Note: This is a contribution by Thomas Curry. Brevard Happening will be featuring Thomas and other local writers to give their own perspectives of Brevard.
Stepping out of my truck from the cool interior, I am greeted by hot humid air that takes your breath away. I look at the parking lot quickly filling up with vehicles and any sign of my friend John, but quickly decide I can wait for him inside. The doors open to the round building and a gust of cold air removes the heat wave following me. A quick scan through security and I am on my way to the counter to get my boarding pass. Pass in hand, I see my friend John waiting for me by the exit leading to the gangplank. A quick scan of our tickets, and back out into the heat for a quick trip up the ramp to an old friend to Brevard County. The gambling boat is back at Port Canaveral bringing with it jobs, and visitors to the space coast.
Victory Casino Cruises is now operating out of Port Canaveral and being one to have enjoyed the gambling ships of a few years ago, I jumped at the idea of a Friday day cruise on this newly redone boat. I reserved two reservations online to make sure we had a spot on the boat. The reservation site states that there is a ten dollar charge per person. This is different from past boats that sailed from the port in that no charge ever applied. The web site states that if you would like the buffet it is an additional fifteen dollars.
Stepping onto the boat, we were greeted by well dressed employees that welcome you while clapping and making you feel like a celebrity. Removing my sun glasses I am stunned at the difference in the boat. This boat used to be operated by Sun Cruz, but the upgrades and improvements are stunning. The interior has all been redone and brand new modern slot machines wait to take your money. The level on which you board the boat used to have a large bar but is now the dining area and buffet. Watching the chef carve a huge turkey breast peaked our interest about when lunch would be served. The confused look on our face must have been a sign to the nice lady in a sailor type suit who informed us we were welcome to eat now. After showing us to our table we stepped into line while she retrieved the drink orders we had given her. The buffet starts with a wonderful salad bar. Patrons are not allowed to serve themselves, but handing over your plate to a friendly server that will build you a great salad is even easier. Salads on our trays, we move to the main course. Chicken, salmon, mashed potatoes and wonderful vegetable dishes. I have to try them all. With plates filled up, we see the turkey carving station and must have some turkey and the wonderful gravy. The pillaging is now complete with two warm dinner roles added to the plate of food. Our server asks if we need anything, and then leaves us to enjoy our lunch, and boy did we enjoy. The food is wonderful to say the least and we both agree it is well worth the money. After finishing our lunch, our server points to the dessert table featuring wonderful pies and cakes, but the boat is already heading out to sea, and we are interested in exploring the rest of the boat.
Leaving the dining area we head up the stairs to the main gaming room. Card tables, roulette and craps occupy the interior while brand new slot machines line the walls and front of the room. The biggest change in the slot machines is the addition of more one, five, and ten cent machines . The majority of machines on past boats, have always been the quarter slots. Quarter slot machines are still available along with the one, five, and ten dollar machines which make my wallet impossible to remove from my pants. An electronic roulette table is also a new addition. This octagon table features a wheel under glass in the middle. Players have a personal touch screen resembling a roulette table in front of them. Minimum bet is one dollar, but players can bet as much as they want. The ball spins about every two minutes, making it much faster than traditional roulette with a dealer. Another noticeable change is the paper system. Cashing out on the roulette table gets you a ticket which has the value printed on it. The ticket can be used like cash in all the machines, or redeemed at the ticket window. Past slot machines would pay out winning change into a bin and required players to handle dirty change and many trips to the restroom washing hands.
After walking up the stairs to the next level containing more slot machines, we decide that playing the new roulette wheel sounds like the most fun. Sitting down at the table, I decide to play with ten dollars to start. Two hours later my account shows 51.25$. I determine that I am on the verge of using up all my luck, so I cash out and leave John to keep playing. Two levels up brings me to the outside of the boat. Hot humid salt air actually feels pretty good after being inside. The rear deck of the boat contains a nice covered bar where patrons can get a cold drink and view the Brevard coastline from the tip of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the condominiums in Melbourne Beach.
After warming up, I go inside to see how John is doing. John is up for the day and so am I, so we decide to call it quits on the gambling. A short time later, the captain announces that the boat is returning to state waters, and gambling will stop. The boat is secured back at the dock, and people stream down the gangplank through the terminal and toward buses and cars. The afternoon sea breeze and the sun being blocked by approaching thunderstorms allow me to drive home with the windows down enjoying the fresh air while reliving a relaxing day.
I tend to think that only gamblers would enjoy an outing on this boat until I talked to a senior couple enjoying the bar on the back of the boat. Talking with this couple really opened my eyes to new ways to enjoy the boat. They were part of a group of seniors who travel by bus from Orlando. Most of the group will gamble, but some do not. The couple recounted how in the past, the boat was a wonderful spot to view shuttle launches and rocket launches from the cape. Trips in the spring resulted in seeing the migrating Right Whales. Other trips included seeing dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, giant manta rays and sea birds. The excitement in the couples voice reliving past trips strengthened my original feelings of having the boat sailing again from the port.
The gambling boat is not for everybody’s enjoyment. I have family members who get sea sick driving over water, but I believe most people can enjoy some aspect of this short sea cruise. Ten dollars gets you five hours of people watching, wildlife viewing, relaxing fresh sea air, and a small gamble if you like. Sure seems like the perfect way to take a mini vacation.