Important Things to Know About Gambling on Cruise Ships

Cruise Ship and Casino Floor

Cruise ships are a favorite vacation destination for millions of travelers. The cruise ships act as your mobile resort as it travels from port to port in search of the next adventure.

If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you know that entertainment is of paramount concern. From the moment the sun begins to peek over the calm blue waters of the ocean, until the stars fill the sky in the wee hours of the morning, there are activities abound for both the weary and the well-rested.

You’d undoubtedly expect attractions like water slides, comedy clubs, miniature golf, and shopping galore on the cruise ships. However, you may be surprised to find a functioning casino.

Yet, that’s precisely what seafaring vacationers are greeted by on these massive vessels. So, if you’re shopping the market for an escape and a cruise suits your fancy, here are some important things to know about gambling on cruise ships.

Where to Find Casino Cruise Ships

In today’s climate, you’re almost sure to have access to casino gambling on any of the major cruise lines. It would fail to be in the best interest of a cruise line to miss out on such an incredible revenue stream.

If Las Vegas has shown us anything, it’s that casinos are essentially a sure thing. Besides, any cruise line that doesn’t offer a casino is missing out on customers.

For example, my mother couldn’t care less if a cruise ship has a casino. She’s been casino gambling fewer than five times in her life; it’s just not her cup of tea.

However, if she were booking a cruise for her sisters and my nana, you’d better believe that she’s picking a cruise ship with a casino. If the voyage were for us kids and the grandkids, that may be a different story.

You won’t have any trouble locating the casino once you’re on board. They are typically within earshot of the main foyer of the ship and in the most highly trafficked areas.

Even non-gamblers will be forced to stroll by the casino on a daily basis as they navigate their way from one end of the ship to the other. So, you shouldn’t trouble yourself worrying you may not locate the tiny casino on such a massive ship.

How Cruise Ship Casinos Compare to Land-Based Casinos

In my experience, the main differences you may perceive on your initial impression of a casino vanish once you’re in the middle of the gaming floor. Small intangibles may make one casino a more pleasant experience than another, but overall, you get a similar vibe.

Such is the case with cruise ship casinos. Many are small and separated by common areas with ropes or nothing at all.

I once was taking a morning walk around a cruise ship, and suddenly I was in the heart of the casino. The ringing bells of real money slot machines startled me at first because I hadn’t expected to bump into them.

Row of Slot Machines

Regardless of the open nature of cruise ship casinos, once you’re in the middle of the action, there’s a feeling of seclusion. Cruise ships are limited in space despite their enormous nature, which means lower ceilings and tighter quarters.

You’ll have plenty of games available, and most times, there’s no trouble finding an available spot. However, during busy evenings the casinos are filled with gamblers ready for an exciting night.

In fact, the scene on cruise lines will have you thinking you’re back at your favorite land-based casino.

The Legal Age for Gambling Varies

Brick-and-mortar casinos in the U.S. almost exclusively require gamblers to be 21 years old to enter. Yet, cruise line casinos operate under their own jurisdiction in many respects.

Because of this, they are able to open their casino doors to gamblers 18 years old and up. So, suppose you have a considerable affinity for gambling that can’t be quenched because you’re not 21. In that case, it may be an excellent time to book a cruise.

You’ll want to verify all legal gambling age requirements before you book your trip, but you should be good to gamble as soon as you can vote.

What You Can Expect of Cruise Ship Casino Payouts

Casinos are giant money-making monsters no matter where they happen to be located. The games are all designed to make the casinos a profit, and that’s no different on cruise ships.

Even when players walk away as a winner, the casino is still raking in a killing from all the players who lost. It’s more challenging for a casino to not make money in many ways.

The house edge guarantees the casino makes a profit, which means you only need people walking through the door. Suppose you’ve been around the casino industry much. In that case, you probably know that the casinos can bend the rules slightly to increase their take.

Mississippi River Cruise SHip

In places like Las Vegas, the casinos on the Strip will typically have games with an inflated house edge compared to other areas, like downtown. That’s because the casinos along the Strip know that they have a captive audience.

They can get away with taking a little bit more of the players’ money because they know the players will continue flooding through the front doors. The cruise lines enjoy the same luxury of being able to inflate the house edge slightly without most players giving it a second thought.

So, it’s common to find lower RTP on slot machines and video poker than you’d expect in a casino with friendly rules. Table games will also be affected by this enhanced advantage.

It’s nearly impossible to find a blackjack table that is paying the traditional 3:2 for a natural. Almost all cruise line games are the less impressive 6:5 blackjack payout.

It’s imperative to understand that casino gambling on cruise ships is a fun way to spend some time at sea and not an excellent avenue for profitable gaming action.

The Casino Games You’ll Encounter on Cruise Ships

Whenever you finally make your way to the cruise ship casino, you’ll see plenty of familiar games. Slot machines are a predominant attraction on cruises, much as they are in land-based casinos.

Still, considering the size constraints of the enormous ship, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the selection of table games. The poker games often go into the wee hours of the morning, and the rake is close to the standard.

Cruise lines are free to do mostly as they please, so you can find a large number of games you’d never see in a land-based casino. Many of the fringe games on cruise ships more closely resemble an arcade game than a casino game.

I recommend sticking to the true casino classics as opposed to games without any predetermined house edge. However, a few of the games are skill-based, which opens up a world of potential earnings if you’ve got what it takes.

Table Limits on Cruise Ships

The cruise lines understand the importance of appealing to a vast audience. Some cruise line guests operate on a strict budget, and others save their dollars for exciting excursions.

So, the casinos on cruise ships must be easily accessible to each guest. That causes the casinos to have a lower table minimum than you’ll find in many other places.

People at Two Different Casino Table Games

Table minimums as low as $5 are the standard fare on most cruise ships. That makes gambling light and affordable entertainment for the low-stakes player.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a casino without some penny slots to slowly burn through your gambling bankroll. You could probably have guessed that the penny slots are the most abundant games on cruise ships.

Overall, cruising casinos are built with affordability in mind. Understand that the house edge is inflated. It may be best to lower your standard bet amount to compensate for that.

You May Not Gamble Day and Night Like Land-Based Casinos

Casinos on cruise ships face a challenge when determining their hours of operation. The boat is considered under the jurisdiction of the port’s governing authority.

That means that a ship could have several different sets of laws to abide by depending on the day on a single cruise. So, the cruise industry came up with a fantastic solution.

Anytime the ship is in port, the casino is closed. Whenever the boat is at sea, the casino is open.

That means the casino will be closed upon your arrival and open later in the day once you’ve departed. It’s a simple set of rules for players to understand and gives casino staff much-needed rest.

You should be out exploring new places anyway, not tolling away on the craps table.

Keep Things Light and Fun During Your Cruise

Most importantly, have fun. Cruise lines and casino resorts have a ton of similarities in that entertainment is the number one product being sold.

Don’t waste your entire trip on the slot machines and miss out on the majesty of breakfast beers on the Aledo Deck as the sun rises over the Atlantic. Get out as much as possible and enjoy the sun and sand; the casino will be waiting for you after dinner.

In Summary

These important things to know about gambling on cruise ships will help you plan your trip accordingly. The casinos are a fabulous source of entertainment and a great way to make some new friends for the journey.

Keep in mind that you’re not going to make a ton of profit gambling on cruise ships because of the further enhanced house edge.