Winning big while cruising: Can you cash in at the onboard casino?


Whether you’re a regular card shark or merely dabble in a little roulette, the Vegas-style casinos onboard cruise ships are a fun favourite for many Australian cruisers. All the familiar games are there – blackjack, poker and of course rows upon rows of slot machines. It’s easy to stop in to try your luck into the wee hours or just while the time away during sea days.

So are they anything like regular casinos? And what are your chances of winning big – or at least enough to pay for your next cruise?

The real question: Will you win?

While there are unsubstantiated rumours that you’re more likely to strike it lucky on the first day of a cruise, a casino at sea is much like a casino on land. The odds of winning are about the same, and it’s important to keep in mind that while you certainly do have a chance of winning, the odds are in favour of the house (or in this case, ship). It’s best to approach those onboard casinos as a fun activity to enjoy while you’re at sea, but not expect too much more from your ventures at the blackjack tables.

Casinos at sea are a cruise staple

Know before you go

If you have your heart set on playing a few card games on board your cruise, double check that your ship offers this activity. The grand majority of ships do have casinos, although note that Disney cruises do not, as they are geared towards the family-friendly crowd. Also, few river cruises offer casinos on board.
Unlike some casinos on land, your drinks will not automatically be free while you are gambling. Unless, of course, your drinks are included with the cruise anyway!
Casinos are one of the last bastions of public smoking, and this is also true for cruises. There are a handful of lines that won’t allow smoking at all (such as Celebrity), but a fair number of them allow for this habit in designated Casino areas..
You’ll only be able to gamble while at sea, as casinos are only open on international waters. However, some cruises will allow gambling when you’re still close to shore, so long as you are more than 3 nautical miles from arrival or departure, which is the case with many Alaskan cruises that hug the shoreline.
Finally, it’s unlikely you’ll meet too many card sharks while at sea. Serious gamblers know that cruise casinos close during the ship’s days in port, so they tend to prefer to spend their time in casinos that are open as often as possible. This leaves a relaxed atmosphere, so if you’re a newbie to casinos, it’s a great environment in which to try your luck!
People who have won big on board

Winning big in a normal casino is one thing – winning the jackpot while on holiday feels even more spectacular. There are plenty of people out there who have been lucky enough to leave a cruise with more money than they started, and it’s not uncommon to see people scream and shout as they take home prizes in the onboard casino.

For example, the Norwegian Cruise Line has started a gallery of winners who have won big onboard one of their ships. The prizes range from just a couple of grand to as much as $160,000.

Ready to roll the dice on a cruise? Check out the latest cruise deals on sale now.


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