On July 15, a casino cruise ship got stuck on a sand bar off the Georgia coast in the US, stranding 96 guests and 27 crew members. The 5-hour tour was to be the maiden voyage for a brand new ship called the . Instead, the excursion turned into a 16-hour nail-biter, according to stranded guests who spent one long night not knowing exactly when they would be rescued. Thankfully, the passengers were brought to safety late in the evening on July 16. A few health concerns were reported, but no fatalities or major injuries occurred.
What Happened on the Escapade
Some of the guests felt the 174-foot ship lurch when it became stuck on a sand bar, but none of the guests knew for sure what happened until a few hours later, when their predicament was formally announced. The ship's crew initially notified the Coast Guard that its navigation system had malfunctioned. The boat had become lodged in shallow water approximately 1.8 miles from Tybee Island, a popular beach destination in Georgia.
Officials attempted to tow the ship back to land at first, but this quickly proved to be an impossible task, as the tow line broke. A Coast Guard response boat was stationed nearby, but the shallow waters made it impossible for rescuers to get any closer to the Escapade in that vessel. Passengers were eventually asked to climb down a ladder from the Escapade to smaller Coast Guard boats which carried eight people apiece. One guest described her descent from the Escapade to the rescue boat as a “Fear Factor moment.” Most of the stranded were eventually brought to shore by two Coast Guard cutters that reached the smaller boats. Four individuals were transported to safety directly from the Escapade by helicopter.
During the event, guests were instructed to wear life jackets as a precaution. The Escapade appeared to be leaning to one side but was stable, according to reports. One news outlet observed that the stranded passengers looked “calm but bored.” Through the night, the inconvenienced guests were fed complimentary hot dogs, soda, and water. The next morning, they were served a breakfast of bacon and eggs. A generator kept the electricity flowing, so everyone was able to stay comfortable with adequate air conditioning and lighting.
Free Cruise Offer Runs Amok
Interestingly, the guests who became stranded were all taking advantage of a free cruise offer. The July 15 cruise was the Escapade's first venture as a passenger ship, and as such, guests had been invited to board at no cost. The company that owns the ship is Tradewinds Casino Cruise, a Florida-based business. Their website advertises a 5-hour cruise that features sports betting, slots, and table games like blackjack and craps.
Guests Gambled Through the Night
A review of the slot machine timestamps showed that guests on the boat continued to gamble late into the night, well after the news of their situation had been delivered to them. According to US law, passengers on a casino ship can legally gamble once they are three nautical miles from shore, but the ship actually became grounded less than two miles from shore. No one has speculated as to whether this behavior will garner any legal action.
It Could Have Been Much Worse
The Coast Guard described the outcome of the incident as a “best case scenario.” Passengers on the Escapade did not suffer bodily harm. In 2012, an Italian cruise ship called the Costa Concordia struck a reef and suffered a 230-foot tear which subsequently submerged the generators and engines. Thirty-three people perished in the incident, and 64 suffered injuries. The captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, was arrested for manslaughter and for failing to be the last individual to get off the boat.
Casino Cruise Gambling Opportunities
Casino cruises offer passengers a unique opportunity to gamble at sea, where they are free of any federal regulations that might typically bind them. Here is a partial list of some American cruise lines and the types of gambling they offer.
Carnival Cruise Lines - Most people have heard of this popular line of cruise ships. The minimum gambling age on this line is 18, and guests enjoy bingo, slots, electronic poker, and some table games. Destinations for this line include Alaska, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Hawaii.
Celebrity Cruises - The minimum gambling age is 18 except on this company's Alaskan cruises, where it is 21. Slots and many popular table-based casino games are available. Baccarat is offered on some, but not all, of this company's ships. Destinations include Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, and the Panama Canal.
Norwegian Cruise Line - The minimum gambling age is 18 on these ships. Guests enjoy pai gow poker, slots, and table games. Destinations include the Canada/New England regions, the Bahamas, the Panama Canal, and the Mexican Riviera.
Oceania Cruises - The minimum gambling age is 18 on these ships, which advertise themselves to be “mid size.” Guests can partake of slot machines, blackjack, poker, and roulette. Destinations include Africa, Asia, Scandinavia, and the Mediterranean.
Princess Cruises - The minimum gambling age varies on this cruise line. In the US, it is 21; in the UK and Australia, 18; in Japan, 20. Various games are available, including slots, bingo, poker, and roulette. Destinations include Asia, Africa, India, Japan, Tahiti, and Europe.
In the US, some areas offer gambling riverboat cruises for those who don't have access to a cruise line like the ones mentioned above. According to a 2013 report from the American Gaming Association, states that offer gambling riverboat cruises include Florida (read this), Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, and Missouri.
In general, cruise ship and riverboat excursions are a safe way for gamblers to legally enjoy their favorite games. Every mode of transportation has its share of unfortunate accidents: the airplane, the automobile, the cruise ship. Luckily, in the case of the Escapade, nobody was hurt and everyone made it back to shore in less than 24 hours.