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All About Cruise Ship Bingo

“BINGO!” One excited shout and multiple frustrated grumbles in the crowd mean someone has likely won a prize. Bingo has been a part of the cruise ship experience for decades, bringing complete strangers together as they purchase what they hope will be the luckiest cards in the room. Want to know more about how it works, how much it costs and what you can win? Check out our bingo breakdown below.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ll know that bingo is a game in which players aim to form predetermined shapes — lines, squares, Xs, four corners — on a card by marking spaces on the card’s grid. The spaces marked correspond to letter-and-number combinations randomly chosen and announced by a person known as a “caller.” The first person to form the required shape yells, “BINGO” and wins a prize (usually cash) if he or she has marked all spaces correctly. (While most people mark their cards correctly, it is not unheard of for someone to yell Bingo without having followed the directions precisely.) Keep in mind, you can only win if you complete the required shape on the last number called. If you notice two numbers later that you had Bingo, you may no longer claim it.

Generally a favorite pastime for the older crowd, bingo played on land is often associated with church and social hall gatherings. What’s different about cruise bingo, however, is that it’s expensive to play — usually about $10 per card with discounts offered for multiple cards — but the winnings are more enticing as a result. For example, the lowest prize amount awarded on Carnival sailings is $100, while some jackpots can reach into the thousands. Other rewards might include spa treatments, shore excursion passes or even free cruises.

Some lines use only paper cards, while others, such as Royal Caribbean, offer electronic cards in addition to the standard paper variety. The electronic versions are more expensive and give you access to more boards, but because they also mark off spaces automatically when the corresponding numbers are called, they aren’t as interactive as the paper cards.

Some cruise lines might run bingo promotions, as well. For example, if you spend a certain dollar amount or purchase a certain number of cards, you’ll be presented with raffle tickets that allow you even more chances to win prizes.

Not surprisingly, passengers can be fiercely competitive while playing bingo. In fact, fans of the game are so rabidly dedicated that there have even been chartered bingo cruises. It’s a form of gambling, after all, and it can be addicting. In order to foster a bit more competition, many cruise lines will ask players to stand when they’re only one space away from achieving bingo. (If this happens to you, prepare for a few dirty sideways glances from fellow players.)

If you decide you want to have a go on your next sailing, be sure to set a budget, decide how many cards you can feasibly handle at one time and — perhaps most importantly — don’t clear your card just because someone yells, “BINGO!”

<div align="center" style="margin-bottom:15px"><img src="//images.r.cruisecritic.com/features/2016/07/bingo-hero.jpg" alt="Bingo ball and board" title="Bingo (Photo: John Kroetch/Shutterstock)"/></div> <p>"BINGO!" One excited shout and multiple frustrated grumbles in the crowd mean someone has like

How the iPad Sunk Cruise Ship Bingo

Richard Kitchen
Jun 2, 2018 · 3 min read

Bingo players are stereotyped as little old ladies clutching their lucky dauber in skeletal hands, draining their pensions one ball at a time. They waste away the last years of life living the curse of Bingo: for you to win, everyone else must lose. Sedentary Hunger Games full of white haired Tributes. (Journal of Gambling Studies)

Bingo can be more than this. It can do better.

Change the backdrop from a smoky, linoleum floored hall to a billion dollar cruise ship and Bingo becomes gamble-tainment for the whole family.

It is fun f o r everyone! You’ll find a variety of folks playing Cruise Ship Bingo; families, couples, young and old alike. Each person has colored cards for each game and a blunt marker called a dauber to mark off your free space and the called numbers. There was suspense with each ball. Who was two numbers away? One number? Just draw B12 already!

The curse of Bingo inescapably returned with each game: For you to win, everyone else must lose. Winners were booed and scorned out of jealously and false entitlement. Winners were recognized in the elevators and possessed elevated social status. Good times were had by all.

All that died when the iPad torpedoed Cruise Ship Bingo.

While celebrating a birthday on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, I ignorantly walked into the Bingo game, ready for predictable fun and unpredictable winning. Something was amiss. Why are they passing out both iPads and paper Bingo cards? Bingo is on iPads now? Won’t they get messed up by the dauber?

Fun over, I went to work. I’m a User Experience (UX) Designer and Human Factors (HF) Psychologist. This means I can’t stop thinking about how design and psychology impact what people experience and how they experience it. I’m also a cruising fan with great Cruise Ship Bingo memories, so at this point I was both angry at this deprecated Bingo experience and trained to dissect it. It’s on.

Here’s how iPads broke the User Experience of Cruise Ship Bingo:

  1. What was once a communal experience is now fragmented. Experience varied by channel and even within channel. The paper channel remained the visceral and tactile experience in place since it’s creation in 14th century Italy. The digital channel was delivered through iPads and came in two varieties: those connected to the ship’s Wi-Fi and those not connected. We were told that this was due to cost and reliability constraints of Wi-Fi at sea.
  2. From actively playing to passively watching. The digital version without Wi-Fi required the player to type in the called number and hit submit. The app would then automatically mark all valid numbers. The Wi-Fi connected version was completely passive. A number was called and the app automatically marked off numbers. It even told you if you had a Bingo. You didn’t participate in playing the game, you sat there and watched it.
  3. Bugs and workarounds. What do you get when you force an unpolished multichannel experience mess? Problems. You get lots of problems. The paper cards came in three colors, one for each of the three games played. These followed the traditional progression as well as what the caller was saying. Digital versions, not so much. The unconnected and connected app versions were even different between each other. So you ended up with purple paper cards, green unconnected cards, and orange connected cards — all at once during the same game. Throw that on a group of multilingual vacationers with varying levels of sobriety and you have wide confusion.
  4. Trust and expectation breakdown. Digital cards were better. I know because they cost more to play. While probably not at all accurate, the conclusion is logical. When you pay more, you expect to get more.

The Post-Bingo World is near. Soon we will watch the games play out automatically. Then we will simply ignore the game and hope we get a text letting us know we won. Then we’ll be able to turn off alerts and just get the winnings through Bitcoin.

Bingo players are stereotyped as little old ladies clutching their lucky dauber in skeletal hands, draining their pensions one ball at a time. They waste away the last years of life living the curse… ]]>