Craig DiSalvo’s Shit Cruise to Nowhere
This is the story of Craig DiSalvo and the cruise he sold to me.
Except — there was no cruise. Oh, there was a cruise one might say. But it was a shit cruise to nowhere.
Here’s the story of how I docked the boat that never sailed at the 2010 World Series of Poker.
Craig DiSalvo and I go back twenty years.
We first played together at Foxwoods when the poker room opened. DiSalvo, who fittingly shares the same last name as “The Boston Strangler” (no relation, surprisingly), was a fun guy to be around. He’s talkative. He’s a good storyteller. Some of the things he said were even true. You never knew which half was gold versus which half was bullshit, so you just took it all in and laughed at everything.
Years ago, I played poker in Phoenix and ran into DiSalvo down there, hustling the room. He played well enough to earn a living for a little while, which means he was adept at surrounding himself with idiots. That doesn’t say much for our friendship, but I digress.
Now, I see DiSalvo somewhere around the country few times a year perhaps — Atlantic City, Foxwoods, and of course, here at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Four years ago, DiSalvo approached me while I was working at the series. After some meaningless small talk which DiSalvo is an expert at, he mentioned he had “a really good deal” for me.
“I’m going to give you first option on this because we’re good freinds,” DiSalvo said. “I like to take care of my freinds first above everyone else.”
I felt privileged.
DiSalvo took me aside and opened up a small napsack, which he always seems to be carrying around. Next, he pulled out some rolled up papers. That’s when “the salespitch” began.
“I really like you and know how hard you work here at the series,” DiSalvo said. “I think you need some relaxation time when it’s all over. Wouldn’t you agree?”
How could I possibly deny that?
“That’s why I’m coming to you first with this deal,” he said.
Side Note: A few years later I asked Di Salvo how many people he approached with this deal before he got to me. He finally admitted, “three.”
DiSalvo pulled out some brochures and a form for a cruise that was sailing out of the port of Long Beach. At that point, I wondered how I’d been stupid enough to get cornered into such a discussion at what for me is the busiest time of the year. What was next, a timeshare presentation? But I decided to stay and listen because DiSalvo was a freind.
“I was over at the downtown Fitzgeralds yesterday,” DiSalvo said. “They had a free giveaway promotion for a cruise. Well, I ended up winning it. Unfortunatley, I can’t go on the cruise, so instead I’d like for you to have it.”
I was touched. Truly. Here was my old pal offering me a gift.
“Sure, Craig — that sounds great,” I said.
Then, the screws began turning. DiSalvo mentioned that he’d like to get “a little something” for the cruise. I wondered, how much does he mean by “a little something.”
Di Salvo thought $400 was a good price. After all, the cruise was free. He even mentioned the actual value of the cruise was $1,200. That’s what they told him at the promotions booth. So, I’d be getting a $1,200 cruise for one-third of the price.
I’d never taken a cruise before, so this sounded mildly tempting. And DiSalvo could use the money. Seemed like a win-win deal for us both. But I still a had serious problem with forking over $400 in cash on a cruise they were giving away at a dump like Fitzgerald’s for free. I made a compromise with myself.
“Here’s what I’m going to do,” I said. “Tomorrow morning, United States plays Ghana in the World Cup. If Ghana wins, I’ll buy your cruise.”
Everyone was high on the US team that year in the World Cup. But Ghana was clearly the better team. So, I went around taking all the action I could get on the other side betting a game at EVEN when Ghana was actually the favorite. I know it sounds odd to tie a business deal to a bet on a soccer match, but that was the only way I could force myself into saying “yes.” This way, if Ghana won, the cruise was a freeroll. If the U.S. won the game, I wouldn’t get pitched by DiSalvo anymore.
Ghana won the game 2-1.
That meant, I’d just won a “free cruise.”
The World Cup game was played during the morning. I guess DiSalvo must have watched the game. He was probably even cheering for Ghana since that basically put him $400 to the good.
By the time I reached my desk later at the WSOP, DiSalvo was sitting there with his napsack open, ready to collect.
A deal is a deal. A promise is a promise.
I peeled off $400 in cash and gave it to DiSalvo. He in turn passed me some shuffled up papers with the name and phone number of some cruise company I’d never heard of.
After that, he was out the door like a bullet.
I wouldn’t see him again for two years.
I got home and told Marieta we were going on a cruise.
She was elated.
Like me, Marieta had never taken a cruise before. We were excited to take our first cruise together, thanks to the generosity of Mr. DiSalvo.
I remember that I’d been given some papers. Instructions were to call a number and book a reservation. Since the cruise was “free,” I figured I might as well go ahead and book now, and then start making our travel plans. Marieta even started packing.
I dialed a “1-800” number. After being on hold for 45 minutes, a bored woman finally came on the line.
That’s when I learned there were some special rules which applied to the “free” cruise that I’d bought. For one thing, there would be a $199 “processing fee,” that’s per person. Times two, that’s $398. The woman asked me for a credit card to “confirm” my deal.
Before giving her my credit card, I wanted to know more about the cruise. A couple of things. First, when does it leave? Second, where does it go?
The cruise ship sailed from Long Beach, I was told. When I asked about dates, there was only one cruise left for this year which was eligible for the deal, and it sailed in October. Mind you, this phone call took place in July. I told the bored woman to go ahead and book two tickets for October.
“Uh, oh — unfortunately, it looks like that cruise is sold out,” I was told.
However, there was a cruise in December I could take, but it would cost more to upgrade. Unless I wanted a mini-suite next to the engine room, booking this option would cost another $225 per person. So now, my “free” cruise was going to cost $750, and that doesn’t include driving to Los Angeles, a hotel stay, drinks, tips, and all the extras. Worse, we’d be out in the Pacific freezing our asses off in the middle of December a few weeks before Christmas.
“Where does the cruise go,” I asked.
“That cruise sails to Catalina Island, then out into the Pacific,” she said. “And back. It’s a nice getaway.”
Huh? A getaway from what? In other words, the boat sails to fucking nowhere, and back. Why would I want to do that? What’s the point? It’s like eating unflavored jello.
Uncertain as to what to do, I told the bored lady I’d call her back.
I’d waited too long. I should have booked the cruise much earlier. Here it was in the middle of July and booking a cruise for October or December wasn’t nearly enough lead time. Three to five months in advance — what in the hell was I thinking?
That left me with just one option. I’d just book a cruise sometime for the following year. The date didn’t matter. After all, I wasn’t in any hurry. We’d just take our “free” cruise that would end up costing us “$750 plus $1,000 in expenses” sometime in the year 2011.
I dialed the “1-800” number again.
This time, the wait was only half an hour. Another woman came on the line. She didn’t seem quite as bored as the other lady. In fact, she even seemed more driven, as in a salesperson.
After explaining my situation, the woman asked me for a code number which was affixed to my free cruise voucher, the one I’d bought from DiSalvo, which had been won a Fitzgerald’s.
I gave her the code number, to which she replied — “wait….there’s an expiration date.”
“An expiration date? Like when?”
“End of the year.”
What the fuck!
So, just to get this straight, I’d bought a free cruise which sailed to nowhere, only there were no spots left on the boat for the remainder of the term it was eligible. Is that about right?
And, I was out $400 in cash which DiSalvo has presumably blown some time earlier on one of his gambling habits.
Total bullshit. That’s what it was. Total bullshit.
About two years later, I ran into DiSalvo again, by accident, this time at Caesars Atlantic City.
You wouldn’t believe the first question that came out of his mouth.
“So, how was the cruise?”
All I remember about my answer is that it contained lots of profanity.
“But I sold it to you in good faith,” he insisted.
DiSalvo is still walking the halls at this year’s WSOP, I think he’s even carrying the same napsack.
If he comes up and has “a great deal,” here’s some advice.
Run the other way.