Reporter Theodore Scull took an overnight gaming cruise
offered by New York-based Manhattan Cruises. His report
ABOARD THE EDINBURGH CASTLE -- It was a typical cruise ship
welcome at Pier 88 on Manhattan's West Side, with friendly
greetings at the gangway and from a steward on board who escorted
us to our cabin on the bridge deck. I didn't know what to expect,
since this firm had virtually appeared out of nowhere, starting up
with overnight cruises in late January, the same day it received
provisional authorization from the New York Gambling Control
Commission to operate.
I found my roomy outside cabin was freshly refurbished and
contained a queen-size bed with a pleasant seascape mural on the
wall behind. The bathroom was from an earlier age, with deep blue
mosaic tiles and older fixtures. It was clean and everything worked
until the next morning when we discovered the lights would not go
on. We had not received an explanation for the power failure by the
time we disembarked hours later.
The Edinburgh Castle, formerly the EugenioCosta, can comfortably
handle about 1,000 passengers in lower berths. Manhattan Cruises
said it will limit its numbers to 900. On our sailing, there were
about 275 aboard, which meant that all passengers would get outside
rooms, most assigned as they arrived on the pier.
One group of 20-something men said the cabin would not matter
since they planned to gamble, enjoy the disco and take in a film. I
suspect this will be a somewhat typical response. But for those who
consider a cabin important, they may want to reserve early and
request a room with a view. The casino department controls 146 top
cabins in a separate inventory for high rollers and special
Walking about the Edinburgh Castle, it was clear that the
refurbishment had not been entirely completed by the time of our
sailing. The decks and areas around the two pools needed work, but
in February and March, given East Coast weather, few would likely
venture outside for long. "We wanted to beat the competition, so we
searched the world and came up with an available vessel," said G.
Michael Brown, president and chief executive officer of Manhattan
Brown, an attorney, held the same position with Foxwoods Resort
Casino in southeastern Connecticut and before that was director of
New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement as casinos were taking
off in Atlantic City. He, along with three other investors,
including two associated with Singapore-based Star Cruises, the
largest operator of cruise ships in Asia, own the company.
Star will be supplying a replacement vessel for the Edinburgh
Castle in early April, when it returns to its owners, British
shipping firm Lowline, to serve British ports. The replacement ship
will be the 800-passenger SuperStar Capricorn, the former Royal
Viking Star, currently based in Hong Kong. The 28,000-ton ship will
be under charter here for a minimum of a full year.
The New York skyline was magical as we sailed down the Hudson,
and once past the Statue of Liberty, we headed down to the
restaurant where dinner was served from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The buffet
was nothing short of outstanding, and a word with the executive
chef, Gerhard Wind, indicated that he has been given a generous
budget with which to work. The entrees included superb beef
tenderloin, carved-to-order pork, chicken breasts and grilled fish
plus delicate asparagus spears, smoked salmon, endive and lots of
salad greens, with not a shred of iceberg lettuce in sight. The
dessert table had choices of cakes, pies, puddings and fancy
candies. A card on the table indicated that tips were not included,
and when we left our gratuity, the waiter reserved the same spot
for our brunch the next morning.
At 9:10 p.m. the casino opened, and the great majority of
passengers chose the 35 gaming tables, while the 175 newly
installed slot machines were not much in use by this crowd that
included young Wall Streeters, middle-aged couples and
Chinese-Americans. However, gambling, the most visible activity, is
not all that is offered, and more entertainment has been added
since our initial cruise.
Ben Vereen appeared in the show lounge in mid-February, and
other name entertainers are scheduled for the weekend sailings. An
aft bar lounge was the venue for a four-piece band playing
listening and dancing music, and a disco came alive at midnight and
continued until 5 a.m. There is a two-level cinema, a gymnasium and
a shop with a limited selection of clothing and sundries; a range
of Manhattan Cruises' logo items is planned.
We missed the midnight buffet and most of the late-night
happenings, and our bedtime coincided with the skyline of Asbury
Park, N.J., off to starboard. During the night the ship turned
around just north of Atlantic City, N.J. With a scheduled docking
before noon the next day, gambling ceased at about 10 a.m.
The restaurant was open for brunch from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The inviting brunch choices included made-to-order omelets, eggs
Benedict, breakfast steaks, bacon, sausage, smoked salmon, lots of
fresh fruit, bagels, bread and pastries. We found only the baked
goods disappointing. The chef explained that the Edinburgh Castle's
ovens are old, so he now has to buy ashore until the new ship
In the warmer months the cruise may return at 3 p.m. on
A short cruise experience is there among all the gaming tables
and slots, and the Edinburgh Castle provides a good value, a quick
Ship: Edinburgh Castle
Year built: 1966
Sailings: Daily at 7 p.m., returning at 8 a.m. on Mondays,
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The vessel returns at noon on
Saturdays and Sundays.
In the warmer months, the weekend returns will be at 3 p.m. As an
experiment to lure the Wall Street crowd, the Thursday night
departure will return Friday at 6:30 a.m.
Future plans include three- and four-night cruises to New
Brunswick, Canada, and in discussion stages is an itinerary to
Rates: One-night cruises are $99 per person, double, Sundays
through Thursdays; $199, Fridays and Saturdays.
Reservations: (888) 611-CRUISES. Agents should press 1 and identify
themselves as retailers.