The Best Job on the Planet?
1999 was most likely the worst year of my professional career. Unsatisfying office occupations were followed by extended spells of unemployment and assistance claims. I’d also passed up an opportunity to train as a Microsoft-certified programmer since I couldn’t find a job. My ambition of breaking into the workforce had turned into an unmitigated nightmare, and I felt like a total failure at times.
An opportunity to work in a casino occurred near the end of 1999. After watching the glamour and glitz of casinos in James Bond films, I’d always been a fan of card games. At the age of 20, dissatisfied with life in Northern Ireland, In January 2000, I grabbed a couple of suitcases and travelled to the Isle of Man to train as a croupier (casino dealer). I was working on my first cruise ship 18 months later, and 18 months after that, I was aboard the QE2 (the most renowned ship of them all) for a world voyage.
This was beyond my wildest fantasies as a young man from a housing estate in Antrim, Northern Ireland. I’d seen a pontoon table and croupier on a boat from Belfast to Liverpool in 1997 and fantasised about working as a casino dealer on the high seas.
Everything on board the QE2 was as expected, beginning with Captain Ron Warwick. I could have shaved with the crease on my ironed tuxedo shirts, and on several occasions when I had sunburned in port, I could feel the creases digging into my fragile flesh while I dealt the cards that evening in the casino.
Croupiers on cruise ships benefit from the fact that they only work when the ship is on international waters; when the ship is in port, the casino must close, and casino workers are free to do pretty much anything they want. Each day, a cabin steward cleans the casino staff’s cabin and takes away their soiled laundry, bringing it back fresh. We took a 103-day globe cruise that included stops in Hong Kong, Sydney, and Cape Town. To mention a few: Hawaii, Mauritius, Nagasaki, Tahiti, and Singapore. I had the opportunity to participate in some incredible activities, such as diving in the Great Barrier Reef, quad riding in the Namibian desert, and dining in a variety of superb restaurants, sampling delicacies such as springbok, kangaroo, crocodile, and Kobe steak. We stopped on five continents, passed the equator, and even lived a Tuesday in consecutive days when we spanned the globe chronology. Imagine going to bed on Tuesday night, waking up the next morning, and it’s still Tuesday, but this isn’t Groundhog Day.
The casino’s mission was not to take money from passengers, as it would in a land-based casino, but to provide them with joy and entertainment. The passengers were cordial and pleasant, with many of them being quite successful individuals (I believe the lowest cabin fee for a world voyage on the QE2 in 2003 was around $50,000). Many of the guests had never played in a casino before and were eager to learn about and try the one onboard. Getting to know some of these folks was an adventure in and of itself, and a significant part of my duty at the casino was simply to amuse them while they were there.
There were some celebrity passengers as well. After work, we’d head to the crew/members bar, where we’d have guest entertainment like the late Des O’Connor and a magician. The late Paul Daniels stopped by for a drink. God bless both of them.
Was my position the finest in the world? Maybe not for everyone, but it was beyond my wildest hopes, and the six-month experience, as well as the incredible individuals I met, will be something I cherish for the rest of my life. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had this experience and will be eternally thankful for it.
Many years have gone by, and I’ve always missed the excitement of casinos, which is why Fun 21 Casino Hire was founded in 2021. Anyone who hires the No Money Fun Casino that I provide for parties and festivities is now one of my celebrities, and I strive to deliver the same experience that you would have.