Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our Overnight Cruise...

...ahem, Casino Visit

Having been on three Caribbean cruises, I like to think I know a cruise when I see one.  I mean, who could ignore round-the-clock entertainment, gambling, restaurants, and drinks, right?  In fact, Alex and I could have sworn we were on a cruise, despite our GPS location of one landlocked, very rural, middle-of-nowhere town.

Let me explain.

Saturday, Alex and I drove 2.5 hours from Monroe to Marksville, LA to meet "the women" (my mom, grandmother, and great aunt) for an overnight stay at Paragon Casino Resort.  Neither of us really enjoy the casino atmosphere by any great degree, but it was a (mostly) free overnight get-away, and the chance to visit with family.  It wasn't long before we came to the conclusion that casino resorts are ultimately landlocked cruise ships.

5 Ways Casino Resorts Are Really Cruise Ships in Disguise

1. Entertainment - Most casinos host musical performances on a regular basis.  This particular weekend, "the women" were able to score us free tickets to a Kansas concert, which brings me to my next point - free.  Performances onboard a cruise ship are always free, and people-watching in both environments is equally entertaining, as well.  (Re:  There was a biker convention at the casino this weekend.  Just picture that for a moment.)


2. Restaurants - Food, food, food everywhere.  At Paragon, there were at least four different restaurants to choose from.  Visitors could choose from the walk-up sandwich deli/cafe, the buffet, a mid-range diner style eatery, on up to the steakhouse.  I'm pretty sure they were all open 24/7 too.  Our group chose Roxy's diner, and enjoyed some very delicious crawfish/shrimp po-boys...because who would turn down authentic Cajun food?


3. Gambling - Does this really even need any explanation?  Cruise ships have casinos on board, so when you throw in all the other amenities, this is how I came to my conclusions in the first place.  On the personal side, we played mostly on money handed over by "the women," so it kept us entertained enough to not feel totally bored for the evening.


4. Shopping - Believe it or not, there were several boutique type shops available throughout the resort.  I'm also going to lump fitness center, spa, and movie theatre in with this because they seem to fall in a similar "amenities" category (and it just feels right).  Plus, there were the heavenly, sleeping-on-clouds bedding sets in the modern and spacious hotel rooms.  Ahh.


5. Families - If you can believe it, the casino resort was filled with families.  Kids-Quest was similar to the onboard paid babysitting/entertainment service, and an arcade that one can only assume is an effort to get gets reigned in early.  I hear the indoor/outdoor pools are a big draw for local families during the summertime.

To play Devil's Advocate for a minute, there are a few ways casinos and cruise ships differ:

My first whisky sour.  Yum!

  • Food cost - Casinos most definitely do not have the "all you can eat for free" attitude.  If you're a regular visitor, though, food vouchers are a likely reward.
  • IDs - I was ID'd going in and out of the actual casino area every single time.  On the cruise, I wasn't ID'd once.  Plus, cruises allow anyone 18 and over to play (while in international waters, anyway).
  • Free drinks - All drinks in the playing area of the casino are totally free.  This includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.  Since players are already ID'd to enter, no one cards you to drink either.  Someone find me a cruise with free drinks and I'll be there next week!
  • Smoking - Smoking inside the resort was "kosher," and encouraged even.  The smell engulfed us as we entered the building, and I instantly groaned about smelling like smoke (and ingesting it) the whole time we were there.  Onboard, smoking is only allowed in the casino or outdoors. 
  • Excursions - Sadly, there were no fun outings to accompany our overnight casino stay.  In the middle of podunk nowhere, I can't imagine there were very many attractions nearby anyway.  Well, the LA 4-H Museum is in the same parish, but of course it was closed at the time, so that didn't work out.  

What else?  Did I forget anything? 


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