If you are looking for a casino that is as ready with the type of games many Asians prefer — Pao Gow poker, Pao Gow tiles and baccarat — as it is to welcome you to a high-stakes blackjack table, the highly regarded Norwegian Sun may be the ship for you.
On a recent cruise, just inside the entrance to the Sun Club Casino, NCL’s Casinos at Sea Players Club — one of the best organized tracking-and-reward programs on the high seas — had a desk set up where a host eagerly was signing up new members.
Alas, at present, even if you already have joined the Players Club on another NCL ship, you still have to fill out the brief form and are issued a new plastic Players Club card that is used to track slots and table play. The good news is that NCL will have all of its shipboard casinos linked by July 2006 to a central database, so you can simply bring your Casinos at Sea Players Club card and will not need to register anew on each cruise.
The Sun Club Casino on the ship is a brightly colored room, with table games set in the middle and slot machines on either side. The main casino had 12 gaming tables, with four offering multi-deck blackjack, two minibaccarat, one Caribbean stud poker, one Pai Gao poker, one three-card poker, one Let It Ride, as well as one roulette, and one craps table. On some cruises, the mix of table games varies (more blackjack, less minibaccarat). But if the casino is crowded (as it was on this sailing), management is quick to open a separate mini-casino a deck below (shown at left). This supplementary casino, which utilizes a conference room set behind the ship’s library, offered four additional Pai Gow tiles, Pai Gow poker and minibaccarat tables.
In addition, just off the entrance to the Sun Club Casino is a separate poker room with two Texas Hold ‘em tables (shown at right). Texas Hold ‘em tournaments are now a part of each cruise on the Norwegian Sun, as well as the customary slot and blackjack tournaments found on most cruise sailings.
While table games aboard the Norwegian Sun customarily start at $5 minimum/ $300 maximum, the Sun Club Casino — like all NCL casinos — is eager to host higher stakes players. On this particular cruise, there was one $25 table and two tables with a $100 minimum/ $5,000 maximum.
As we have noted before on NCL ships, one slightly disconcerting note for players is the use at some tables (generally the lower limit games) of continuous shuffing machines — devices that randomly insert discards back in the deck after every hand. These machines actually slightly favor the player, but I (along with many other players and dealers ) still don’t like them.
The dealers in the Sun Club Casino were competent (though on the whole not very extroverted) and casino supervisors were highly attentive to members of the Casinos at Sea Players Club, more than ready to comp drinks for VIP players.
While this is a medium-sized cruise ship, the casino aboard the Norwegian Sun offers VIP players a shipboard experience very consistent with what they would expect to find in a smaller land-based casino. The casino generally is open nightly until about 3 am, and management is willing to keep it open till dawn’s early light if the demand is there.
Bottom line: NCL is ready and waiting for VIP players, even on one of its medium-sized new ships. And if you prefer the games that are so popular among Asians, the Sun is ready with more tables for these games than we have found on some of the largest cruise ships.