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Casinos At Sea: News & Events

Cruise Casino Ship Reviews: Norwegian Jewel

NCL Cruise Casinos Press Release

Cruise Casino Ship Reviews: Norwegian Jewel

If you are looking for a casino that is ready, waiting and eager to host VIP players, you would do well to try the brand new Norwegian Jewel.

Just contact NCL's Casinos atmandelo Sea™ before sailing, and you can expect to find your Players Club card together with an invitation to a sail-away reception waiting in your cabin when you arrive. This is the first cruise line to issue the same kind of plastic VIP cards you get in land-based casinos, and NCL is also the most organized and aggressive about using the cards to track play and reward VIP players.

The Jewel Club Casino on the ship is a large brightly colored room, similar in configuration --though not decor -- to the casinos on sister ships Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Star.

The casino offers 20 gaming tables (including three tables set in a separate high-roller area). Games include 9 multi-deck blackjack tables, one table in the high-roller area used for either baccarat or blackjack depending on the cruise, one Caribbean Stud Poker®, one Pai Gao poker, two three-card poker, one Let It Ride®, two roulette, and two craps tables, as well as one table for Texas Hold 'em.

Surrounding the tables are a couple of hundred slots offering wagering opportunities ranging from 1 cent to $100.

While table games start at a $5 minimum and $300 maximum, the Jewel Club Casino is eager to host higher stakes players. In the high-roller area set apart at one end of the casino, dealers stand ready at tables with a $100 minimum and $2,000 maximum. While this area was not highly utilized on this cruise, it was always staffed and available (unlike many cruise ships, where players have to request a higher limits table which may or may not be forthcoming).

Both dealers and players that have sent us comments report that the action in the high-roller area often runs fast and heavy on sister ships Norwegian Dawn (sailing out of New York) and Norwegian Star (sailing out of Los Angeles). And the Norwegian Jewel apparently had some heavy action cruises when it was in the Mediterranean following its launch this past summer.

One slightly disconcerting thing you immediately notice on entering the main Jewel Club casino is the presence of continuous shuffing machines -- devices that randomly insert discards back in the deck after every hand . Personally, I don't like automatic shufflers (even though they do not, contrary to popular opinion, increase the house edge). Neither do most dealers, who view shuffle time as a welcome break and a chance to further chat up players (hopefully resulting in better tips).

Fortunately for VIP players, it turned out these shuffling machines were only being used at $5 tables on the Norwegian Jewel (which we were told is true for other NCL ships as well). At all the higher-stakes tables, the dealers were shuffling at the end of the shoe as usual. After the first night, when the tables attracted a few of those players you seem to encounter at sea with more dollars than sense, a group of regulars settled in at the $25 tables, and the nightly games yielded a reasonably consistent level of play.

NCL also was the first cruise line to offer Texas Hold 'em poker on its ships, but unlike some other ships where the game is conducted in a separate room, the Norwegian Jewel's game is held right in the middle of the Jewel Club casino. At present, there is only one table and it does not keep fixed hours. Basically, the casino opens the table when a poker players gather around and are ready to go at it. While there was action at the table evenings on the Norwegian Jewel during this cruise, we gather that the real NCL hot spot for Texas Hold 'em is the Norwegian Star, which has three tables in a separate poker room.

While the Norwegian Jewel is only a few months old, virtually all of the casino staff have been drawn from other NCL ships. The dealers were competent and casino hosts and supervisors were extremely attentive to members of NCL's Casinos at Sea™ Players Club. VIP players generally found comped drinks on the way within seconds of settling in at the table.

Overall, the Jewel Club Casino offers VIP players a shipboard experience very consistent with what they would expect to find in major land-based casinos. The casino was open on this cruise nightly past 2 a.m., and remained open later when demand was there. One night, when a high-roller who was thousands up at the craps table wanted to keep going, the casino remained open until 6. And two blackjack players on another night closed the casino at 8 a.m.

Bottom line: For cruisers wishing to play for high stakes, NCL appears far more ready than most to both give them the opportunity -- and extend to them the rewards customarily associated with a higher level of play.
--The Savvy Cruiser

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