Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 340 out of 500
Accommodation: 131 out of 200
Food: 249 out of 400
Service: 268 out of 400
Entertainment: 68 out of 100
Cruise: 270 out of 400
Overall Score: 1326 out of 2000
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: AIDA Cruises
Former Names: Aida, Das Clubschiff
IMO Number: 9112789
Builder: Kvaerner Masa-Yards (Finland)
Original Cost: DM300 million
Entered Service: Jun 1996
Length (ft/m): 634.1/193.3
Beam (ft/m): 90.5/27.6
Draft (ft/m): 19.6/6.0
Passenger Decks: 9
Total Crew: 370
Passengers (lower beds): 1,180
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 32.6
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 3.1
Cabins (total): 590
Size Range (sq ft/m): 145.3-376.7/13.5-35.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 48
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 6
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): No
Slot Machines: No
Swimming Pools: 1
Hot Tubs (on deck): 2
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: Euros
This is a busy, family-friendly ship for a frugal cruise
Overview. AIDAcara is for youthful and young at heart German-speaking couples, singles, and particularly families seeking good value for money in a party-like environment, with good entertainment. This is über-casual cruising, with two main self-serve buffet restaurants instead of traditional waiter service. It’s tablecloth-less eating, a bit like camping at sea, with little contact with the relatively few staff.
The Ship. The ship has a modern profile, with a swept-back funnel and wedge-shaped stern. The bows display the red lips and 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 the giant Carnival Corporation.
The open deck space is pretty tight, but sunbathing space includes some rather pleasant, reasonably quiet space above the navigation bridge. Dip pools and hot tubs, plus seating areas, are provided in a cascading, tiered setting atop the ship on the pool deck, providing a decent amount of sunbathing space. It’s all designed to be in a ‘beach-like’ environment, with splash and play areas.
Some decks of public rooms and facilities are positioned above the accommodation decks. Public rooms that have become common aboard all the ships include Aida Bar, the main social gathering place, whose principal feature is a star-shaped bar (whose combined length per ship probably makes them the longest at sea), with many tables for standing drinkers.
Other facilities include a shore excursion counter, library, seminar rooms, duty-free shop, several bars and lounges, and eateries.
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 - there are no formal nights on board. All port taxes and gratuities are included in all packages, and, with very attractive rates, a cruise provides much better value than almost any land-based vacation.
Families. AIDAcara is a family-friendly ship. 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 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.
Accommodation. There are several grades, from deluxe suites to interior (no-view) cabins, which makes cabin choice 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 - useful for families.
The decor is bright, youthful, minimalist, and slightly whimsical. All are accented with multi-patterned fabrics, wood-trimmed cabinetry (with nicely rounded edges), and rattan or wood-look furniture. Beds have duvets and a colorful Arabian-style fabric canopy from the headboard to the ceiling. The windows have full pull-down blackout blinds (useful in destinations with long daylight hours). Lifeboats may obstruct views in some cabins in the ship’s center.
The bathrooms are compact, practical units; they have a shower enclosure, small washbasin, and small toilet. As in the most basic hotels and motels, only a wall-mounted body wash/shampoo dispenser is provided, so take your own conditioner, hand lotion, and other toiletries you may need.
Thick cotton bathrobes are provided for suite-grade accommodation only, although non-suite grade passengers can obtain one from the spa. Two towels are provided - a face towel and a ‘bath’ towel, in two different colors. The ‘bath’ towels are not very large, at 54 by 27 inches - compared to 72 by 36 inches aboard P&O Cruises’ Azura, for example. Although the bathrooms do not have a hairdryer, one is located in the vanity unit in the cabin. Night-time turndown service is not provided, and there is 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. Naturally, suite-grade accommodation offers more space, including more drawer and storage space, better quality furniture and furnishings, a larger lounge area, and a slightly larger bathroom with a tub - and a larger balcony (those at the front and stern of the ship have the best).
Dining. Two eateries are included in the cruise fare: the self-serve Markt and Karibik restaurants. The opening times for lunch and dinner are 12.30-2pm and 6.30-9pm respectively. There’s also Rossini, a decent enough à la carte (extra-charge) tablecloth dining spot that serves good-quality meals cooked à la minute, and has friendly waiter service.
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, but there are no soup spoons, only dessert spoons.
The tables are almost all large, and, when the ship is full, it can prove challenging to find a seat, not to mention service personnel to clean the tables.
The standard of food at the self-serve buffet islands ranges from adequate to quite good, with creative displays and presentation, and table-clearing service that is sometimes efficient, but mostly not.
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. In all, over 1,200 items of food are offered.
Beer is available at the push of a button or a pull of the tap, and table wine - of the sort that would make a good drain cleaner - 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). Vending machines dispense out-of-hours snacks.
Other dining options. The Rossini Restaurant (à la carte), with mostly high-back seats, has an intimate atmosphere. Open for dinner only, it has a set five- or six-course menu (plus daily specials). There is no cover charge, but an extra charge applies to everything on the à la carte menu (such as chateaubriand, rib-eye steak), and for wines. Reservations are needed, tablecloths are provided, the food is good, and waiter and sommelier service are quite friendly.
Entertainment. The Theater, the main venue for all shows and most cabaret, is two decks high, with a raised stage, and amphitheater-style bench seating on all levels. The benches have back rests, and are quite comfortable, and sight lines are good from most seats, with the exception of port and starboard balcony sections, where sight lines are interrupted by thick safety railings.
In addition, there is a live band in the Aida Bar, the only room with a large dance floor (except for the disco).
Spa/Fitness. The Body and Soul Spa, is located forward on Deck 11, measures 11,840 sq ft (1,100 sq m), and contains two saunas (one dry, one wet, both with seats for more than 20 persons and glass walls that look onto the deck), body treatment rooms, and lounging area. There are also showers, and two whole ‘ice walls’ to use adjacent to the saunas (simply lean into the ice wall for maximum effect). Forward and outside the wellness center, is an FKK (Freikoerperkultur) nude sunbathing deck, on two levels. A beauty and hair salon is located separately just behind the balcony level of the showlounge.