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Emerald Resort and Casino in South Africa hosting the WSOP in February
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Emerald Resort and Casino in South Africa hosting the WSOP in February

On December 5th 2009 Royal Caribbean’s the Oasis of that Seas, a 16-deck, 220,000-ton mega cruise ship which can accommodate 5,400-passengers in 2,700 state-rooms, made its inaugural voyage in the Caribbean. Carnival Cruise Lines is by far the biggest Cruise ship company and has by far the most casinos.

Carnival was formed in 1972 and today along with its associates, (Holland America Line, Princess Cruise, Cunard, and Costa Cruises), account for nearly half all the cruise ship fleet in the world. Carnival started its fleet of Fun ships which are known for their Las Vegas decor and entertainment. RCCL and Celebrity cruise lines comes a distant second and third in that number of ships. Other major players are Disney, Holland America, NCL and Crystal. All major cruise lines now have casinos on board their entire fleet. (Except Disney).

Until the mid 1990’s, cruise lines considered that casinos were just an additional onboard diversion for their passengers who were happy with low betting limits as they had relatively low gaming skills. Many major cruise lines leave from USA ports and now that nearly every state has some form of casino gambling the cruise lines have vastly improved the casinos both by number of games and limits allowed, as a result there is now a rapidly rising base of players who also take cruises. In the last decade Cruise ship sailing has increased dramatically and so have the size of the vessels.

In May 2007, RCCL’s Freedom of the Seas, then the largest, had its maiden voyage. Freedom of the Seas has additional than 1,800 rooms for up to 4,375 passengers, is greater than 1,112ft (339m) in length – longer than 37 double-decker buses. 10 years ago both ocean going liners and that casinos onboard were a fraction of the size of today’s liners. Cruising is that planet’s fastest rising holiday choice and still has only reached a tiny fraction of its potential.

Not only are that number of cruise ships increasing at breathtaking pace but 95% of all fresh cruise lines launched recently have large casino areas that are a major revenue generator for cruise companies. Casinos are now such a revenue earner for the cruise lines that some of that large operators have negotiated with Governments to operate while their ships were in port. Both Bermuda and the Bahamas have approved these applications..

Innovative cruise lines now even cater to “high rollers” and now are set to “rate” players, buy them drinks and even offer free future cruises. Some on board casinos offer table maximums and comps that rival casinos such as those in Las Vegas. NCL’s Casinos at Sea players club was the first and is still very popular player rewards scheme on the high seas.

Even land based operator Caesars Palace of Las Vegas got in on the act and operated the luxury casinos on Crystal cruises but now Century Casinos of Colorado, operator of the casinos on board four Silversea cruise ships, is the only land based operator managing casinos at sea.

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