I sailed on the 25 June 2017 sailing of the Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston. I have already talked about embarkation, specialty restaurants, the spa, and the suite lounge. I will keep writing as time allows, but for now I want to answer some of the common question a lot of folks will have about the casino. If there is something I don’t cover here, I hope you will post your questions. I will do my best to answer them.
In the interest of full disclosure, Royal Caribbean’s Casino Royale program gave me a nice discount for this cruise. I was never sure if that was based on my play on my last cruise or on my status with MLife, but I like paying less for stuff and thus took the discount. Also so you will know the frame of reference I am using, I lost a few hundred on slots and won a couple of hundred on the tables, thus leaving me with a very small net loss for the seven day cruise. There were some real problems I will outline below, but on balance I think this was a good casino– particularly given that I couldn’t exactly walk off the ship in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico to go to the casino next door. I was also impressed that the table rules had become more favorable than when I played on the Navigator of the Seas on a similar route two years earlier– that means there is capacity to change.
Let me start with the problems so I can end this review on a positive note (since it was, by and large, a positive experience). You feed your SeaPass card into the slot machines so you can receive casino points for playing, and sometimes the machines were extremely touchy about accepting my card. A few times I had to slide it in 4 or 5 times to get it just so. Still, this seemed to be a very minor problem. There is no Let it Ride table, and that was disappointing. That is one of my favorite table games to play, even though I know the odds are atrocious. They had a single deck blackjack game, and the rules there were the typically atrocious rules one finds at a single deck table (6/5 Blackjack, no double after split, etc). That problem was made worse, however, by they fact that these rules were listed on a regular piece of white paper taped up to the side, and it was hard to read them until they became an issue and one dealer literally grabbed it and put the paper in my face. For shame.
As a positive, the casino did a nice job of keeping low limit tables opened. Even in the evening, there were a lot of $10 tables open. However, they allowed players to enter mid-shoe, and often these players would be buying in for just one or two hands. That led to an uneven pace of play. Unfortunately, many of these players were challenged in both math and game theory and liked to proclaim rather loudly what other players should be doing. Lemme play my own hand, thank you very much.
As a general rule, though, things seemed to go rather well. There were no free drinks in the casino, but there were a lot of waiters passing by. If one had the drinks package, it was thus no challenge to get a free drink rather quickly. I also had a Casino VIP sticker on my card, and that might also have entitled me to a drink. It never really came up. What the VIP sticker did get me was free cash advances at the tables. This was a very easy process. Even if I had been paying the 5% fee, that would still have been cheaper than buying chips in Vegas. It also is simply charged as a regular onboard purchase, so to your credit card company buying casino chips on board looks exactly the same as buying (a lot of) ice cream. There were only three lines at the cashier, and one of those was exclusively for internal transactions. However, it did not seem like I ever waited all that long to cash in my chips.
One of the fun things the casino did was a Blackjack tournament at 3 p.m. every day at sea. This cost $25 to enter and $20 for a second entry for the same day’s tournament. You play 7 hands with tournament chips, and it is a nice way to play for low stakes and a potentially high reward.
Let me talk now about the single biggest problem in the casino before I talk about the part I liked the most. The biggest problem is that a number of the dealers had problems communicating in English, and that quite frequently caused real problems. Routinely, these dealers would not verify that players had placed bets and were ready to play. Playing at a $25 a hand table one evening it was just me and a guy who was betting a couple of hundred per hand. On one hand, he very clearly said, “Give me a minute.” His hand was out and he was clearly adjusting his bet. The dealer did not wait. She would not admit her error later, even when I spoke up quite loudly on that player’s behalf. Incidentally, I have no idea who the other player was. We called the pit boss over, and she was not sympathetic. Come on, folks– PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOUR PLAYERS ARE DOING. I got my chips and left for the night. Royal Caribbean really does a very poor job of getting their dealers to interact with players.
What I liked, however, was that on the $25 a hand tables I was generally the only one playing. There were sometimes one or two other players, but I could play a lot of hands in a very limited number of shoes. The rules were also quite friendly, although this was also true on the lower limit tables with multiple decks. While there were 8 decks in each shoe, they were all hand shuffled. Blackjack paid 3/2, you could double after split, and it was generally a more favorable set of rules than when I play at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The rules on board were certainly better than some of the other Vegas hotels. All told, this was a favorable experience– just make sure you get the dealer’s attention if you need something, and avoid the single deck table.