Carnival Cruise Casino Guide: What to Know Before You Play

On any Carnival cruise, one of the most popular activities has to be spending a little time (and money) in the casino.

Casino on a Carnival Cruise
Casino gambling is a big deal on a Carnival cruise, with all sorts of games for you to try your luck. Below, we cover all the ins and outs of the casino on the ship.

But we’ll be the first to tell you that while there’s a lot that’s similar to casinos on land, there are some major differences you should know about. And just in general there are tips and things to know about gambling on Carnival that are helpful to know before you sail.

That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most important things to know about the casino on the ship.

Yes, the Ship Will Have a Casino

Tables casino games on Carnival games
Every Carnival ship will have a casino, often in a room that’s one of the largest on the entire ship.

First things first, if you’ve never sailed before you might be wondering if your ship will have a casino at all. The answer is a resounding yes. Every ship in the fleet comes with a casino, no matter its age. In fact, it’s one of the largest rooms on the entire ship, often second in size only to the main dining rooms.

So whether you’re sailing to Alaska, Australia, or Aruba, you Carnival cruise will have a place to gamble.

Open Hours Will Vary Depending on Ports

Open times for the ship casino
Unlike land-based casinos, those on the ship are only open when outside the jurisdiction of the port of call. Once outside of territorial waters, the games open up for play.

Typically casinos on land are open 24 hours a day. On a cruise, things work a little differently. Due to laws, casinos normally can’t operate when a ship is in port. In fact, they have to be a certain distance away from land before they are allowed to open.

So when the ship is in port, expect the casino to be closed (you can still enter and walk around, but the machines are disabled and there are no dealers). About an hour after leaving, however, it opens up and is available for play.

One other thing to note is that while machines will be open for play, tables are not manned 24 hours per day, even when at sea. Typically Carnival opens the tables with staff around 10 a.m. on sea days.

Age Limits Are Lower Than on Land

If you go play in Las Vegas, the age limit to play is 21 years old. However, on a Carnival ship, the age to play is just 18 years old.

Oddly enough, you can’t buy a drink or buy cigarettes on the cruise ship (the age minimum is 21 for these items), but you are able to play the slots or roll the dice.

Carnival’s Policy on Free Drinks While You Play

One staple of a casino is the waitstaff making laps around the casino floor offering free drinks to anyone that wants them. The reason being that for the cost of a relatively cheap drink, players are apt to keep playing and spending more in the casino.

On a cruise ship, however, drinks are a big moneymaker. Carnival charges around $12 for a cocktail (plus gratuity), meaning a free drink could be a significant hit to their revenue.

As a compromise, Carnival offers free drinks while you play if you reach a certain threshold of points on your player account. For cruises of four days or less, it’s 1,000 points. On trips of longer than that, it’s 1,500 points.

We’re not 100% sure, but on a recent cruise, it seemed like you earned 1 point for every dollar played. So reaching 1,000 points would mean you run $1,000 through the machine during the cruise.

What to Know About Cashing Out

At machines, all play is tracked via your keycard. Then you visit a cashier or one of these machines to get your money back. There are no printed vouchers.

Know those printed vouchers you get whenever you cash out from a machine? Things work differently on Carnival.

When you play, you’ll need to have your Sail & Sign card inserted (this is your room keycard). This tracks your play, but also when you cash out, the money is credited to your player bank via the card. When you move machines, you insert your card in the new machine and the credit is uploaded to the new machine.

When you’re done playing, you’ll take your card to the cashier or the automated kiosks to get actual cash back in your hand.

Familiar Games, but Some May Surprise You

In addition to all the classics, there are also some offbeat games you won’t be used to seeing in a casino.

If there is one place where a Carnival casino differs from a casino on land, then it’s going to be the games offered.

At first, you likely won’t notice anything that looks out of place. That’s because all the classic games will be on the floor. There are slot machines, video poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, and a number of table game variations — just like you’d see in Vegas.

But then Carnival has a number of games that are definitely unusual for most casinos. This includes:

Scratch-Offs: Yes, Carnival has their own lottery ticket scratch offs. You buy a ticket, hope to match the numbers or prize amounts and cash in.

Coin Pushers: You might have seen mechanical coin pushers at a carnival or arcade where you drop tokens to try and push other tokens off the edge. Carnival has these, but they use quarters instead of tokens.

“Skill” Games: You know the skill cranes where you try to pick up a prize with a claw? The ship will have this (or other variations of skill games) but it uses cash as the prize. Just keep in mind that if it was completely skill based, it wouldn’t be in a casino. Don’t be surprised if you just miss out on a prize.

Yes, There Is a Players Club

Want to be eligible for perks like drinks, invites to events, and even free cruises? If so, then you should know about the Carnival Players Club. It’s the cruise line’s casino loyalty program. You don’t have to do anything to register or sign up. All you do is play a machine with your Sail & Sign card inserted and it will track your play. If you’re at a table, show your card to the dealer to track your play.

Earn enough points and you can get everything from drinks included (see above) to comped meals on the ship, Carnival-branded gear, Platinum status benefits (normally reserved for people who’ve sailed the line… a lot) and spa treatments. Big players also get free or discounted cruise offers to encourage you to play more.

Again, there is nothing to sign up for. Your play is automatically tracked on your card.

Sports Betting Is Now Available

In a newer addition to Carnival’s casino, sports betting is now offered.

A newer feature aboard Carnival ships plays off a big trend seen on land — sports betting. Many states have opened up wagering on games. At Carnival, you can do it at sea.

Casinos have kiosks (you might have to ask where to find it) that look like a small ATM. These allow you to place bets on that day’s sports action. You can bet on practically any major sport, including everything from winners to scores to player props.

If you want to watch the game, many (not all) Carnival ships have a sports bar onboard. There are also usually TVs showing sports in the casino so you can track your wagers in real time.

Limits to Appeal to Everyone

Not a big spender? There’s good news that you don’t have to spend a fortune to have fun in the ship’s casino.

If you like slots, then there are plenty of penny slots to play, although the minimum bets are generally $0.50 per spin or more. There are also a number of higher denominations to play.

As for table games, the minimums start at $5-$10. You might find some tables with higher minimums (such as $25 blackjack tables), but if you’re a low-stakes gambler, then you won’t have any trouble finding a spot to play. If you like to wager more, that’s always allowed. We’ve seen maximum wagers up to $2,500 on some tables.

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