If your ideal vacation involves sightseeing or sunbathing by day and trying your hand at blackjack, roulette or slots at night, the cruise industry has got you covered. The best cruise ship casinos pretty much mirror their land-based counterparts—offering the gamut of gaming options, albeit on a smaller scale—within close proximity to bars, restaurants and your cabin. The main difference is that cruise ship casinos can only open when the vessel is at least 12 miles from the coastline, so it’s not until you sail away from port that the lights, bells and winner-takes-all whoops begin. To gamble while the sun shines, book an itinerary with several sea days, when the ship’s casino can stay open until the last player collects his winnings (or plays his or her final chip). Here’s a look at the best ship casinos by cruise line.
Each of the line’s 25 ships features a lively Casino Royale—offering slots, roulette, craps, poker and blackjack—but the biggest, splashiest and best are onboard vessels introduced over the past decade. Sail on 5,100-passenger Oasis-class ships (Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas) to experience the largest casinos at sea, each featuring French Riviera-inspired décor and crystal chandeliers an offering more than 450 slot machines and dozens of gaming tables. Royal Caribbean’s 4,200-passenger Anthem of the Seas also has a casino that will make you go “wow.”
Norwegian offers more than 2,800 slot machines and 200 gaming tables across its 15-vessel fleet—and once again the biggest and best casinos are onboard its newest 4,200-passenger ships: Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway, which put gaming at the heart of the ship in the 678 Ocean Place entertainment atrium. Norwegian’s newest ship, 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss, will feature both a smoking and non-smoking casino when it debuts in June 2018. The line also offers a Casinos at Sea program that lets players earn free rewards on Norwegian as well as Regent Sevens Seas and Oceania Cruises.
Carnival has always been big on nightlife—and this extends to the typically jammed casinos onboard its 24 “Fun Ships.” The line’s newest vessel, 3,900-passenger Carnival Vista, is home to the vibrant Vista Casino (red, blue and purple dominate) and cruisers can expect a similar layout (and most likely equally lively décor) on Carnival Horizon, debuting in early 2018. Guests who join the Carnival Players Club earn points for free drinks, and spa treatments.
With its nine-vessel main fleet (excluding three smaller Xpedition ships), Celebrity has focused on sophisticated interior design, which extends to the onboard casinos. The line’s five newest vessels, 2,850-passenger Solstice-class ships (Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection) each have a stylish Fortunes Casino and its Blue Chip Sailings feature blackjack and slots tournaments.
The line’s two newest ships, 3,560-passenger Royal Princess and Regal Princess, each have a buzzing Princess Casino centered about a dramatic, chandelier-topped spiral staircase fit for, well, a princess. There are more than 270 slot machines and about 17 or gaming tables.
The Italy-based line’s 3,500-passenger MSC Divina has been cruising the Bahamas and the Caribbean since 2013 (to be joined by MSC Seaside in December 2017) and its glitzy onboard Casino Veneziano sparkles with mirrored tile mosaics and a dramatic polished chrome staircase lit with LED lights and framed by a painting of the Venetian lagoon.
Casinos onboard the line’s 15 mid-sized ships vary from vessel to vessel, but the most appealing by far is onboard the newest ship, 2,650-passenger ms Koningsdam, decorated in surprisingly understated neutral hues.
This premium line’s six ships accommodate just 684 to 1,250 guests, and even the two larger vessels (Oceania Marina and Oceania Riviera) have casinos with a decidedly more intimate vibe: They feature just six or so gaming tables and three dozen slots.
Also smaller in scale, Azamara’s two ships (Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest) accommodate just 690 guests, but the centrally located casino (which still accepts cash or traveler’s checks) can be surprisingly lively—as is the adjacent Spirits bar.
Both of Crystal’s mid-size luxury ships—922-passenger Crystal Symphony and 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity—feature glittering Resorts World at Sea Casinos as well as all-inclusive pricing that includes complimentary wine, beer and cocktails.
Ships Without Cruise Ship Casinos
Sorry, but if you are thinking about booking a sailing on Disney, Viking, or Voyages to Antiquity you’ll have to find other ways to keep yourself entertained at night since none of these lines’ ships have a casino (and those onboard Seabourn, Silversea and Windstar ships are tiny). Some passengers enjoy escaping the clamor of slots and the buzz of voices as the roulette wheel spins and the dice roll, while others thrive on the nightly energy.
Would you book a trip on any of these cruise ship casinos? Let us know in the comments below!