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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

Cruising's Not All About Luring Youth


Question: How can seniors avoid that terrible curse of the elderly wrinkles?

Answer: Take off their glasses.

Ah, seniors. We are the butt of thousands of Internet jokes. We are disregarded by marketers obsessed with the 25 to 49 crowd. Even cruise ships, once the haven of the nearly elderly, have become playgrounds for the young and rich.

But hold the phone!

We are not forgotten.

Cruise Lines International Association research shows the average age of cruisers has dropped to an all-time low (48 years), because of the aforementioned catering to youth that has made them realize what their elders have known for years: “Cruising is irresistible.” Yet despite the CLIA figures, it’s clear that cruise lines still count on their primary market because all of them have strategies that are essentially only for Golden Agers:

• Longer itineraries are everywhere, and it’s retirees who have the time to book them.

• Exotic cruises are plentiful for a demographic that often focuses on the ol’ Bucket List…like seeing the Panama Canal, cruising the Mediterranean, or crossing an ocean in a ship.

Rock climbing• Upscale lines like Cunard, Crystal, Azamara and Oceania cater to seniors because that’s usually the crowd with the most disposable income and the fewest financial obligations.

• River cruising’s growth in popularity is unquestionably because of seniors, for the same reason, but also because older folks like us are more interested in history, lectures and less-strenuous (i.e. do-able) activities like climbing rock walls…is it because we’re weary of climbing the wall?

• The major cruise line best suited to retirees, they say, is Holland America. The ships are smaller, there are fewer “family-style” adventures and its reputation includes rules about lights out by nine (just kidding).

And there’s always a place on the mainstream, family-oriented cruise lines for seniors…and generally the prices are more reasonable. If you’re among the crowd that would prefer a big ship and a more sedate experience, here’s one small tip:

Go when the kids are in school.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Sensation
3 nights
October 30, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Nassau
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $163

Crystal Wakes Up To Late Risers 


You have a routine. The alarm rings at the same time, day after day. Your trip to the shower is short enough you could use a hand towel to dry off. Breakfast has to be eaten quickly. There’s a bus to catch or traffic to face or a clock to punch, literally or otherwise.

Deadlines. That’s what life us until…


Then you set your schedule, at last, be it for a week or two or longer. You decide what time you do virtually everything.

Cruises are vacations, aren’t they?

So what’s with these shore excursions that leave at the crack of eight o’clock so that you can spend all day touring around and get back, sometimes exhausted, before the ship leaves without you? What ever happened to sleeping in on vacation?

Crystal Cruises has the answer, or at least an answer.

Shore excursions called Crystal Adventures will have a special, effective a week from today. It’s called Late-Risers Adventures. Shore excursions that require you to be ready by sometime between 11 a.m. and noon. Crystal still gives passengers enough time on shore to see Anne Frank House and Van Gogh’s Museum in Amsterdam…to see a cathedral and a palace in Oporto, Portugal…to visit the Navy Yard, Boston Common, the Freedom Trail and the pre-revolutionary Old State House in Boston.

It’s a test, of course, because such innovations always are. That means it’s on “select sailings” — starting with Boston to Quebec on the Serenity next week — and much of the evaluation will come from the passengers who try it out. They’ll be asked for their unvarnished opinions, good or bad.

Just don’t call before 11.

Today at portsandbows.com: Uniworld’s unique itinerary

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
October 26, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Key West
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $58

Puerto Rico Plans to Market Cruisers

News item: Puerto Rico is doubling the number of hotels, and doubling the number of hotel rooms, over the next decade because of an annual increase in tourist traffic of three per cent (2013) that is topping out at 1.6 million.

For the cruise community, Puerto Rico is San Juan. In a one-year period, San Juan visitors will include eight ships from both Carnival and Holland America ships, seven from Royal Caribbean, four from Norwegian, Celebrity and Silversea, three from Old_San_JuanOceania, two from Regent Seven Seas and one from Disney, Princess, MSC Cruises and Crystal.

You get the idea.

Almost half of that 1.6 million tourists arrive (and leave) on a cruise ship. To fill those hotel rooms, Puerto Rico's tourist people say they need to convince cruise passengers to stay for two or three days. This, of course, is only possible if you either board or get off your ship in San Juan.

Not many cruises start in San Juan. We flew there four years ago to get on the Celebrity Millennium for a cruise through the Panama Canal. That's the kind of thing that will convince cruisers to go a few days early or stay a few days late. Looking ahead for the next year-plus schedule, we couldn't find one major cruise line starting or ending a cruise in San Juan.

So Puerto Ricans might want to change their marketing strategy as the hotels increase, and convince cruise passengers to come back to this island jewel…or convince cruise lines to start and end more cruises in their charming port.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Valor
7 nights
July 6, 2014
San Juan (return): St. ThomasBarbadosSt. LuciaSt. KittsSt. Maarten
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61

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