Carnival Cruise Lines doesn’t want you to take a forced vacation from your fave EA titles.
Lots of us have played such Electronic Arts (EA) games as Madden NFL 12, FIFA 12 and NHL 12, but have you ever scored a breakaway goal while in the middle of the Caribbean Ocean? Yes, cruise ships have come a long way since The Love Boat. These days, a hefty part of the $1 billion-plus budget that goes into these floating cities focus on new technology and, lately, video games. As part of a $500 million update that’s been dubbed Fun Ship 2.0, Carnival Cruise Lines recently partnered with EA to install EA Sports Bars in many of its ships.
I checked out the first EA Sports Bar aboard the Carnival Liberty, which offers seven-night cruises to ports in the Eastern and Western Caribbean out of Miami. (Additional ships will get the new video game and sports bar over the coming years.)
Even if you’re not into gaming, this is the coolest sports bar you’re going to find on any cruise ship. There’s a solid wall comprised of 16 different 46″ HD TVs. These screens can be connected so that when a big event such as the Super Bowl is taking place, which was the case on my cruise, the entire wall can be split into two giant screens to show the game to the 55 people packed inside. Or multiple satellite feeds of soccer, hockey, college basketball and NBA games can be shown at the same time across the wall. The bar also has two alcoves with separate HD TVs for individual sports viewing or Xbox 360 gaming — complete with surround sound and EA Sports-themed controllers.
Eric Merz, director of guest technology at Carnival Cruise Lines, is one of the men behind this gaming ingenuity. He’s worked closely with EA game-makers and engineers to custom fit this new bar in each ship, right down to those interactive, framed jerseys. “We’ve designed two gaming zones with overhead audio and EA Sports controllers so gamers can play Xbox 360 in these two perfect little zones on their own HD TV,” Merz says. “Or they can ask the bartender to use the iPad to bring in a sporting event.”
Each ship comes stocked with every EA Sports game available. Each ship integrates these games into the daily calendar events on board and there are EA Sports Challenges, in which passengers compete against each other on Xbox 360 at specific times at the bar, as well as EA Sports Trivia games. Points are awarded at each event for the top three players and, at the end of the cruise, the winner receives an EA Sports bag, T-shirt and a voucher for a free game.
The entire program runs through an iPad, which allows the ship’s activities personnel to choose any TV and any Xbox 360 for these competitions and trivia challenges. There’s also a 24/7 live sports ticker that runs on the other side of the bar opposite the big TV wall that provides live score updates from the sports world. And each bar has a framed jersey of an EA Sports cover athlete from big franchises, complemented by a video loop of that athlete performing in that game.
Although each cruise is packed with activities, including three to four port stops (I highly recommend the Eastern Caribbean itinerary), this gaming haven is perfect for those long days at sea (at least two on a typical seven-night cruise). And the cool EA Sports prize pack offers the perfect incentive to keep your fingers busy during vacation.