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Casino Trip Report Planned

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Hi all:


This is my first time posting on this Forum, though I have thought about doing so before..


I love to gamble, and go to my local area casinos and Las Vegas often, but have only recently (in the last few years) found out that about the generous (and in many cases not-so-generous) comp programs aboard the major lines.  

I will be going on my first Carnival Elite cruise in November, and am planning to do what I have thought about doing many times before - writing a detailed trip report, focused primarily on the casino activities.


To get in the mood for trips in the past, I enjoyed searching the web and these Forums to find information about cruise casinos, and other people's experiences in them, and found very few results that were of interest..  There seems to be quite the dearth of information related to casinos on board cruise ships, and I am writing this post in the hope that it will spur me on to actually write the trip report this time around!


I'll start with a recollection from a previous Carnival Splendor, which as it was happening, I was kicking myself that I hadn't started a live trip report so that I could report it to these Forums in real time..


My primary game is Blackjack, and as this was a Premier cruise, the tables were always fairly busy, usually at least one other person to play with most of the time..  There was one gentleman on board that always bought it for around $4,000 and bet big but randomly, sometimes $50, sometimes $500, and he usually lasted around 30 minutes before losing it all.  So far, so typical.  This one night, late, around 12/1am, he pitched up to the table with his chips and started to bet in his usual erratic style.  This particular evening, Lady Luck was smiling on him, and he managed to amass quite a collection of black ($100) chips..  At this point, he questioned the pit and asked if he could bet over the table max (this table's bet range was $25-$500), and the pit granted his request..  I think their working theory was that this crazy old dude will give us all our money back if we let him.  The pit boss instructed the dealer to accept any bet on his space, and he was then regularly throwing out $1,000 or $2,000 bets.  He continued to win, and amassed so many chips that the pit actually brought him a rack to put his black chips in.


Somewhere around this time, he actually managed to clear out all the black and most of the green ($25) chips from the rack, and the pit had to order a fill.  He requested that they bring out mainly purple ($500) chips as he expected to win them all, and they laughed, and told him that they could only bring out black.  He requested to color up some of his chips with the few purple chips that were currently in the rack, and they told him he needed to win more black before they'd do that.  Again, I think they were totally expecting to get all the money back from him and almost goading him into continuing his bets..  The joke was on them, however, as he managed to clean out the rack for a second time (of the newly re-filled black chips), and this time, they granted his wish and cracked out the purple chips for the second fill..


He kept pressing the bets, some winning, some losing, but not really diminishing his stack, and by the time he finished, he walked away from the table with (at my estimate) $40K or $50K in two chip-racks full of purple chips.


I did see him a couple more times back in the casino after that, and he had reverted to what usually happened - buy in for $4,000 or so and lose it all in less than an hour..  I talked to the pit staff towards the end of the cruise, and they mentioned that he had indeed had another big winning session when I wasn't present, and he was significantly up for the cruise, so it does happen - people can walk away from cruise ship casinos with significantly more than they walked in with.  This has yet to happen to me though, and as I'm sure it takes a particular combination of recklessness, luck and sheer craziness to make it happen, I doubt that it will..  Hope springs eternal.


Anyway, that was a bit rambling, but does anyone else have any crazy stories of things that happened in a cruise casino that they wish they had documented at the time?


Does anyone have any questions related to my experiences in cruise casinos or in the comp system (with RCCL, NCL and Carnival), or thoughts about what questions could be answered by an intensive casino-focused trip report?  Any information you have searched for online and struggled to find any relatable personal experiences recounted elsewhere?

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Similar story on one of our Carnival cruises, guy shows up appearing to be very drunk. He plays erratically then asks to up his bets on two spots. Casino agrees. He is doubling down on 12s and 13s and winning like crazy. DH and I assumed he was counting cards or had a partner and was just acting drunk. He took them for over $100,000. The worst part, he never tipped the dealers.

Carnival began giving us weak offers so we switched to RCI via UrComped. I am happy with their comps and how they are upfront with what comps you can receive. The upgrade prices are great. They also add special deals in addition to their stated comps.

I haven't sailed NCL in years. I would like info on their comps from a personal perspective. I may try MSC and Celebrity sometime because UrComped has some cruises listed with them.

Favorite Las Vegas casino is Green Valley Ranch with a side trip to Southpoint. Beau Rivage in Biloxi with a side trip to Boomtown.

I would enjoy reading your report very much. Which ship will you be on? I have never had a huge win on the tables, (a few on slots). Do the casinos you have frequented give a W-2 on table wins? I am sure your report will answer a lot of questions and would be appreciated by the forum members.

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I couldn't find a way to edit my previous post, and I am terrible for writing a lot and not proofreading it, so many of my posts are likely to have errors, but from the last post, here are a couple corrections..


- As anyone that can see my post count will know, that wasn't my first post, I had forgotten that I had got into a random topic prior to the a previous cruise when I had registered in hopes of posting a trip report, but then not actually done it, so I was not trying to intentionally mislead there..

- I wrote that the story about the high roller was from a previous Carnival Splendor, but I meant to write a previous Carnival Premier cruise (it was actually on Vista)

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oxymoron11 - I often find it's hard to tell in casinos who is playing with an advantage and who is genuinely just a bit drunk/crazy/other adjective.  I find as a rule of thumb, people on cruises are not usually the most seasoned gamblers, so tend to err towards them just being impulsive.  As I'm sure you can attest, no matter how much people try to put themselves on the wrong side of the math in terms of their gambling (doubling 12 or 13, for example), they will still occasionally win with such a strategy.  


Good on them, I say, they generally are of good spirit and it's always nice to see someone triumph over the casinos, even if it is only fleetingly.


It is, of course, an unknowable voodoo science that goes into a cruise line's decision to grant comps.  On land, casinos tend to mainly comp based on Theo or Actual Loss.  My first cruise with NCL, I was fortunate to have a winning cruise (I think ending up around $2K for the trip), and when I contacted them to see what comps I qualified for, they flat out told me that I won on my last cruise, so I could pay full fare for my next one!  It seems to be their policy that they do not comp winning players.  Possibly this changes when Theo rises above a certain level, but for me, I had to pay full price for my second NCL cruise, with a modest casino rate discount.


As I have always been a losing player on Carnival (I have notes somewhere of the specifics), I have always received comp offers from them, which vary from a fixed money-off amount, through complimentary cabins ranging from interior to balcony, to some offers which include a complimentary cabin and some front money as well.  I would conjecture that your lack of offers may be something to do with you being a winning player, but I'm not sure if Carnival take this 'we don't comp winners' approach that NCL adopts.


One thing I don't like about Carnival specifically related to the Premier cruises is that in general, there are only certain rooms set aside for the promotion, and you can't pay to upgrade to a better category.  Or, to be more specific, you can pay to upgrade to a full fare in another cabin, but you lose your place as part of the Premier group.  At least, that had been my experience up to my latest booking.


I received an offer for an Elite cruise which was being offered by Carnival Australia (which is actually a division of P&O Australia, I don't know the specifics of the relationship, but they share a corporate parent in CCL so I'm sure that sharing of vessels is a lot easier.  Indeed, the Carnival Spirit is bouncing back and forth between Carnival Australia and Carnival US next year)..  The deal was a free balcony cabin with $1,000 front money for a 15nt repositioning cruise out of Singapore to Sydney.  In that case, after much cajoling of the agent, I was able to pay an upgrade fee to move to a higher cabin category, but I don't think that is something that is usually possible with Carnival US, however I have never pressed the issue as strongly as I did with Carnival Australia.


My only experience of RCI is a match of a Carnival offer via URComped.  They matched a 1wk free balcony offer into a comped Junior Suite for a 7nt on Freedom, and they were much more generous on the upgrade front.  When the Villa Suite opened up about 3 weeks before sailing, they were able to move me into that for only $600 extra per person.  It took a bit of persistence both in watching for it to be available for online booking, and then around an hour on the phone with a casino rep that really fought hard to get me the upgrade, but it is possible.


Sadly, after that trip, I have only ever received an offer for a free interior or $500 credit for future cruises, so I haven't been back to RCI yet.  I do agree that they are amongst the most transparent in what they expect, and I have a feeling that my comp offer was fair relative to the play I gave them.  It may also be weighted by the heavily frontloaded comp that they gave me (the junior suite was invoiced at a pretty high regular fare before they knocked it all the way down to just port taxes).


On NCL, as I mentioned, I didn't qualify for anything after my first 'winning' cruise (which itself was a free oceanview certificate from a land-based casino).  For my most recent NCL sailing on Jewel, I paid full price on the website for a Haven suite, and the casino department altered the booking after the fact to give me a $998 credit, which was about 10% of the cruise cost.  This was actually negated down the line when I added a third guest to the booking, which would have been free (except for port taxes) if my booking had remained as a web booking (3rd and 4th guest sail free promo), but as it had been taken over by casino dept, I had to pay a $600 admin fee to them (plus port taxes) to add the 3rd guest, essentially making my credit only worth $398. 


I played heavily (for me) on that Jewel cruise (approx 6500 points at the end, almost all earned from table games).  At NCL's valuation, $5 coin-in is one point on slots, so 6500 points is the equivalent of $32,500 coin-in on slots, which assuming a 10% theo for slot games would be a theo for the trip of $3250.  The actual loss was higher than that, but all I receive from them was a $309 onboard credit (I had paid $360 to draw $12K from my onboard account at the table, so I considered that moot)..  I didn't receive a certificate on board for a future cruise, but when I called to find out my worth to them, it was an offer of a free interior 7nt cruise, or approx $500 per person towards any cruise they offer, so basically the same offer I received as a 'winning' player that they don't comp!


I like Green Valley Ranch, it's a beautiful property with some relatively playable Blackjack games.  The next trip for me will be the Splendor out of Singapore in November on a Carnival Elite cruise.


All casinos in the US are required to issue W2G's for table game wins that pay over 300 to 1 odds, which actually leads me to a story from that same Premier cruise on Carnival Vista..


There was a lady that played at the tables everyday, and she was obsessed with the 'Lucky Ladies' side bet. 


For those that don't know, that's a side bet that you can make along with your regular wager at Blackjack.  Typically, you can bet from $1-$25 on the bet, and it pays out if the first two cards you are dealt sum to 20.  On many Carnival ships, they raised the minimum for their lowest limit Blackjack tables from $5 to $6 to encourage people to bet the $5 they're used to betting along with an additional $1 on the side bet.  This side bet is particularly mean-spirited as it has a horrific house edge of around 24% (meaning that in the long run, for every $1 you bet on the side bet, you will lose 24 cents).


Here is the pay-table showing the payoff you get and the odds of achieving that outcome with a six-deck shoe (Carnival typically plays with an 8-deck shoe in an auto-shuffler)..



Non-20 - loss - 9 out of every 10 hands

Unsuited 20 - 4 to 1 - 1 out of every 12.5 hands

Suited 20 - 9 to 1 - 1 out of every 50 hands

Matched 20 - 19 to 1 - 1 out of every 250 hands

Queen of Hearts pair (the 'Lucky Ladies') - 125 to 1 - 1 out of every 3,333 hands

Queen of Hearts pair with dealer blackjack - 1000 to 1 - 1 out of every 66,666 hands


Anyway, relevant to this story is the Queen of Hearts pair with dealer blackjack payoff of 1000 to 1, which would trigger a W2G to the 'lucky' player, as the payoff odds are greater than 300 to 1.


The lady in question was so enamoured of this bet, that she really wanted to play not only her own side bet, but also the one attached to my hand.  This is fairly typical at casinos, often I'll have a run of hands that would have been paid out if I had been playing the side bet prompting other players to tell me that I'm crazy not to play it, and wanting to put their action on my side bet spot.  Normally, I don't mind doing this, and I have a hard time saying no to players that request, but it can become a lot to deal with.


Fortunately, on this cruise, the pit staff pretty quickly determined that they didn't want that to happen, and told the lady in no uncertain terms that she couldn't bet on my 'Lucky Ladies' side bet.  The reasoning being two-fold:


1) Even though I was happy to pass her the winnings when the bet hit, I was under no obligation to give her anything, and the casino told her that if I won one of the bigger payoffs, they couldn't force me to give her the money and they didn't want an argument

2) If I got the Queen of Hearts pair with dealer blackjack, it would trigger a W2G and depending on the amount, they may have to pay me with a check and again had no way to guarantee that I would pass the money to her


They basically just didn't want any arguments in the casino, and suggested we come to a private arrangement outside the casino if we wanted to do it, but as far as they were concerned, the person that was playing the hand would be the one that got paid.  I was then able to tell the lady that that seemed like an awful lot of work, so I unfortunately couldn't help her with the bets any longer, which was frankly a relief to me.


As an aside, on my recent NCL Jewel trip, I received three Queen of Hearts pairs dealt to me.  The dealer didn't have blackjack any of the three times, but alas, I was not playing that side bet, so I missed that 125 to 1 payoff.  I did however save my money from the 9 out of 10 times when I would have lost that bet, which over a cruise where I must have played well in excess of 10K hands (as you'll see from the math above, 10K hands actually gives me an expectation of receiving 3 Queens of Hearts pairs dealt to me), saved me from losing the stake at least 9,000 times.













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I wish all casinos would ban the practice of people playing other's side bets. I don't like to say no at a friendly table but it is distracting. If friends want to do it I have no problem.

Thanks for the odds on the BJ side. A guy playing with DH in a BJ tournament played the side and hit the lucky ladies once, almost guaranteeing him the win, (he won the tourney) so maybe in that format it is a strategy. Enter for $25 to win $500.

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Posted (edited)

I look forward to your report. I generally read BJ forums for trip reports-they are rarely done here so it will be a treat. 

I am a solid “medium roller” playing primarily BJ and VP. But liking HeadsUp Hold’em and Let It Ride for a change of pace. In LV I stay (gratis) at The Venetian or Palazzo and generally go 3-4 times annually.  My cruises are primarily Princess and Carnival now but soon a second  MSC (which just discounted me 30% when I shared my Carnival w/l statement) and Cunard. 

My play generally earns me chocolate strawberries, cookies, Prosecco, a free night in a specialty restaurant and free drinks in the casino. And, at the end? A free interior or oceanview cabin with $3-500 in casino cash. This year i am taking my second Carnival ultra cruise in Dec out of Canaveral. I have never received an elite offer. 

I frequently find myself alone at the 3/2 $25 minimum BJ table. And I only gamble at night, even on sea days. The most I have ever lost is $4K, the most I ever won was $14K, paid off my bill and walked off the ship with over $12K. I budget about 1K daily and, when I am ahead, immediately go pay cash on my bill. 

I generally like the ship casinos. My only desire is for Ocean Players Club (who manages all the Carnival-owned lines casinos) to have a REAL players club, with points and perks that are transparent and would accumulate from voyage to voyage. I hate “starting from scratch” every time I board a new cruise. 


Edited by muggo11

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