Review: Is Norwegian’s Interactive Wheel of Fortune A Winner?

Given the wild popularity of the game show Deal or No Deal on cruise ships — not to mention how much lines make by selling cards which allow the audience to play along — it’s surprising it took so long to bring Wheel of Fortune to life.

Wheel of fortune Norwegian escape

But Norwegian Cruise Line has rolled out a stage version complete with all the bells and whistles — although minus Pat and Vanna. Having just experienced NCL’s version aboard Escape — one of first ships in the fleet to host the game — what did we think?

Read on, and we’ll tell you exactly that.

It Definitely Looks Like Wheel of Fortune

The first thing you notice upon entering the Escape theater is that they’ve done a pretty decent job of recreating the basic elements of Wheel of Fortune.

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The bright, almost circus-like colors, the three person podium at which people selected from the audience will compete.

And as people are filtering into the theater to settle in, some very fun (and funny) clips from the wildly popular game show are screened.

wheel of fortune at sea

Oh, wait… that’s really the second thing you notice. Because the first is the table set up just outside the theater where they give you instructions on how to purchase virtual “cards” which will allow you to play along and, just like with Deal or No Deal, which give them a pool of guests from whom the players will be selected.

Is There An S, As In Simplify?

Eventually, your host — in this case, cruise director Jeff — takes to the stage and begins explaining how things are going to work.

And I’m not kidding when I say that it takes nearly 10 minutes for him to explain the very complicated way in which you, as the audience, can score points (and prizes) and solve the puzzle, even if not selected to be on stage.

Wheel of Fortune at sea

Technical Kinks to Work Out

Now, right off the bat, making this a game that relies on people accessing the ship’s often-wonky internet and then scanning a QR code in order to enter additional information and purchase tickets is… a lot.

Has there ever been another ship-board show where, as you have one person on stage explaining how to access it, you have other entertainment staffers going through the audience and trying to help people access the system?

I suspect they’d have more participants (and, by extension, make more money) if they switched to the same actual card system used by Deal or No Deal.

I’d Like to Buy An E, As In Energy

Wheel of fortune at sea

Once the show got underway, you quickly came to realize just how important Pat Sajak is to Wheel of Fortune‘s success. And while Jeff did his best, well, he’s no Pat.

His general lack of energy — even though he seemed a bit befuddled by some of the interactive elements — translated to the audience, who were largely lackluster. (We did, however, react as one when a highly likable contestant hit the “bankrupt” wedge before she could solve the 90s-themed puzzle “The Spice Girls Take Over The World.” We felt her pain!)

Practice Makes Perfect

I suspect that the more experience Jeff gets under his belt with this new game, the smoother things will go. And how much fun an audience on any given ship has with this will depend on the host’s personality.

For example, it was surprising that Jeff did not actually talk to the three contestants the way game show hosts playfully banter with guests.

I walked into the Escape Theater excited to see how the ridiculously popular game show translated. Despite having a somewhat desperate desire to take a nap after a big, delicious meal at La Cuchina, I pushed aside my sluggishness, bought two cards for $25 (by the hardest), and was ready for a fun night.

Unfortunately, what I got was a good idea that needs a bit more work — and perhaps a different host.

Sorry, Jeff! By the time they started the fourth of four rounds, I’d seen enough and called it quits.

Is Norwegian's Interactive wheel of fortune a winner?

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