How do you have a successful poker cruise without chips or poker tables?
You'd better be creative and able to think on your feet!
I am a stickler for details. I make lists for my to do lists! I admit to being a control freak, but some things are beyond my control. This story starts many, many months ago when Card Player Cruises signed a contract to host a poker cruise on Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas. This was to be an 11-night cruise leaving out of Bayonne, New Jersey in February, 2015.
Normally, we send a truck with our own poker tables, mass quantities of poker chips, equipment like cashiers' cages and dealer tray cabinets, and lots of miscellaneous supplies. It costs almost $10,000 to send a truck from Las Vegas to New Jersey by the time we pay the driver, fuel costs, travel expenses, loading and unloading, etc. Because our passenger count was lower than usual due to the price and length of the cruise, we decided it would be cost efficient to buy new poker tables in New Jersey and ask the cruise ship to loan us chips to use in the poker room. We bought the tables and had them delivered to a company (recommended by the cruise line) that was licensed to make cruise ship deliveries. We had our cruise representative arrange to have RCCL loan us 70 racks of chips in various colors.
Now, back to the control freak part... Jan Fisher and I always board the ship and cruise on the sailing just prior to the poker cruise trip. That way, we can meet with the casino manager, our group coordinator, the food and beverage manager, hotel director, housekeeping manager, and other department heads to ensure that everything is "ready" for our group. On the second day of the cruise, we met with the Quantum's casino manager Allan Ennis-Jarvis to confirm that the 70 racks of chips we had ordered were available. He said that corporate had arranged to have the chips brought from the Oasis of the Seas to the Quantum during our St. Thomas port when both ships would be there at the same time. As soon as we left St. Thomas and the casino opened, we were eager to take delivery of the chips. That was when we got bad news... the Oasis had only brought 29 racks of chips... and they were all the same color! Allan Ennis-Jarvis, the casino manager, was very apologetic of course. We asked if we could buy chips from the Quantum's casino, but they could only sell us two racks since their supply was short too.
What to do now? Luckily we were going to dock in St. Maarten the next day. Card Player Cruises and Card Player Poker Tour are hosting a 10-day tournament at the Sonesta Maho in St. Maarten in April so Jan and I had just spent a week there checking out the hotel and its Casino Royale. During that trip, we had met Jurgen Bailom, VP Operations for the Maho Group, and Jack Schultz, casino manager. We emailed them asking if we could borrow 50 racks of chips in various colors for our poker cruise. We were ecstatic when we got a reply within 10 minutes saying that we could borrow as many chips as we needed. They even arranged to bring the chips to a casino close to the cruise terminal so we didn't have to go too far to get them. Now, that's service! Jan and I must have been quite a sight as we boarded the ship lugging suitcases full of poker chips! First crisis averted thanks to the kindness and professionalism of Mr. Bailom and Mr. Schultz.
Jan and I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the cruise. The Quantum of the Seas is amazing...it has every amenity and activity you can think of... indoor skydiving, rock climbing walls, bumper cars, clown training, trapeze, a concert hall, a pod that takes passengers 300 feet above the ship, a Broadway theater, many dining venues, and lots more. We were able to set up dining reservations nightly for our group and arrange for our parties as well as finalize all other logistics. We were ready for the poker cruise!
On the turnaround day in Bayonne, there was a snow storm that slowed down loading of the ship's supplies. I had a crew ready to set up the poker tables, but the tables weren't there by noon as promised. Every hour, Jan or I went to our coordinator in a nervous panic asking where the tables were. She kept assuring us that our truck was in line on the dock and that the ship would not leave until the tables were on board. She promised... she guaranteed it. Guess what? The ship left without our tables. Jan and I got the bad news at 5:45 in the middle of our welcome aboard party. Hiding the nausea that was creeping inside us, we sent the group to dinner and told them the poker room would open at 7:30.
We ran to the poker room and the hotel director, casino manager, and someone from the ship's carpentry shop were waiting for us. We asked for banquet tables, lots of duct tape, 24 beach towels to use as padding, and material to cover the "poker tables." I couldn't have been more impressed with the ship's executives and our dealers Shawn Lytle and Jenna Phillips. They took off their jackets, got down on the floor, and went to work building us tables. Within an hour, we had tables that were good enough to use, but the ship personnel said they would have "real" tables made for us within 24 hours. Our players came back from dinner and the games began promptly at 7:30. True to their promise, the ship's machine shop delivered better versions the next day and the cruise was a big success.
Sometimes it takes a village. Thank you Maho Group and RCCL for helping us prevent would could have been a real disaster! Of course, I probably aged 5 years from the stress.:)