Cruise Guide

Welcome to the Ante Up Poker Cruise Guide page!

Here you should find the answers to most of your questions about cruising with Ante Up. If you can’t find what you need here, or are ready to book, contact Jeanne Cosenza at (727) 742-3843 or cruises@anteupcruises.com and she’ll be happy to help. For the schedule of upcoming cruises, including rates and deadlines, visit Ante Up’s cruise web page.

What is a cruise?

If you’ve never taken a cruise before, it’s one of the best vacation values anywhere. Your cruise fare includes your stateroom, all-you-can eat dining (three meals a day in the dining room, snack bars, buffets and room service) and fun activities (nightly shows, music, games, classes, art auctions, etc.), all for a price much lower than most land-based vacations. You’ll also get to visit several exotic destinations, where you can take part in organized shore excursions or explore on your own, all with unpacking just once.

What is a poker cruise?

A poker cruise is everything described above - plus the opportunity to play great poker in a professionally run and equipped poker room! Just like your favorite land-based poker room, you can play a variety of cash games, single-table tournaments and multi-table events. Every cruise includes at least two free poker courses, too, so you can improve your game, and our signature open-bar cocktail party on the first day. And just like your favorite poker room, the skill level of our passengers varies from beginners to pros.

Before you book

Deadlines
Ante Up books passengers up to 72 hours before we sail, provided that staterooms remain, but we encourage passengers to book prior to each cruise’s “rate guarantee” deadline when price, stateroom selection and availability is much better.
Passports
Most Ante Up Cruises are “closed-loop itineraries,” meaning that they begin and end from the same port, and thus, do not require a passport to sail or to get off in port. Passengers without a passport can sail with a government-issued birth certificate (raised seal) and a government-issued photo ID (sailings to Cuba, however, require a passport that will not expire sooner than six months after the last day of the cruise). However, we strongly recommend passports, as if you have need to fly home from a port for any reason, you will not be able to do so unless you have a passport. You can apply for a passport on the U.S. Department of State's website.
Staterooms
All staterooms come with two twin beds, which can be converted into one queen, a vanity area, closet and bathroom with shower. Staterooms admittedly are small - starting at 114 square feet - though suites are larger and offer more amenities. Inside staterooms have no windows, and oceanview staterooms (window) and balcony staterooms (balcony with a small table and two chairs) are generally the same size as inside staterooms. Junior suites are larger (starting at about 173 square feet), with a bathtub and balcony, and every ship has a variety of even larger suites with more amenities. Passengers needing accessible staterooms are urged to book as soon as possible, as there are very few of these staterooms on each ship and they sell out quickly.
Rates
Ante Up’s rates include cruise fare, port charges and taxes and fees and are per person based on double occupancy. The only additional mandatory charge is for shipboard gratuities for the head waiter, waiter, assistant waiter and cabin steward, which are automatically billed to guests’ folios. All other charges (transportation to and from the ship, poker buy-ins, beverages, gambling, Internet, spa treatments, photos, souvenirs, shore excursions, etc.) are optional and additional. The cruise fare's full amount is due upon booking. We don't take deposits. Please note that is the policy of Royal Caribbean and NCL that only passengers who book through Ante Up be admitted to the Ante Up Poker Room.
Single travelers
Cruise lines assess a single supplement for passengers not sharing a stateroom with another passenger. The rate is a little bit less than double fare. Ante Up is happy to put solo travelers in touch with other solo travelers who don’t mind sharing a stateroom to save money. Matched roommates pay for their stateroom and on-board charges separately.
Third/fourth passengers sharing a stateroom
Some staterooms are equipped with fold-down additional beds so a third or fourth passenger can share the same stateroom. Generally speaking, the rate for additional passengers is less. However, remember that staterooms are small. Ante Up doesn’t recommend more than three adult passengers per stateroom.
Sailing/gambling age
All staterooms must have at least one guest who is 21 or older. Drinking age on board all ships is 21, and gambling age on board all ships is 18. Children as young as 6 months old may sail, but there are no discounts for children. The ship offers free, supervised daytime programs for children of all ages and offers individual or group babysitting for an additional fee.
Cancellations/insurance
All passengers can cancel based on a staggered cancellation policy (100% before Ante Up’s rate guarantee deadline, less afterward). Also, Ante Up can process name changes on staterooms up to 72 hours before sailing, so if you or your travel partner(s) can’t go, you can find a friend or family member to take your spot. Passengers who want additional peace of mind or added protection for accidents while in port can buy Royal Caribbean's CruiseCare travel insurance or NCL's BookSafe travel insurance when they book. It can not be added later. Ante Up is not affiliated with either insurance company, and makes no claims about what policies do and do not cover. It is the responsibility of passengers to thoroughly review the policy’s coverage before buying.

Before you board

Confirmation
Ante Up provides all guests with an email confirmation after booking. Please review it and immediately let us know of any mistakes. The confirmation email also has links to more information, including airports, cruise ports and cruise lines.
Check-in
Once Ante Up receives your booking number from the cruise line, we’ll send a second email to you with that number and directions on how to complete the online check-in process and print out your boarding documents. Everything is done electronically. You will not receive anything in the mail. For passengers without Internet access, we encourage you to find a friend or relative who does who can complete the online check-in for you. You do not have to complete the online check-in in order to sail, but we have limited to no ability to correct errors in your booking at the port, so you risk being denied boarding if you don’t complete the online check-in.
Airport transfers
If you’re flying, you can buy roundtrip airport transfers from the cruise line. Please note there are restrictions on when you flight arrives in the port city and when your return flight leaves in order to use transfers.
Packing/dress codes
Pack light. Staterooms are small with limited storage space. Dress code is casual during the day (no swimsuits allowed in dining room); slightly nicer in the evening (no shorts allowed in the dining room). Each Royal Caribbean cruise has one formal night (two on 7-night cruises), though a nice shirt and slacks will be sufficient to wear to the dining room. (NCL does not have formal nights). Large bags can be checked curbside with the porters, while bags that fit through the X-ray machine may be carried on. Please note that access to staterooms is restricted to about 1 p.m. on the first day, and checked luggage may not arrive until after dinner. So be sure to pack anything you need before then in a carry-on. Also, review Royal Caribbean’s list and NCL's list of prohibited items, including most alcohol and irons.
Embarkation day

  • Boarding begins around 11-11:30 a.m. for all sailings. Guests usually must be on board no later than 3 p.m. for all sailings. Please plan to arrive at least one hour before boarding deadline to account for any delays you may encounter. (Disembarkation on the final day begins at 7 a.m. and all passengers must be off the ship no later than 10 a.m.)
  • Parking for a nominal fee is available at all ports. Please visit the website for individual ports for directions and rates, and lots not affiliated with the port may also be available for a lower rate.
  • Leave checked bags with the curbside porters (gratuity suggested at most ports). Porters will print luggage tags from your boarding documents.
  • Please be sure to carry with you your boarding documents and passport/birth certificate.
  • Once on board, please go to the Conference Center and check in with Ante Up’s staff to get your required ID badge and cruise brochure.
  • The open-bar cocktail party takes place after the mandatory lifeboat drill, usually around 5 p.m. Location will be emailed to passengers in advance and listed in the cruise brochure that you get on-board.


On-board

Casino
All ships feature a full casino with all your favorite casino games. Ante Up is not affiliated with the on-board casino, and casino chips are not legal tender in the Ante Up Poker Room, and Ante Up chips are not legal tender in the casino.
Connections (phones/Internet)
Staterooms are equipped with telephones with ship-to-shore service. Rates are expensive. You can use your cellphone on board, but will be charged by your carrier for international roaming rates, so it’s usually a good idea to turn off your phone’s transmitter as soon we leave port and not turn it back on until we return to avoid a hefty bill. It’s recommended that you ask friends and family to contact you via email while sailing. Computers are provided for guests’ use, or you can connect wirelessly to your own equipment in select hot spots. Cost is 65 cents a minute on Royal Caribbean ships and 75 cents a minute on NCL ships, though early-bird specials and packages are available at lower rates. Most ports have restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi.
Dining/beverages
You’ll never go hungry on a cruise ship! Feel free to load your plate at the buffet, or order two entrees in the dining room. It’s all included.

  • Breakfast: Available in open seating in the dining room or at the buffet.
  • Lunch: Available in open seating in the dining room or at the buffet.
  • Dinner: Available at assigned seating in the dining room or open seating at the buffet. The Ante Up group sits together in the dining room (main seating time). My Time dining is also available on Royal Caribbean ships, allowing for guests to dine in the dining room without an assigned table/time (guests must prepay shipboard gratuities if they wish to use My Time dining). NCL features Freestyle dining, allowing guests to dine at multiple restaurants (some included and some at an additional charge). Also, all ships have at least one specialty restaurant with an additional charge.
  • Snacks: Are available for free in snack bars throughout the day and night and during special buffets. Some snacks are available for an additional charge.
  • Room service: Food can be ordered to your stateroom at no additional charge, except during late-night hours.
  • Beverages: Coffee, tea, lemonade and tap water are included in the cruise fare. All other beverages are available for purchase. Soda, wine and alcohol packages are available for purchase. Complimentary alcohol is available during select events, including the Ante Up Open-Bar Cocktail Party, the Captain’s Welcome party and art auctions. Neither the casino nor the poker room comps drinks while playing.

Gratuities
All passengers are required to pay the minimum suggested gratuity amount for four ship-board employees: head waiter, waiter, assistant waiter and cabin steward. These amounts will be posted to your on-board account nightly, and you're welcome to reward exemplary service with an additional cash gratuity. Ante Up Poker Cruise dealers and cashiers work for gratuities as well. Please reward their service as you would these same employees in land-based poker rooms.
Money
The Ante Up Poker Room is a cash-only poker room. You can not charge poker expenses to your shipboard account, so please bring a sufficient amount of cash for your level of play. Most staterooms have safes, and Guests Services also offers safe deposit boxes. Ships and ports do have ATMs, but the supply of cash in them can’t be guaranteed. For guests who
are uncomfortable carrying large amount of cash, we recommend traveler's checks. Royal Caribbean will cash up to $1,000 per day in traveler's checks per guest, and NCL also will cash traveler's checks. Royal Caribbean will cash one $200 per cruise in personal checks per guest, while NCL does not cash any personal checks.
On-board charges
Your room key doubles as an on-board charge card, and most purchases made on board will be automatically billed to it. During online check-in, you can secure this account with a credit or debit card (charges will be billed to it after the cruise) or with cash. The Ante Up Poker Room is a cash-only poker room. You can not charge poker expenses to your card.
Poker room
The Ante Up Poker Room is set up in the Conference Center. More details on the schedule, games, etc., can be found on our cruise webpage. The room is generally open from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. on sea days, except the final night, when we close at midnight, and from 7:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. on port days, though we are permitted to open in some ports. We use live, professional dealers (not e-tables) for our games and our rakes and entry fees are consistent with land-based poker room industry standards, and much lower than what cruise ship casinos normally charge. Please call for details.
Port stops/shore excursions
You’re free to explore ports on your own, or you can book a shore excursion or you can stay on board the ship and relax when we’re in port. Shore excursions can be booked even before you get on board (recommended if you really want to be sure you get to do an excursion, since some are capacity controlled), though most people book once on board. You can often find the same excursions for less money on your own off the ship, but be aware that the ship will only be held for groups on ship-sponsored excursions. So if your bus breaks down on an excursion that you booked independently, the ship won’t wait for you.
Smoking
Smoking is allowed in designated bars and decks on board. Smoking is prohibited in staterooms, including on balconies, and in the Ante Up Poker Room. Some ships feature a cigar lounge.

Cuba travel

Ante Up is excited to be the first poker cruise company to sail to Havana, Cuba! This port is very different from others, so please take a moment to review the following Q&A from Royal Caribbean with important information for guests who wish to take this sailing. Also, here is a link to blogger who recently did the same sailing.

Will guests be required to have a visa to enter Cuba?
Guests are required to purchase a visa to travel to Cuba. Royal Caribbean will facilitate this for our guests at a cost of $75 per person. This fee will be added to your onboard account on Day 1 of the cruise. Each guest will receive their visa during embarkation in Tampa and will be responsible for providing their visa to the Cuban authorities upon arrival in Cuba. If a guest loses their visa, they will be able to purchase a new visa onboard at an additional cost of $75.

What kind of documentation will be required by U.S. Customs and Border patrol for all guests?
A passport will be required for all guests sailing to Cuba with us. Guest passports must be valid for six months after their travel date to Cuba.

Can guests travel with a driver’s license and birth certificate?
No. In order to travel to Cuba, all guests, including children, will be required to have a passport. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not allow U.S. guests to travel to Cuba with a driver’s license and birth certificate. Guest passports must be valid for six months after their travel to Cuba.

In accordance with U.S. law, all guests (including children) traveling to Cuba will be required to complete a travel affidavit identifying the category of travel under which they are visiting. This must be completed prior to boarding the vessel.

Here is a link to the affidavit.

For ease of completion, we have arranged the affidavit into three parts:

  • Part A: Guests exclusively participating in the Royal Caribbean tour program should select Part A and complete the identification information in the last section.
  • Part B: Guests traveling on a self-guided people-to- people exchange program should select Part B and complete the identification information in the last section. Part B does allow for guests to split their full-day schedule between tours purchased from Royal Caribbean and activities organized on their own.
  • Part C: Guests that have not certified in Part A and B, including those passengers who plan to split their schedule between people-to-people activities offered by Royal Caribbean and activities otherwise meeting the requirements of one of the 12 general licenses, should select Part C and complete the identification information in the last section.

Are there restrictions on what I can bring into Cuba?
There are U.S. and Cuba import regulations that travelers must comply with when traveling and bringing items into Cuba.

For information on U.S. import regulations, please review the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security’s Export Administration Regulations.

For information on Cuba import regulations, please review the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba.

What are U.S. guests allowed to bring back from Cuba?
Guests are generally authorized to bring into the United States merchandise acquired in Cuba (alcohol and tobacco products) for personal use as accompanied baggage.

What financial instruments do I use when in Cuba?
U.S. credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba. Bring cash to cover your stay. The Cuban government requires that travelers declare cash amounts over 5,000 USD. Travelers should note that the Government of Cuba charges a 10 percent fee for all U.S. dollar cash conversions; this does not apply to electronic transactions or cash conversions in other currencies.

The export of Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) is strictly prohibited, regardless of the amount. Travelers may only export the equivalent of 5,000 USD in any currency other than the Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). Anyone wishing to export more than this amount must demonstrate evidence that the currency was acquired legitimately from a Cuban bank.

What is illegal in Cuba that guests may not be aware of?
It is illegal to buy cigars on the street; other than at approved retail stores as well as to exchange US dollars into Cuban CUCs (Cuban Currency) any place other than at an official CADECA (Currency Exchange Houses) and hotels.

What are additional tips that I should know when traveling on shore in Cuba?

  • Drink only bottled water
  • Due to tropical climate, wear loose fitting airy clothes, comfortable shoes and a hat.
  • Only a few places are air conditioned; bring a fan and/or mister
  • Purchase items only from authorized sellers
  • Exchange money only at CADECAs (Currency exchange houses) or hotels
  • It is always a good idea to travel with tissues for toilet paper since it can be sporadic and limited in restrooms

What should I carry ashore while in Cuba?

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • SeaPass card (cruise card)
  • Cash
  • tissues

Is Ante Up organizing any shore excursions in Cuba?
Ante Up poker room manager Ramze Sleiman, who lives in Cuba part-time, is offering a special excursion limited to the first 16 passengers. Here are details on it:
"I am doing a VIP package for only 16 people on the August cruise. This package will include being picked up in a classic convertible for a two-hour city tour. Then we will have lunch (included) at one of Havana's finest restaurants. You will then be taken on a guided walking tour of Old Havana by a professional English-speaking tour guide. After that, we will do a coffee, rum, brewery, cigar shop hour and then go to the largest artisan craft market in Havana to get any souvenirs people want. I will personally accompany this group the entire time to translate, answer questions and make sure everything goes perfect. The cost of this excursion is $250 per person and is limited to the first 16 people that sign up. After that, people can go on a waiting list in case of cancellations. There is no better way to see the best of Havana in one day then this tour I have designed. Please contact Jeanne Cosenza to make your reservations."

And here are Ramze's notes on the shore excursions that Royal Caribbean is offering (please note that ship-sponsored excursions in Havana need to be reserved PRIOR to sailing):

Easy Panoramic Havana - $49 per person
Travel via motor coach along seaside El Malecón promenade. There are photo stops at both El Morro Castle and harbor of Havana. This includes a stop in Revolution Square.

This is better done by hiring a classic convertible that can hold up to four guests right outside of the cruise ship. The rate for the convertible should be about $30 an hour and with two hours you will see triple what this tour offers.

Best of Havana - $115 per person
Full day tour that lasts 8 hours, and is an all-encompassing trip through bustling Havana. Guests will visit artisan market and notable squares, including enjoying an authentic Cuban meal.

Artisan market is right next door to the cruise ship. The squares are a five-minute walk from the ship in Old Havana and are very easy to locate. There are a million small family-run restaurants on every street in Havana. You will have no problem finding lots of great lunch options for $10 or less.

Hemingway's Havana - $89 per person
Explore Cuba and the late American novelist Ernest Hemingway. This is a 4 hour tour that takes guests where Hemingway lived, fished, dined and sipped his favorite cocktail.

This is a decent option if you are a Hemingway fan. This is about 30-40 minutes out of town and there isn't much out that way other than his house in the way of tourist attractions. Again if this is your thing, get a group of four of you together and negotiate a taxi outside of the terminal for $50 roundtrip.

Old Havana City Sightseeing - $59 per person
Explore Cuba's Capital city with a 4-hour bus ride through Havana's city center.

Same as above. Rent a classic convertible for $30 an hour with driver that can seat four guests. You can see more in two hours than a bus will allow you in four. Also, if you walk 15 minutes through Old Havana (recommended to see how cool it is) you will arrive at Parque Central, where there is a hop-on-hop-off bus that tours the city for $10 a person. At least that way you can sit up top and enjoy the fresh air and better views. Also you can get on and off when you please.

Old Havana Heritage Walking Tour - $49 per person
Discover Havana's captivating history and cultural charms. This is a half-day walking tour adventure.

We are docking in Old Havana. The walking could be easily done by yourself and a little Googling or any guidebook will tell you what you are looking at and what the don't miss things are.