Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 400 out of 500
Accommodation: 146 out of 200
Food: 265 out of 400
Service: 284 out of 400
Entertainment: 71 out of 100
Cruise: 291 out of 400
Overall Score: 1457 out of 2000
Size: Large Resort Ship
Cruise Line: AIDA Cruises
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 9398888
Builder: Meyer Werft (Germany)
Original Cost: €350 million
Entered Service: Apr 2010
Length (ft/m): 831.1/253.3
Beam (ft/m): 105.6/32.2
Draft (ft/m): 24.6/7.5
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (36,000 kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 14
Total Crew: 646
Passengers (lower beds): 2,194
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 34.4
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 3.1
Cabins (total): 1,096
Size Range (sq ft/m): 145.3-473.2/13.5-44
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 491
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 11
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: No
Swimming Pools: 3
Hot Tubs (on deck): 0
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: Euros
An upbeat, family-friendly ship for no-frills cruising
Overview. AIDA Cruises is for youthful German-speaking couples, singles, and particularly families seeking good value for money in a party-like environment, with excellent entertainment. This is all about über-casual cruising, with two main self-serve buffet restaurants instead of the traditional waiter service.
The Ship. The ship has a smart, contemporary profile, with a swept-back funnel and wedge-shaped stern. The bows display the red lips, as well as the blue eyes, of Aïda (from Verdi’s opera, written to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1871). AIDA Cruises, Germany’s largest cruise line, is part of Costa Cruises, which is itself part of Carnival Corporation.
Several decks of public rooms and facilities are positioned above the accommodation decks, and AIDAblu shares public room names common to all the ships in the fleet: Aida Bar, for example, the main social gathering place, whose principal feature is a star-shaped bar (it’s among the longest at sea), with many tables for standing drinkers.
A small casino features blackjack, roulette and poker gaming tables, and there are also a number of slot machines. There is also a separate aft sports deck, a ‘no music’ observation lounge, and an ‘art’ gallery. The embarkation entryway is innovative, has a bar and a lookout ‘balcony,’ and is cheerfully painted to look like a street scene in a city such as Copenhagen. A welcoming environment, it helps to calm tempers after waiting in a line to go through the security process for embarkation or in ports of call.
There are three pricing levels - Aida Premium, Aida Vario, and Just Aida - depending on what you want to be included, plus differences in price according to accommodation size and grade, and the itinerary. Opt for the basic, price-driven Just Aida package and the cruise line chooses the ship, itinerary, and accommodation for you - sort of a pot-luck cruise, based on or close to the dates you choose.
The dress code is simple: casual (no ties) at all times, and there are no ‘formal’ dress-up nights on board. All port taxes and gratuities are included in all cruises.
Families. AIDAblu really is family-friendly. Children are split into five age groups: Seepferdchen (4-6 years), Delfine (7-9), Sharks (10-11), Orcas (12-13), and Teens (14-17). Each has its own play area. There is a diverse selection of children’s and youth programs in a holiday camp atmosphere, and special Club Team members dedicated to making it all happen. Supervised by a chef, children can make their own menus for the week, and visit the galley to make cookies and other items - a novel idea more cruise lines could adopt.
Accommodation. There are several price grades, from deluxe suites to interior (no-view) cabins, so cabin choice is simple.
Contrary to maritime traditions (even-numbered cabins on the port side, odd-numbered cabins on the starboard side), cabin numbers progress numerically (example: 8201-8276 on the port side; 8101-8176 on the starboard side). All suites and cabins have two beds (convertible to queen-size bed). Some cabins also have two extra beds/berths for children, and some cabins have interconnecting doors.
The decor is bright, youthful, rather minimalist, and slightly whimsical. All are accented with multi-patterned fabrics, wood-trimmed cabinetry, and rattan or wood-look furniture. Beds have duvets and a colorful canopy from headboard to ceiling. The windows have full pull-down blackout blinds (useful in destinations with long daylight hours).
Bathrooms are compact, practical units; they have a shower enclosure, small washbasin, and small toilet. As in most basic hotels and motels, only a wall-mounted body wash/shampoo dispenser is provided, so take your own conditioner, hand lotion, and any other toiletries you may need.
Thick cotton bathrobes are provided, as are two towels - a face towel and a ‘bath’ towel, in two different colors. The ‘bath’ towels are not large, at 54 by 27 inches - compared to 72 by 36 inches aboard P&O Cruises’ Ventura, for example. The bathroom does not have a hairdryer (it’s located in the vanity unit in the cabin). There is no night-time turndown service and no cabin service after 3pm.
Cabins with balconies have a sliding door that’s easy to open and doesn’t impinge on balcony space; a small drinks table and two small, light chairs are provided. Note that balconies on the lowest deck can be overlooked by anyone on a balcony on the decks above. Balcony cabins have a hammock as standard, although it only accommodates one (thin) person. Some cabins (forward on Deck 5 - Nos 5103, 5104, 5105, 5106, 5203, 5204, 5206) have cabins with an outside view (well, outside light), but they are obstructed by steel bulkheads.
Naturally, suite-grade accommodation offers more space, including more drawer and storage space, better quality furniture and furnishings, a larger lounge area, and a bathroom with a tub - and a larger balcony (those at the front and stern of the ship are the most desirable).
Dining. There are three self-serve eateries: Markt (Market), Bella Vista (for Italian cuisine), and Weite Welt (Wide World) restaurants. The opening times for lunch and dinner are typically 12.30-2pm and 6.30-9pm respectively. Additionally, there’s a Buffalo Steakhouse (which serves excellent steaks), an à la carte Rossini Restaurant with waiter and sommelier service, a Sushi Bar, a Pizzeria Mare, and a Café Mare. These venues are open at set times (there are no 24-hour-a-day outlets, because there is little demand for them), although the Pizzeria typically is open until midnight.
In the three self-serve restaurants, the meal concept is simple: main meals are taken when you want them in one of the large self-serve buffet-style restaurants, with open seating at tables of four, six, or eight. Cutlery hangs in a rack (a rather unhygienic arrangement), and there are no soup spoons, only dessert spoons.
The many food islands and active stations cut down on the waiting time for food. There is always a big selection of breads, cheeses, cold cuts, fruits, and make-your-own coffee and teas - with a choice of more than 30 types of loose-leaf regular and herbal teas. More than 1,200 items of food are offered, and the fish section has its own fish smoking unit.
Beer is available at the push of a button or a pull of the tap, and table wine is usually provided in carafes on each table for lunch and dinner. Note that the beverage stations open only during restaurant opening hours, unless you go to the extra-cost coffee bar (Café Mare). In case you want something to nibble on, vending machines dispense out-of-hours snacks.
Other dining options. The à la carte Rossini Restaurant, with mostly high-back seats, is small and intimate. It is open for dinner only, and has a set five- or six-course menu, plus daily ‘specials.’ There is no cover charge, but an extra charge applies to additional items from the à la carte menu (such as caviar, chateaubriand, rib-eye steak), and wines. Reservations are needed. Tablecloths are provided, the food is rather good, and service is sound.
The Buffalo Steakhouse has an open ‘display’ kitchen, and offers various steak cuts and sizes - Delmonico, New York Strip Loin, Porterhouse, and Filet, plus bison steaks - and roast lamb rack. There’s a daily special - a prix-fixe meal (example: a 180g fillet steak, house salad, and dessert). It’s like going out to eat in a decent restaurant ashore - but there are no tablecloths. Wine or any other drinks cost extra.
A 12-seater sushi counter is for Japanese-style sushi and sashimi dishes.
A wine bar, Vinotheque, located in front of the Weide Welt (Wide World) Restaurant, has a list of premium wines, and Davidoff cigars (although you can’t smoke them at the bar - or anywhere inside the ship).
Entertainment. The Theatrium (theater) is in the center of the ship. It is open to the main foyer and other public areas, on three levels (Decks 9, 10, and 11), and topped by a glass dome. Amphitheater-style seating is on three decks (the bench seating on the two upper levels has back supports, but not on the lower level), plus standing tables, although sight lines to the raised thrust stage area are less than good from many of the seats.
Spa/Fitness. The spa, fitness and sports programming is extensive. The Body and Soul wellness/oasis area is located on two decks (connected by a stairway) and encompasses 24,750 sq ft (2,300 sq m). There is also an open-air wellness FKK deck for relaxation/nude sunbathing in an area forward of the ship’s mast.