If you want to have a “flutter” in Florida then you have a number of options including:
- the Florida State lottery
- at greyhound tracks (now closed)
- at horse racing tracks
- in Indian casinos and
- on casino cruises
Gambling in Florida is strictly controlled and as a result a number of cruise lines used to operate short casino cruises from a variety of Florida ports, though this number has dropped dramatically in the last couple of years, particularly with the competition from the on-land Seminole gambling casinos.
No matter where you are staying in Florida you are probably only a couple of hours away from a casino cruise
By sailing around three miles offshore, these casino cruise ships can take advantage of International waters and passengers can then participate in a whole host of Las Vegas casino style games including Blackjack, Roulette, Poker, Craps, Mini Baccarat and traditional slot machines.
Casino cruises typically last around four to five hours with one sailing late morning (brunch) and the other early evening (dinner). You may also find late night cruises on offer as well.
If you fancy a slightly longer cruise then there are one day and two night mini-cruises to the Grand Bahamas with onboard casinos and many of the major cruise lines operating out of Florida also offer gambling on board their short Caribbean cruises.
As an incentive some (but not all) Florida casino cruise companies offer all manner of complimentary treats including free transportation to the port, free parking, free meals and drinks and free entertainment. Free drinks are usually only offered whilst gaming.
Typical cruise costs per person range from zero up to around $50 though you will often find reductions during mid week. Note that you may also need to pay various port taxes, Federal Excise Tax and a Passenger Security Charge.
Passengers usually have to be at least 21 to board and you will need to present either a passport or a valid government-issued photo ID to board the ship.
Current Florida Casino Cruises
There are not as many casino cruise operators in Florida as there were a few years ago but every so often a new player appears.
In early 2013, Genting, who have been trying to build a super casino in Miami for years, bought a 1,600 passenger 32,000 ton fast ferry and renamed it the Bimini SuperFast Ferry. They now offer a 2 1/2 hour fast crossing from South Florida to Bimini in the Bahamas where they have built a new casino at Resorts World Bimini Bay.
Resorts World Bimini SuperFast
The Bimini Superfast sails twice a day from Miami to Bimini in the Bahamas. It offers onboard Blackjack, Roulette, slot machines and sports betting as well as restaurants, bars, shops and a party deck.
Victory Casino Cruises
Victory Casino Cruises operate from Terminal 2 at Port Canaveral using the former SunCruz ship, the Surfside Princess. The 1,200 passenger ship has been fully renovated and renamed as Victory I. There are two sailings per day, a lunchtime and an evening cruise and the ship features around 630 of the very latest technology slots as well as around 30 gambling tables and sports betting.
In April 2014 they announced that they had purchased a second ship to be called the Victory II which will sail from the Mayport near Jacksonville, starting in June. The Victory II will hold around 640 passengers but could be increased to 840.
Big “M” Casino
Big “M” Casino operate from Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and Fort Myers Beach in Florida. The luxury 186 foot yacht has Blackjack, Roulette, Let-It-Ride, Three Card Poker and slot machines.
Defunct Florida Casino Cruises
There has been quite a shake-up in Florida casino cruise lines over the last couple of years and several companies have suspended operations from specific ports or ceased operations entirely.
Sterling Casino Lines
Up until July 2008, Sterling Casino Lines sailed one of the largest casino cruise ships in Florida, the Ambassador II but following a number of technical problems and their lease at Port Canaveral expiring, they ceased operations.
The 1,800 passenger Ambassador II had four main casinos with fifty gaming tables offering a number of games including Blackjack, Mini-Baccarat, Craps and Roulette plus 1,000 slots.
SunCruz Casino (part of Oceans Casino Cruises) operated more casino cruise ships than any other Florida operator though they ceased sailing from Daytona Beach, Palm Beach and Madeira Beach a while back. Until recently they operated from Jacksonville, Port Canaveral and Key Largo in Florida and Myrtle Beach in nearby South Carolina but on December 29, 2009 they filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and all their ships were put up for sale.
The 165 foot catamaran, SunCruz VI can hold 600 passengers and sailed from Jacksonville with 38 gaming tables and over 300 slots.
The 308 foot SunCruz Surfside Princess can take up to 1,200 passengers and sailed from Port Canaveral with 35 gaming tables and over 640 slot machines.
The smallest ship is SunCruz I which can hold 149 passengers and sailed from Key Largo (Mile Marker 100). It has 7 gaming tables and 88 slot machines.
The 207 foot SunCruz VIII sailed from Myrtle Beach with up to 600 passengers and has 22 gaming tables and 380 slots.
Las Vegas Cruise Lines
The newest player in the Florida casino cruise market was Las Vegas Cruise Lines and they had hoped to start operations in April 2008 with their ship, the 300 foot Liquid Vegas but first sailings from Port Canaveral were delayed.
When operations commenced, Las Vegas Cruise Lines offered Craps, Blackjack, Three Card Poker, Roulette, Let-It-Ride, Mini Baccarat, Texas Hold’em and over 500 slot machines.
The ship held around 900 passengers and had four cocktail lounges, live entertainment, a dance lounge with DJ, hot and cold buffets and gift shops.
In early 2009, Las Vegas Cruise Lines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and in May 2009 they ceased operations.
SeaEscape used to sail twice daily from Port Everglades at Fort Lauderdale and unlike many of the other casino cruise lines they allowed kids on board (if accompanied by an adult) where they can have fun in Camp SeaEscape. They stopped sailing in 2008.
Their ship, the MV Island Adventure at 15,400 tons and 512 feet was the largest day cruise ship in Florida and was renovated in 2007.
As well as the casino with over 40 gaming tables, SeaEscape also offered buffet or premium dining, a disco, theatre, lounge showing live revues of Broadway hits and favourite classics, video arcade, Thai Massage, cabins and a swimming pool. They even offered wedding packages if you fancied tying the knot at sea.
The 200 foot luxury yacht Casino Princesa used to sail twice daily from Miami and has 32 gaming tables offering Blackjack, Roulette, Craps, Poker, Baccarat and over 240 slots. Casino Princesa has ceased operations and the ship has moved to Georgia and renamed the Emerald Princess II.
Palm Beach Princess Casino
The Palm Beach Princess Casino operated out of Riviera Beach with Blackjack, Poker, Roulette, Craps and slot machines plus live entertainment, cabaret shows, a dance club and a sports bar. In 2009 they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to allow them to continue trading whilst resolving their financial difficulties but they ceased operations in 2010.
The 421 foot Palm Beach Princess (formerly the Viking Princess) can carry 850 passengers and has three casinos offering Craps, World Series of Poker, Texas Hold’em, 7 Card Stud, American Roulette, mini Baccarat and over 400 slot machines plus a lounge, dining room, bar and grill, sports bar and a massage therapy room.
Treasure Island Casino
Treasure Island Casino (also part of Oceans Casino Cruises) has also ceased operations and they used to sail from Madeira Beach into the Gulf of Mexico.
Port Richey Casino
Port Richey Casino (also part of Oceans Casino Cruises) operates from Port Richey with Blackjack, Roulette, three Card Poker and over 300 slot machines.
The 228 foot Aquasino operated from South Beach, Miami with over 20 gaming tables, poker room, 200 slot machines, sports bar and cafe but appears to have stopped trading.
Horizon’s Edge Casino Cruises
Horizon’s Edge Casino Cruises offered two sailings each day Thursday through Sunday from Treasure Island on their Horizon Star cruise ship with Blackjack, Roulette, Three Card Poker, Texas Hold’em Craps and over 125 slot machines. They closed in 2009.