bingo cruise 2020

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!”

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Cruise Ship Bingo

by Prof. Cruise · Published January 22, 2020 · Updated January 22, 2020

Bingo is serious business. I didn’t realize this truth until I moved in across the street from a Catholic church hall in a Polish neighborhood in Pittsburgh where you never risked walking to the grocery store on a Tuesday night for fear of being mowed down by a gang of blue-haired gals wielding elaborate hand-sewn bingo bags. And the one time I worked up the courage to attend, a 93 year-old sitting next to me played 6 cards at once while I sat there stone-faced, trying to keep up with my one card and embarrassed to be the only person in the room using tic tacs to mark my squares: “they’re called daubers dear and you might want to pick some up before you come back again.” I never went back.

And that’s one of the reasons I’ve never attended bingo on a cruise. Plus, I’m way too cheap to buy the cards. No, today’s cruise ship bingo is a do-it-yourself version inspired by my travels to Beijing. Let me explain.

Beijing Bingo

Before I was a Professor of Cruising, I was an actual legit college professor. Each summer I took a group of students on a study abroad trip to China. After the first summer I compiled a bunch of photos I’d taken of unique cultural differences and turned them into a bingo card.

This was both to prepare my students for some of the things they would experience in Beijing and also to get them thinking about how much we take cultural norms for granted in our own communities. I had each student create a bingo card for their hometown and we talked about things that might seem unusual to a student visiting their town from China. It was a fun and interesting exercise. And we had a ball playing Beijing Bingo once we arrived in China. Here’s the card we used with explanations for each item (left to right starting with the top row) below:

1) Umbrella on a sunny day. Odd for this Seattle gal – we don’t even use umbrellas on rainy days!

2) Humorous English translation. This garbage can says “fashion health barrel.”

3) Western toilet! Bonus points if you find one of these treasures AND toilet paper in the same bathroom. When traveling in China, you’ll squat to do your business and you’ll need to pack your own toilet paper – it’s typically not provided in public restrooms. Every American tourist to China learns this the hard way after wiping for the first time with a receipt.

4) Coffee. Most people drink tea in China, although coffee is slowly becoming more popular.

5) Brown poodle. This is a very popular breed and color combination – sometimes they have purple ears and they are almost never on leashes. They are clearly smarter than my American dog who would get demolished by the Beijing traffic in approximately half a second.

6) Vegetable flavored ice cream. This one is green pea. I recommend the corn.

7) Squatter. Person relaxing in a squat position.

8) Beijing sleeper. Person sleeping in the middle of the day in their car or in some other odd place or on the job.

9) Square dancing grannies. Bonus points if they’re wearing coordinated outfits.

10) More than 2 people on a scooter. Bonus points for more than 2 people + a brown poodle.

11) Overloaded delivery vehicle.

12) Friendship arm link. It’s very common for friends to hold hands or link arms in China.

13) Beijing belly. It’s hot in Beijing and common for men to expose their bellies to cool off.

14) Jean skirt – a very popular fashion trend.

15) Miniature car. No, it’s not a ride at the mall, it’s an actual legit car.

16) Unusual flavor combination. Often found at American fast food joints – this one is a cheddar cheese and blueberry smoothie.

Cruise Ship Bingo

Just as international travel can expose us to cultural differences, there is a culture unique to cruising – sights and sounds and tastes and experiences different from those of a land-based vacation. So like I did for Beijing, I have collected a sampling of my favorite cruise photos – photos that represent some of the unique aspects of cruising – and used them to create a bingo card. Here’s my card with explanations for each item (left to right starting with the top row) below:

1) Inappropriate clothing. Promising places to look for this one include the buffet, on formal nights in the main dining room, and at the club or gym. Or you might spot Prof. Cruise walking around the ship in her robe (what, I forgot a swim cover).

2) A cruise sunset. You’re instantly a winner if you find this one – there’s truly nothing like them.

3) The elusive captain. And when you find him/her, don’t miss your chance to propose (I can’t be the only one with dreams of marrying a cruise ship captain).

4) A drink that doubles as a dessert. Or a dessert that doubles as a drink. Either way, ask what it is so you can order one for me.

5) Chair hogs. Either actual animals or people reserving prime pool loungers with their stuff while they’re off for hours playing cruise bingo.

7) Another cruise ship within swimming distance. Make this one a priority as soon as you find the pirate.

8) Wildlife. Like this seagull who ate my breakfast when I left it unguarded to get coffee.

9) Extreme cruise eating. This photo was taken after I ordered every dessert on the menu and then scooted it all in front of Mr. Cruise so people would think he ordered it.

10) An “exclusive sale” or a “pop-up” sale. Bonus points if you don’t need to purchase an extra suitcase to drag home all your bargains.

11) Cruise hair. Don’t care!

12) Slightly inappropriate door decorations. This must have been a honeymooning couple (it may or may not have been Mr. Cruise and I). Sign reads: If The Ships A Rockin Don’t Come A Knockin!

13) Someone snoring by the pool. And if they look like this, call your single friend over and urge them to “invest in some earplugs and ask that guy for his cabin number.” If the ships a rockin…

14) A big extended family wearing matching dorky cruise shirts. Yes, my family is that family.

15) Donald. Not Trump, Duck! Hiding cruise ducks has become very popular on certain cruise lines (mainly Carnival, but it’s spreading).

16) A random act of kindness. While cruise brawls always seem to go viral on youtube and may sadly lead some to believe that cruising is a full contact sport, I’ve witnessed so many random acts of kindness on cruises, including the one pictured in the last square of my bingo card above. This sweet bear was gifted to my son on one of his very first cruises by a kind stranger who received it by participating in an onboard fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. My son named him “Everton Bear” after our equally kind waiter in the MDR.

Rules For Cruise Ship Bingo

Have fun! That’s the only rule. Beyond that, you can either use my bingo card or create your own. You can play solo or challenge your cruise companions or use it as an ice breaker for an onboard meet-and-greet or as a coaster for your cocktail. You can require a full blackout or 4 in a row or 4 corners or an X. Or you can set a time limit – whoever finds the most in an hour is declared the winner. Or perhaps whoever finds the least buys a round of drinks (invariably me if I’m playing – I’m a nervous competitor when the stakes are high). You can mark your squares with daubers or tic tacs or bar peanuts or ripped up napkins pieces (no judgement here). Just…have fun!

Final Thoughts

I love cruising. For the sunsets. For the desserts and dessert drinks. For the entertainment. For the wildlife. For the relaxation. For the characters (just call me “robe lady”). And for the unique onboard culture and sense of community. Because regardless of who you are or where you’re from or what you believe, we all have at least one thing in common: a love of the sea. So grab a robe, a bingo card, and pack of tic tacs and meet me onboard! And with that…

Class Dismissed.

Homework: Post your ideas for cruise bingo squares to the comments. Then check out Feedspot’s Top 75 Cruise Blogs, Websites & Influencers in 2020 (featuring among many other awesome cruise blogs and websites to expand your knowledge of all things cruising).

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Cruise Ship Bingo by Prof. Cruise · Published January 22, 2020 · Updated January 22, 2020 Bingo is serious business. I didn’t realize this truth until I moved in across the street from a ]]>