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Diane Biersteker is a first-time cruiser and recreational poker player. She is also a friend and we thank her for taking the time to share her cruise experience with us. She sailed with us to the Western Caribbean Nov. 9, 2003.

She writes....“For those of you who haven't tried a Card Player Cruises’ trip, I encourage you to do so.”

Here is her Western Caribbean Cruise Trip Report!


Getting ready for the cruise was hectic but so well worth it! We took two of our children and a friend of each. Friday night before our morning flight, I stayed up late playing in the semi-finals to try and win a PartyPoker Million entry for March. This was my only chance, since I would be out of town on Saturday and on the boat on Sunday.

Oh, by the way, it’s 32 degrees in Green Bay.

Concentrating on tourney while the kids ran in and out was tough. Tom was annoyed that I was buried in the computer while he tried to pack. He is spoiled after 29 years of marriage, since I have always packed for him and he doesn't have a clue. (You will hear me say this repeatedly about Tom, but I still love him, clueless as he is.)

So I played and, held my own, despite the ruckus and then finally after four hours, I got eliminated. Trying to do laundry in between hands probably didn't help either. Oh well, I have three more entries to play over New Year's.

The flight went smooth and we got to Houston as scheduled around 5:30pm. We collected our MANY bags (especially with 3 teenage girls in group) and rode to Galveston with a van full of Card Player Cruises’ staff. We stopped for Bonine and bottled water, thanks to the pre-cruise advice from Deb and Al Giardina. The Bonine was critical, and NONE of us ended up seasick at any time the entire trip. We spent the night at the Holiday Inn on the gulf and went to the pier at about 1pm.

Since this was our first cruise ever, Tom and I had splurged and paid for a suite with a 10x7 foot balcony. The kids shared a quad cabin smaller than a dorm room. But, heh, we paid for the cabin and their friends only had to pay for their airfare, so I think it was a sweet deal for them. Besides, they only stayed in their room when sleeping.

One big benefit of having a suite was the preferential boarding priveleges. "Skippers Club" was marked on our tickets, which meant no standing in line. A special security escort ushered us through the throngs in line for early boarding and no hassles. We got on board by 1:30 and had plenty of time to roam around, relax, and explore before the ship actually left port.

Our suite was huge with two twins/king, whirlpool tub, sitting room, refrigerator, TV, and VCR. The kids hung out in our room a lot, especially the girls when it was time to get ready for dinner, since one bathroom in their cabin didn't work well with four people trying to get ready at once.

We were spoiled and pampered the entire time. Room service was complimentary 24/7 and we pre-ordered continental breakfast every morning so we could have our coffee and juice out on the balcony while watching the water.

Jan Fisher, Linda Johnson, Mark Tenner, and staff did a wonderful job with a large group of cruisers. There were more than 400 happy poker players and we were treated wonderfully at all times. Whether it was at dinner, breakfast, or in the poker rooms, Jan, Linda, or Mark were always present, hovering around to be sure that all was going well, checking if anyone needed anything. They made sure we had plenty of drink, snacks, and food choices (too many!) anytime the poker room was open.

There were two seminars given for our group and three tourneys were held, limit hold’em, no-limit holdem, and Omaha/8. It was great for me to finally have my family around sweating me in a tourney. That had never happened before in all my years of playing poker. Probably due to their presence and good "sweating", I was able to make two final-table appearances. I took fifth in the limit hold’em and seventh in the Omaha/8 event.

We had three "port" days and four days at sea, providing a nice balance of poker and sightseeing.

As a family vacation, a poker cruise comes with the highest ratings from me. Our kids at 17 and 20 had so many choices of things to do that they had a ball. While they had dinner with us every night, the rest of the time, they feasted on the 24/7 pizzeria, buffet and ice cream that was on the lido/pool deck. Annie won the ping pong contest, Sara won the ” stuff the most fruit in your swimming suit" contest and the final night, Nick got a "future WSOP champ" award from Jan Fisher.

My long-suffering non poker-playing spouse, Tom, and son Nick, both took Linda Johnson’s beginner poker class to learn more about live poker. Tom truly was clueless. It took him forever to make a decision and he kept mucking his hand when there was no bet. He asked me endless poker questions, generally about our unique poker vocabulary during the trip. Tom played in the $1-$2 beginner’s class several sessions, but believe me, he was never a threat to anyone. As I said, "clueless.” When people asked me in the past if my husband played poker, I would laugh and say that he doesn't even know an ace from a king...now he knows the difference, but not much more. But he was a good sport about trying to learn and figure out why the game of poker holds so much fascination for me. He got a glimpse of that world during the cruise.

Nick on the other hand did very well. He is 20 and a sophomore at UW who has played some online poker and also plays poker with his dorm buddies regularly. He is a real student of the game. He started in the $1-$2, moved to $2-$4, and by the end of the trip was playing $4-$8 hold’em. He made about $20 over the course of the week, which for a newbie was excellent. He also loved it. I am sure he would have played more hours, but he did have his girlfriend along and, rightly so, made sure he spent time with her. But as soon as he could, he tucked her in bed and skedaddled for the poker room.

Special thanks to Heidi and Shirley, who worked the floor for the low-limit games that Tom and Nick played in. Both were wonderfully patient and very helpful in making their poker-playing experience fun. Patrick the dealer also did a great job with the beginners. He was fun, helped them learn the nuances of live poker and repeatedly explained things in a calm and friendly manner. He never embarrassed anyone, even when I saw Tom muck his hand several times when there was no bet. He would just gently give Tom his cards back and remind him for the umpteenth time to "take the free card.” Remember this was a beginner's game, so education, giving cards back, and NO check-raising were allowed.

David Garrison from Mid-South Gaming was there with his wife and son, Nicholas and a group he sponsored. Jocelyn Treadwell was there and was mother hen for a group of Washington-based players. I got to know Jocelyn at the Peppermill tourneys through the years and had lost track of her when she moved to Washington, so it was a great joy to see her again and to get caught up on things.

We were pampered by Card Player Cruises from the Welcome Aboard party to the Awards Ceremony the final night. It was great to finally have my two worlds (family and poker) finally meet up with each other. Both sides got a chance to see the other important portion of my life.

We sat at the same dinner table each evening, which seated ten. Our group of six had a rotating group of 2-4 that joined us each evening. Linda and Jan had dinner with us one night as they worked their way around the group. Johnny Walker and his lovely wife Marilyn joined us two nights, two young Vegas guys were there twice, and assorted others. We also had dinner with one of my favorite Horseshoe Tunica dealers, Eddie. All pleasant dinner companions and it was great to mingle with so many different poker people from all over. Many of the group were from Texas, which makes sense since that's where ship departed from.

We appeared to be the only ones from Wisconsin, but Illinois and Minnesota well represented the rest of the Midwest. We did get a lot of razzing about the Packers as I expected, especially from the Cowboy fans.

The weather was a perfect 85-90 every day, the water was beautiful aqua, and the snorkeling was great, I can't think of a thing to complain about…unusual for me.

The week flew by. After debarking, we spent the night in Houston, then flew home to 30 degrees on Monday. Back to work and the real world.

We are making plans for the Alaska cruise with our oldest son and his bride to be. They get married in May and since he couldn't go along on this last trip, I told him he has a cruise coming from mom and dad. June 2004 can count as his honeymoon, I guess.

We have great memories, awesome pictures, and can't wait to go again.
For those of you who haven't tried a Card Player Cruises’ trip, I encourage you to do so.