Wherein two writers log onto their e-mail, pick a topic, and yap until they're blue in the face. Today's topics: onboard casinos, gambling, Frank Sinatra, and what constitutes appropriate after-dinner fashion.
Matt: So, we've done a bunch of these point/counterpoint cruise things for Frommer's. Are we running out of topics? Any idea what you want to discuss?
Heidi: Uh, fuel surcharges?
Matt: Too boring.
Heidi: Onboard romance?
Matt: Done that -- here.
Heidi: How about casinos?
Matt: I don't know bubkes about casinos. Do you?
Heidi: Nope, not really.
Matt: OK, so let's discuss.
Heidi: Sherrr. The less I know, the more opinionated I am. So, casinos: They wouldn't be half bad if they weren't so bright and noisy.
Matt: So you're looking for a dark, quiet place to lose your dough, is that it?
Heidi: Righto. I'd rather pretend I was being mugged.
Matt: Be a better story to tell your friends, too. I don't ever have that problem, though. When I'm on a ship I usually drop $2 at the slot machines, but I get bored before I even get to the second dollar. Might be more exciting if I learned to play poker, but then I'd lose more money. It's a philosophical conundrum.
Heidi: Hey, let's not get into birth control here... though I think you have a point about poker. Blackjack too. If you know what you're doing, it is sort of cool to sit there at the table like a dude and nod and tap your way to the big win.
Matt: Totally Sinatra-style. Cool.
Heidi: Â Yeah. Too bad most casino-goers aren't so well dressed these days. Can't quite imagine Frank in cutoffs and a baseball cap.
Matt: "For me," he said, "a tuxedo is a way of life."
Heidi: Today, it's more like one of those T-shirts with a picture of a tuxedo on it. Which brings me back to a point I wanted to make. Cruise ship casinos are great places to people-watch. You get the shlumpy types hunched over the slots with their cigarettes, hugging coin cups like they were teddy bears. On the other hand, you also see the ones in shiny sequined dresses and designer suits sporting all kinds of bling. Yep, you see it all.
Matt: Bling? What'd you do, renew your subscription to The Source? But while we're on the subject, I've got a recommendation for the guys out there: charcoal gray silk suits. Wear 'em with a shirt and tie on dressy nights, then pair with a silk or knit T-shirt to go casual.
Heidi: Silk suits? Knit T-shirts? What, are you channeling Tony Soprano now? Even if you think it's stylish, you gotta have a pretty hard body to pull off knits and silk. Just a tad clingy, don't you think?
Matt: That's where the jacket comes in.
Heidi: Ahhh, right. And what's this have to do with cruise ship casinos?
Matt: Not a damn thing. Remember? We don't know anything about casinos.
Heidi: Well, cruise passengers sure do like them. They're usually packed. And when NCL moved its Pride of Aloha out of Hawaii this year -- Hawaii where they couldn't have onboard gambling since they weren't sailing in international waters -- the first thing they did was install a new casino.
Matt: It's all about revenue, baby. Rev-e-nue.
Heidi: Guess the lines are pretty confident they'll come out ahead.
Matt: Ha! Ya think?
Heidi: At least most ships offer pointers, classes, or little brochures that explain the basics. That's gotta help a little.
Matt: I dunno, I think it would be lost on me. A few months ago I was on a ship watching my friend Art play craps, and he might as well have been trying to explain Kabbalah. I had no clue what was going on. It was like performance art.
Heidi: A friend of mine had the opposite experience. An old card sharp took her under his wing at the craps table, and next thing you know she was $1,200 richer.
Matt: The thing is, I'm not even interested in learning. It just isn't in my DNA. But whattaya think, is casino-going nature or nurture? Do you think ships have casinos because people like to gamble, or do people gamble on ships because they have casinos? And would they miss them if they didn't?
Heidi: The hardcore gambling types sure would. Take my friend's mother, Betty. On cruises, she rushes to the casino after dinner and stays there for hours. Being 70-something doesn't stop her; she's in her element.
Matt: Guess she never sails Disney. Those ships are too righteous and family-friendly to have casinos on board. Which makes me think, do you think other line shut the casinos when a particularly righteous group charters a ship?
Heidi: Sure, and they turn it into a Scrabble parlor or meditation chamber.
Matt: Actually, I find that casinos are actually a good place for meditation, or for reading. The bing-bonging of the slots is kinda mesmerizing.
Heidi: Hmmm, think you have to ask doc to adjust your lithium dosage. The bing-bonging doesn't put me in the mood for anything but another drink and a cigarette. And I don't even smoke.
Matt: That means you're being sucked in. It's like Sammy Davis Jr. said about Vegas: It must be something in the air. People get off the plane -- nice, normal, people -- and it's like, instant swinger. "Yeah, Daddy, yeah. Gimme that money I told you not to gimme."
Heidi: Well, if Sammy was still with us, he'd love a cruise. No question.
Matt: You're probably right on that one. He and Frank and Dean could work the tables themselves. Dean used to be a professional dealer, you know.
Heidi: And if we could bring him back to earth, I'd sit at his table any day.
Matt: Yeah, with your drink and your cigarette and your sequined dress, and one of those little clutch purses full of cash.
Heidi: Right on, just call me Angie Dickinson. Got a light?