Gambling at sea is far from a recent pastime.
Swat up on your 19th century American history and stories of riverboat gamblers are likely to be commonplace.
Fast forward to later into the 20th century and more modern riverboat casinos popped up in various US states outside of the typical gambling locations of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
Nowadays, many cruise ships globally also feature onboard casinos, whether it be the largest on the market or even some of the smaller liners that only cater for around 1,000 guests.
The latest addition is the biggest and most expensive to ever grace the world’s cruise ship market.
Introducing Symphony of the Seas
Symphony of the Seas cost Royal Caribbean £959 million to build and took its maiden voyage on April 7th.
Weighing in at over 228,000 tonnes, Symphony is the length of four football pitches and can accommodate up to 6,680 guests across its 16 decks.
Understandably on a ship of this size, there is no shortage of activities to be enjoyed.
There is a 1,400-seat theatre showcasing the West End show Hairspray, glow in the dark laser tag, an ice rink and a water slide spanning nine decks from top to bottom.
Effectively, adventure enthusiasts have plenty to keep them occupied, sun worshippers can relax, spa lovers can chill, fitness fanatics can exercise and those who want to gamble can change up their cash to chips.
What’s inside Casino Royale?
The intention of Casino Royale is to offer visitors a little slice of Las Vegas, but at sea.
Alongside the thousands of square feet of lights, there are 27 gaming tables for wannabe players to pull up a pew at.
Roulette, craps, baccarat and blackjack can be enjoyed at these tables and there are both smoking and non-smoking sections within which to have a wager.
The reels of either video slots or video poker machines can also be spun, with 456 machines stationed inside the casino in total.
If tournaments are your thing, slots, poker and blackjack events are scheduled for various times during a cruise’s voyage. Prizes can range from future free cruises, to a share of prize pools estimated to reach as much as $100,000.
Away from the gambling layouts is a full-service bar and lounge, which includes plush seating areas.
Meanwhile, players can also reap the benefits of a rewards scheme. Similar to a players card, all play can tracked, points can be earned and then these can be redeemed for other prizes.
Cruise casinos v traditional casinos
However, for those who are accustomed to offerings within land-based casinos, they are unlikely to enjoy exactly the same experience when on a cruise liner.
Smoking has already been mentioned as being permitted in the Casino Royale on board Symphony of the Seas, but playing in this environment may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Another big difference arrives with the accessibility of free drinks.
Head into any sizeable land casino, particularly those in Las Vegas, and you can expect a steady stream of free drinks.
Potentially expensive alcohol can be consumed for the cost of a small tip to the waitress. What’s more, you don’t need to leave a gambling table to order or collect it.
With alcohol being such a money spinner and revenue generator on cruises, such freebies are not commonplace.
Another point is that a cruise casino may only be open in set hours, rather than 24/7. Therefore, you have to play when the casino allows, rather than when you may want to.
The lack of competition on a cruise
Cruisers tend to be a captive audience when it comes to gambling. While they may have a semblance of choice in terms of eating arrangements and bars to visit, there is typically only a single casino.
This lack of competition means that visitors do not have the luxury of shopping around in pursuit of better playing conditions.
If a casino only pays 6/5 for a blackjack instead of the 3/2 that can be on offer in land-based casinos, there is little a player can do if they want a wager.
On the plus side, table minimums can often be low and penny slots can be plentiful.
With thousands of guests on board, if Symphony of the Seas can tempt half into Casino Royale and stake £50 each across the length of their stay, house odds would imply that a tidy profit would be made.
That’s if the guests could be lured away from the zip lines, ice rinks, rock climbing walls, bars, productions, pool parties and solariums first.