Cruising is a wonderful way to visit new places, meet new friends, try food you never heard of before, and play a time-honored yet trendy game called shuffleboard.
That’s right; shuffleboard is trendy. For decades, most people thought of shuffleboard (if they thought of it at all) as a game for older people, as it doesn’t require a lot of physical activity. But, shuffleboard has recently become more popular with younger generations, and you can find shuffleboard tables, courts pick-up games and leagues at bars and clubs from New York to Seattle.
On cruise ships, shuffleboard has been a mainstay since the 1840s, when an employee of the Peninsular and Oriental Line (known today as P&O Cruises) adapted an old tavern game called shoveboard. Who exactly created shoveboard and when is information lost to time, but the game’s history in Europe goes back at least 500 years. Aristocrats played this tabletop game, also called shovegroat or shovelpenny, with coins or other metal weights. Using their hands, they “shoved” the metal markers to a scoring area on the opposite side of the table.
If you’ve cruised before, you probably saw shuffleboard courts painted on cruise ship promenade decks or top decks. Playing the game is a fine way to spend some time in the open air, enjoying the sea breeze and views combined with friendly competition. Shuffleboard is a game that almost anyone can play, though it takes time and practice to become a really skilled player.
A cruise ship shuffleboard court includes two large triangles, about 12 feet apart. Each triangle points toward the center of the court and is marked with zones of different point values. The game is played either one-on-one or in teams of two. The players use long-handled cues to push discs, also called pucks or hammers, over to the triangle on the other side of the court. Everyone aims for the sections of the triangle that are marked with the highest point values, and the first side to reach 75 points wins.
Be sure to give shuffleboard a try on your next cruise. If you don’t have shuffleboard experience but have played games like bocce, curling, croquet or billiards, you’ll notice some similarities to shuffleboard.
And if you’re very lucky, your cruise ship may feature another time-honored deck game: quoits, which involves tossing a ring, often made of rope, toward a target. It’s another fun way to spend time on deck, relaxing and enjoying the fresh air.
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