TRAVEL

Nintendo Wii, bowling, climbing and, yes, ocean

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Vegas marries Nintendo and goes sailing. That's the ambience aboard the new Norwegian Pearl, which on Sunday pulled into the World Cruise Center at San Pedro on its first-ever West Coast stop on its way to summer sailings in Alaska.

Carrying 2,470 passengers and more than 200 travel agents on tour for the day, the Pearl showed off its latest techno-toy: a Nintendo Wii console in the central atrium, which lets players wield wireless remotes as though they were baseball bats or bowling balls and supersizes their virtual games onto a multistory screen. Tournaments are free.

It took just months for the hottest new video product, which Nintendo unleashed in November, to get adopted by Norwegian Cruise Line, www.ncl.com. That tells you something about the warp speed at which cultural trends are becoming onboard amenities.

The Pearl's Bliss Ultra Lounge and Night Club is something right off the Las Vegas Strip, all decadence and excess. Plus there's a class system: Guests who pay $80 and up for bottle service can recline with their friends in one of two cordoned-off mini-lounges.

The lounge's décor, which NCL spokeswoman Susan Robison broadly described as "Moroccan-looking," is eclectic to the max, with crushed-velvet couches, semi-nude paintings, ubiquitous video screens, canopied harem beds and what looks like a gilded Chinese dragon.

Like many Vegas play areas, the Bliss has a split personality: In this case, it's a sports bar by day and a nightclub and disco by night. When I toured on Sunday, it had its game face on.

The lounge wraps around a four-lane, 10-pin bowling alley, which NCL says is a first for a cruise ship.

"We love it," said Barbara Hawkyard of Seattle, a veteran cruiser who bowled a few frames with her boyfriend, Jim Francis. But she wondered how the ball would roll in rolling seas.

Things got a "a little rocky" on an early sailing of the Pearl from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Southhampton, England, said NCL's Robison, who was on board in December.

"It was fun to anticipate which way the ship would roll," she said. "Plus it was a good excuse" if you threw a gutter ball.

To make sure you don't score a strike in the next lane, the bowling alley can erect bumpers between them, Robison added.

Bowling costs $5 per person per game — a little steep, but at least the venue is unique.

The Pearl also offers the first climbing wall in NCL's fleet, a 30-foot-high installation atop Deck 14, behind the ship's funnel. When I tried it Sunday, the winds whipped around me. Add bumpy seas, and you may really need that harness. There's no charge to climb; shoes are provided.

For those who prefer tranquillity while cruising — so last century — the ultimate retreats on Pearl are two 4,390-square-foot Garden Villas. The Vista, which I toured, includes a white grand piano and its own deck with hot tub. Smaller deluxe owner's suites and courtyard villas are on Decks 14 and 15.

Garden Villas for summer Alaska cruises cost $14,499 per person per week. Guests with less regal resources can book inside cabins starting at $879 — and climb walls or play Nintendo Wii free.

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