feel underwhelmed when you get on a cruise ship.
On my first cruise, I found it forced me out of my comfort zone of games I would seek out, and I put in time on a lot of games I normally would not, which was a nice side effect of this. On the Brilliance of the Seas, which was the first boat I was on, there was only a couple hundred machines. On the Oasis of the Seas, which I’m sailing on now, there’s probably double the amount, which certainly expands the options but is still 10 percent of the selection I find at each of the two casinos in my state back at home.
Casino Sizes Vary By Ship
Most cruise lines have a pretty diverse array of vessels of varying shapes and sizes, so it also should not be surprising to learn that the casino sizes vary accordingly. The newer, bigger ships tend to have the more comprehensive casinos, so that is certainly something to look for if you want a larger casino at your disposal. While the Oasis casino only has twice as many machines and tables as the Brilliance, you can feel a distinct difference in size and it feels like there’s more to enjoy.
You Can Scout the Casino Out in Advance
Thanks to the size of these casinos, and the fact that many cruise ships are well documented thanks to travel vlogs and photographers, you can also see what games are in the casino. Games aren’t refreshed too often, but I do encourage you to check the photo dates because ships do get a refresh periodically.
You Can Earn One (Or More!) Free Cruises
Just like you can earn comps in land-based casinos, the most prominent perk you can earn as a casino goer on a cruise ship is at least another free cruise. Some cruise lines are more transparent than others (I previously shared Royal Caribbean’s). When I took my first cruise, I did my homework on what it would take to earn the next cruise through the casino. In my case I did it for a budget that would’ve been less than outright buying the second cruise.
That may not always be the case, but if you’re going to plan on gambling anyway, make sure you do the homework of what you can qualify for. Don’t leave money (or cruises) on the table. In the case of fellow cruisers last time, some didn’t realize they were so close on qualifying for a free cruise and ended up missing out.
At the end of the day, a cruise trip is like any others, with plenty of great activities to partake. Enjoy!