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Times To Butt Out Of Ship Casinos

The world continues to close in on smokers. One of the last places where smokers can still light up are gaming establishments. For whatever reason, smoking and gambling seem to be partners.

On land and at sea.

Casinos on land usually have a non-smoking area. Presumably, these areas will grow in size as there are more non-smokers, which seems to be happening in society. Casinos at Casino smoke-freesea aren’t usually large enough to designate a portion of the space as non-smoking. Instead, they’ve done what we noticed — and not for the first time — on the Star Princess.

Smoke-free days.

A day or two per cruise is earmarked as non-smoking on a growing number of cruise ships. On the Star Princess, during a one-week Alaska cruise, there were two. In Asia, where it feels like a higher percentage of the population smokes, in many large outdoor areas — from Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam — smoking is not allowed.

If you’re one of the people who stays away from cruise-ship casinos because you can’t deal with the smoke, let the cruise line know. And if you’re one of the passengers who would stay away from the casino if you couldn’t smoke, let the cruise line know.

In the end, the impact on the cruise line’s bottom line is likely to determine how often the “no smoking” signs will be posted.

Today at portsandbows.com: Excursion options on Silversea World Cruise 

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
September 29, 2015
Vancouver, Victoria, Astoria, Los Angeles
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $39

South Korea waters tricky for casinos

Star Cruises is a small cruise line that opens a piece (28 per cent) of a big cruise line, Norwegian. Its sell line is that Star is the “leading cruise line in Asia-Pacific” so, naturally, it caters to Asians.

On the weekend, South Korea gave Star Cruises permission to operate casinos once the ships are in international waters, which is the cruise norm. It also said local residents will be allowed to use casinos on cruise ships carrying the Korean national flag. At the moment, there are no such ships, but that’s going to change as cruising starts to grow in South Korea.

But locals weren’t going to be allowed in…really?

In other words, foreigners would have been able to play tables and slots but not nationals. Now that would give a new reason for having your ID checked, wouldn’t it?

Apparently, there is some rationale to this. In South Korea, there are presently 17 casinos. The industry is growing rapidly, despite the fact that only one of the 17 casinos allows South Koreans to gamble.


In the news…

• Viking's first ocean ship to be christened Sunday in Norway
• Popular Celebrity Eclipse emerges from nine-day refurbishing

Today at portsandbows.com: First look at the Viking Star

Celebrity Constellation
7 nights
August 23, 2015
Venice (return): Dubrovnik, Ephesus, Mykonos, Corfu
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $99

Creativity In Ship Casinos

Our sense is that things are gradually changing on cruise-ship casinos. It started when Crystal Cruises announced last month it was offering passengers — albeit passengers from gambling hotspots Hong Kong and Singapore — the opportunity to convert on-board credits into chits for the casino.

Ship casinoNow, Carnival has a promotion that gives you up to $50 to play in the casino. Book a cruise of five days or less for $25 in casino cash, six days or more for $50. The asterisk is that it applies to “select” rates.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that cruise lines are getting more creative with their casinos. Whether it’s because casino numbers are down or because they just want to capitalize more on what’s a high-profit center is anybody’s guess.

If you frequent casinos on land, you know how the come-on works. Join the player’s club, earn points by gambling, redeem free play. There are variations on that theme from casino to casino, but those are the fundamentals of the promotion.

So, will there be more of that on casinos at sea?

Probably. If it works on land, and it clearly does, it’ll work on the water.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas
14 nights
April 20, 2015
Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Tenerife, Malaga, Barcelona
Oceanview: $725
Cost per day: $51

The ‘G’ Word: Gambling On Cruises


The subject nobody likes to talk about (or confess to) on cruise ships is gambling. Because of its addictive possibilities, because of its seamy stories of the past, because of its long odds…gambling is something that only others seem to do.

Okay, so we’re others.

We have gambled on cruise ships and lost. We have gambled on cruise ships and won. We have never been left with the impression that the “odds” of winning are any different than they are in land-based casinos — they’re never great — and yet there are people who insist the odds are different.

This week we read a Q-and-A answer in the Detroit Free Press, by Mark Pilarski. He seems to know more about gambling than we do, which is fine, but there’s a few things in his response to a reader’s question about slots on ships that we found…interesting and/or curious.

For example:

• “It is far more difficult to know who is setting and enforcing the laws at sea. There is an organization called the International Council of Cruise Lines that offers some regulatory control. If you have a dispute, you won't likely find an ICCL agent.”

While there are rules and regs for EVERYTHING on cruise ships, this is fair comment. Our experience is that the people who operate the casinos at sea are not casino people they’re ship people, so the way they do things is not exactly Las Vegas.

• “Cruise ships have no competition, just a confined audience. The casino knows you're a one-timer on a holiday and that your pockets are full of cash. It isn't looking for repeat business because you're probably never coming back. As a one-time player, you can plan on a bruising when cruising.”

Not true. All cruise lines want you to come back, if not to that ship, to another one ofd theirs and if you’re guaranteed to take a “bruising” you not only will avoid the casino on that ship, you won’t gamble on any of their ships.

• “Avoid playing slot machines…there are plenty of other activities to enjoy besides pulling handles.”

Partly true. There are plenty of other activities, but probably none which give you even a “chance” of helping to pay for your cruise…okay, maybe bingo, also gambling. However, rare is the cruise ship that has slot machines with handles.

And what do you think?

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian Escape — what's new

Holland America Veendam
7 nights
March 7, 2015
San Diego (return): Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta 
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Gambling in the 21st Century Spreading to Ships in Ports and Pool Decks on Ships

Sometime soon, which is to say in the next few months, nine of Celebrity's 11 ships will be outfitted with technology that will allow passengers to gamble on their phones and/or tablets while on a ship that's in international waters. Bringing the casino to the patrons, as it were. About the time this was announced, Bermuda's government was passing a bill allowing passengers to gamble on ships in the popular port after nine o'clock at night. If something can ever be a safe bet (pun intended), these two "gambles" qualify.

Gambling is almost everywhere in the 21st century. You can debate the social fallout long into the night, or the year, but you cannot debate the popularity. Drive by a casino at any time it is open and see how many cars are in the parking lot…any casino, any parking lot. Check out casino entertainment and note how many of the headliners are performing long after you would have expected them to retire…hello there, Frankie Valli, who's 79 and still worth the price of admission.

Casinos are part of the fabric of life now, and that's why the Celebrity decision and the Bermuda vote are safe bets. Both will be popular moves, no matter what Gamblers Anonymous might say.

The Bermuda move was more or less expected. At stake was the future of cruise ships going there.

The Celebrity strategy is unique, but maybe it shouldn't be. Our resident expert, Phil Reimer of Ports and Bows, has discovered that 40 per cent of cruise revenue comes from on-board products…and table games and slot machines play a significant part. So why wouldn't Celebrity (or any cruise line) want to find new ways to maximize that?

On ships in the Solstice Class (5) and the Millennium Class (4), here's how it will work:

1. Passengers will create a virtual wallet at the casino desk (think credit card)

2. They will download a free app, Cantor Mobile Casino, to their smartphones or tablets via WiFi

3. Table games, slot machines or video poker will be available for their Apple and Android devices anywhere on the ship.

Will this mobile gaming take people deeper into gambling? Maybe. However, if people choose to gamble nowadays, they don't have far to go, do they?

You can't always protect people from themselves.

Celebrity Constellation
12 nights
November 12, 2013
Istanbul (return): EphesusBodrumRhodes, Marmaris, SantoriniAthensMykonosCrete
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $41

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