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Cruising for dollars

A guide to gambling on cruise ships leaving Fort Lauderdale.

High season for cruising out of Fort Lauderdale is from January to March. Industry pros call it "wave season," as freezing Northerners seek warm getaways. And more South Floridians embark on exotic adventures, as well.

Several cruise ships departing Port Everglades have casinos where passengers can gamble once they've reached international waters, which is three miles offshore.

Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Conquest operates trips to Caribbean and Bahamian islands. En route, travelers can play a variety of slot machines and other games.

"In addition to the evergreen table games such as blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker and Let it Ride," spokesman Vance Gulliksen says, "we also offer Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em, which is a newer, niche, house-banked poker game, as well as all the most popular side bets, including Lucky Ladies."

Carnival also offers at least one slot tournament and one blackjack tournament on most cruises.

Princess Cruises' gamers can play slots, bingo and Vegas-style table games in the onboard casinos, including poker, blackjack, roulette and craps. Lessons are even offered, and every journey typically has a blackjack tournament.

Royal Caribbean offers slots, blackjack, baccarat, roulette and craps on ships that depart from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas, Caribbean and Europe. And casinogoers can play Vegas-style poker at tables or on machines.

Several Royal Caribbean cruises offer tournaments for blackjack and poker. In 2015, every cruise sailing longer than three days had a qualifying slots tournament. Winners received a complimentary cruise and entry into the Final Royal Slot Tournament on Allure of the Seas on Dec. 13, with an estimated pool prize of $100,000. The 2016 tournament schedule is being finalized.

On Feb. 14 aboard Celebrity Silhouette, as part of its seven-day journey through the eastern Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises will host a Valentine's Slot Challenge, in addition to regular play on its table and electronic games.

Passengers can even gamble from their staterooms or lounge chairs if they don't want to hit the casino. Through a free app, they can use their iPhone or Android smartphone or tablet to play video poker, slots and table games while onboard.

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