Editor’s note: John Gaudiosi is a national journalist who has been covering the video game business for more than a decade. In addition to blogging for WRAL.com (“Gaming Guru) and covering the gaming industry for WRAL Local Tech Wire, he also writes about gaming for Wired Magazine, The Washington Post, Xbox.com and Yahoo! Games.

ABOARD THE NORWEGIAN SPIRIT—I had the pleasure of spending the last six nights aboard the Norwegian Spirit cruise ship, which sailed from New York City to Halifax, Nova Scotia and then made its way back towards the Big Apple with stops in Bar Harbor, Boston and Martha’s Vineyard. The reason for the trip, besides a little R&R, was videogame-related.

Nintendo signed a deal with Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) this past summer to install Wiis aboard all 13 of its ships. Beyond just having the consoles available to play, NCL has incorporated the gaming systems into its daily programming with tournaments and the ability to play Wii Sports games on giant movie screens in the ship theaters.

Although I’ve written about the Wii sensation that started last Christmas and has never subsided, it was amazing to see first-hand how popular Nintendo’s console is with people of all ages. With the summer over and kids back to school, the Norwegian Spirit saw its average passenger age spike from 37 to 57 and the number of kids on board per week drop from 800-plus to about 35. But that didn’t have much of an impact on Wii.

On the first night of the cruise, Wii Bowling was playable in the 900-seat Stardust Galaxy Theater before the live show. As the mostly older crowd filed in, they watched as passengers picked up the Remotes and played. The crowd really got into the game, cheering for spares and strikes. And I could hear conversations—since older people tend to speak loudly—involving Wii and motion-sensor controls and grandkids who have or want the system.

The next day, when I attended the first of a daily offering of free Wii play that was held at different locations and built into the ship’s itinerary, there were a few twenty-somethings in the room, but also men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s that were there to play. These aren’t your typical gamers, but they are the new audience that Nintendo is attracting with Wii.

The ship’s cruise director told me that many passengers ask where they can get a Wii after seeing it on board. (They’re not sold on board the ship.) The consoles, which are still hard to come by, are going to be more available this Christmas as Nintendo is ramping up production.

Nintendo, which has turned to alpha moms and senior citizen homes over the past year in its marketing of Wii to a new audience, has really found a brilliant opportunity with NCL. The people on board these ships have money—NCL is among the elite cruise ships—and they often have children and grandchildren. With tens of thousands of passengers boarding these 13 ships every week, Nintendo is reaching a diverse audience of influencers and giving them a free test-drive of Wii and Wii Sports. New EA Sports games are also being added to the roster. And for NCL, it gives them something rival cruise lines don’t have—the hottest game system out there.