Over the years I have heard family and friends rave about their experiences on a cruise vacation. They tell stories about the exotic ports that they have visited and extol the benefits of having to only unpack once while visiting multiple destinations, and of course, the food. Every single person I have ever head talk about a cruise mentions the food and the fact that all of it is included in the price of the cruise.
As a gaming writer, I've had the opportunity to travel to some exciting destinations and I have taken my share of enjoyable vacations, but I had never been on a cruise. I decided it was time I find out what all the hoopla of was about, and book a cruise.
Choosing a Cruise
I started planning for the cruise in July this year. I live in the Northeast and I knew that I wanted to cruise to a warm destination sometime during the winter. I thought the Caribbean would be a perfect destination and I decided that the end January would be a good time. This would break up the cold winter and I would return knowing that spring was right round the corner. Once I decided where and when I wanted to go, I needed to choose which cruise to book. There were many cruise lines going to the Caribbean in January and I was looking for something that made one cruise stand out above the others. I found just what I was looking for as I read through an issue of Poker Digest Magazine.
Classic Poker Cruises was scheduled to set sail on a cruise of the Eastern Caribbean on Superbowl Sunday in January. Poker, Football and warm weather, what more could I ask for? I called them for a brochure and after a look at the itinerary I knew this was the cruise for me. Several factors contributed to my choosing the Classic Poker cruise. Here are the reasons why I chose the Classic Poker Cruise and some comments on my decision after returning from the cruise.
The cruise was to set sail for seven days taking in the Eastern Caribbean making stops at several ports along the way. The ports of call included San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands - ST Thomas/St John, Catalina Island, and finally Nassau in the Bahamas. These were Islands we thought we would enjoy seeing and the shore excursions listed looked interesting.
We took part in a shore excursion/tour at every port we visited. There were several to choose from and or only regret was that there was not enough time to do them all. Time only permitted one scheduled tour or activity in each port. Shore activities ranged from two hours to half a day. There was some additional time to shop or sight see on our own
This is an additional on board activity you can participate in over and above the usual activities on the ship. During the cruise a poker room is set up on board and they offer live games and tournaments. The games spread included $1-$3, $4-$8, $10-$20, $15-$30, and $20-$40 Texas Hold’em; $4-$8 Omaha high-low split; $1-$5 seven-card stud and $15-$30 seven-card stud high-low split.
The Poker room is only open when the ship is at sea so it will not conflict with any of the shore excursions. If you are traveling with a spouse or traveling companion who does not play poker, they can take advantage of the free lessons offered in the card room. If they have no desire to play poker they can participate in the other ship board activities.
There were seven poker tables and the card room was run in a very efficient manner. The staff Classic Poker Cruises consists of experienced dealers and poker room managers. You could not ask for a more professional staff. There were enough tables with varying limits to keep everyone happy. The skill levels of the players were mixed and everyone I talked with felt comfortable with playing conditions. One player told me she was a little wary being a new player that she might be over matched. She said that after playing with other new players at the beginner's table she felt her fears were unfounded. Players came in an out and most tables were full during the time when we were at sea. On the occasion I did find myself on the waiting list for a game, it was not a long wait.
Poker Tournaments were scheduled for each day the ship was at sea. There were two Limit Texas Hold'em tournaments, an Omaha High-Low Split and a Past Cruisers Freeroll tournament. The tournaments were run smoothly and efficiently by world renowned Tournament Director Bob Thompson.
On Monday, our first full day at sea, I entered the Limit Hold'em tournament. There were 46 players vying for the prize money. They were paying the top five spots. When all was said and done I walked away victorious with the tournament win.
When you book a Classic Poker Cruise, you know that you will have a common interest with many of the other passengers.
I travel quite a bit and enjoy meeting other people. The majority of the poker players I have met are extremely friendly and I have developed some lasting friendships with people I have met in the card rooms. The group of people I met on the poker cruise falls into this category. It's easy to meet and enjoy the company of other people when you start with a common interest.
In addition to the activities offered by the cruise line, Classic Poker Cruises set up some exclusive excursions and parties for the players. They included a trip to the El San Juan Hotel and Casino, including a private reception in Puerto Rico and a casino trip with free buffet and match play coupons to the Crystal Place in Nassau. There were also two private cocktail parties on board for people with the Classic Poker group.
Because Classic Poker Cruises books many players, they are able to offer a special group rate that is cheaper than booking on your own. I compared prices of several similar cruises and found this to be the best value.
Many times in life when you try something new, your first experience will influence your decision to try it again. My first cruise far exceeded any expectations I had before setting sail. While I'm sure I would have enjoyed an ordinary cruise, it was made much more enjoyable by being a Classic Poker Cruise. I won a big tournament at sea and got to see some exciting ports. I had the opportunity to play poker and socialize with other players and the poker staff and made some lasting friendships. I can't think of any way a cruise could get better than that.
If you have never been on a cruise, or would like to try one with some added excitement, then you should try a Classic Poker Cruise. I not only highly recommend a Classic Poker Cruise, I'm making plans to sail with them again.