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Cruise Gambling…Cruise WiFi

News item: Cayman Islands government attempting to legalize gambling on cruise ships.

There is no gambling in the Cayman Islands, which seems a little odd considering that the Caymans have long been known as a place extremely wealthy people can hide money so they don’t have to pay taxes. That’s irrelevant, of course, when it comes to gambling on cruise ships. What is relevant is that the government is proposing allowing gambling on (a) ships registered there (b) passenger ships carrying more than 12 people (c) ships in international waters and on an international voyage between Cayman and another port.

Here’s the catch…

Gambling’s not allowed on ships in port or in Cayman’s territorial waters.

What are we missing here? Can’t cruise ships with casinos open the slots once they’re in international waters?

“This bill is aimed solely at the cruise ship industry,” said a government official.

It must be for the ships with 12 passengers.

News item: Carnival announced it expanded its innovative hybrid connectivity system to create the cruise industry’s largest WiFi network.

Okay, isn’t it time that somebody invented a gizmo to measure WiFi size? Doesn’t anybody have a gigabyte meter? In all that cyberspace, how does anyone really know who’s on first? Or second? Or even in the same ballpark?

In the last months, there have been Internet/WiFi announcements by three cruise lines, all of them crowing about having the biggest, best, fastest service at sea. If it’s a game, then we need a Commissioner of WiFi to tell us who really is the best…or does it really matter?

If your Internet service on a cruise ship is fast enough to make you happy, that’s good enough.

Isn’t it?

In the news…

• Unlimited and free Internet now on all Regent Seven Seas ships
• Five-year deal for better Glacier Bay access for American Cruise Lines
• Santa Cruz II replaces Santa Cruz I after 36 years to the Galapagos

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney flying high wirh Star Wars

Carnival Elation
5 nights
November 28, 2015
New Orleans (return): Cozumel, Progreso
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $49

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

Crystal Casinos Using On-Board Credits

Crystal casinoTwo things in life that cannot be refuted:

1. We live in a points world.

2. Everybody likes free stuff

And so it is that Crystal Cruises is raising that bar for the rest of the industry, by allowing passengers to convert “on-board credits” into “gambling dollars.”

Starting next month, when the Crystal Symphony sails out of Singapore for Hong Kong, passengers with shipboard credits will be able to convert them into vouchers or chips that they can use in the ship’s casino. In an era when casinos on land regularly offer customers “free play” cruise lines are getting with the times, and why not?

“On-board” credits means spending your money “on board” the ship, doesn’t it?

Neither the credits at the sea nor the free play on land can be redeemed as cash. They have to be “played” but once they are, any winnings can be turned into cash. And on Crystal’s ships, any on-board credits not spent in the casino can be returned to the room account.

Crystal is not the first cruise line to allow this, but usually it comes with a catch. Also a charge. By allowing it to happen without nickel-and-diming the customers — and then talking about it — Crystal is setting this bar higher than it’s ever been.

Today at portsandbows.com: Projection of 23 million cruisers in 2015

Crown Princess
7 nights
November 28, 2015
Los Angeles (return):Puerto VallartaMazatlanCabo San Lucas
Inside: $439
Cost per day: $62

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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