Jetzt Ich Bin Ein Aida Fan

June 1, 2008 -

John Heald

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer may have had a very shiny nose but he wasn’t the only bugger pulling the sleigh on which sat the big bloke with the white beard.

James Bond has saved the world from villains such as Blowthrough and the man with three nipples, but if James was 007 there must have been 001 and 008 etc who were also blowing up hollowed out volcanoes and destroying cat stroking would be masters of the world.

Why you ask am I whaffling on about reindeer and secret agents. Well, I guess my point is that while we can name the deer with the large red hooter and the 00 agent who saves the world once a year, most of us don’t remember that even though they may not be such a household name there are others who deserve just as much recognition.

Think then of Carnival Corporation and for those many cruise industry knowledgeable people you would say ” ahhh yes, that is made up of Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Costa, Cunard ……oh yes…..P and O and. ummm……ummmm…….and then we really have to think ……some of us may get the gorgeous Yachts of Seaborn but fewer of us would mention Aida……..and as I learnt today……..that’s something we must stop doing as after what I have seen today……..this cruise line deserves to be mentioned as a definite part of The A Team.

The morning started with a fashion statement from my wife which went ” your not wearing that shirt ” and so my nice and comfortable blue polo shirt was replaced by a red and white stripy short sleeved shirt which had come straight out of the laundry and had a collar as stiff as the guards outside Buckingham Palace.

Anyway, once I had passed inspection we headed to breakfast. I have to admit that I wasn’t in the greatest of moods, not just because of my stiff collar but because for some reason I couldn’t sleep last night. It was a beautiful night and the hotel in Sorrento was nice, but unlike the mattress at Mrs. Totti’s. B and B which was like sleeping on a bed of Jessica Simpsons the mattress last night was like sleeping on I 95.

However, my moody morning soon lifted as I breathed in the view. Sorrento is stunning and from the terrace the tanzanite coloured water sparkled, the sun was already generating lots of heat and I remembered that somebody had said recently that Europe was the new Caribbean……maybe……..we just need the Italians to learn how to braid hair.

We also need to teach the Italians how to organize lines as they obviously graduated from Easy Jet University.

We had stood with the other 200 people all trying to buy tickets to Capri, Naples and Ischia we came away beaten and bruised but proudly holding two tickets to Naples above our head. However, we had paid the price. We were hot, sweaty and even my shirt collar once proud and standing to attention now was droopy and floppy……..and I am sure it wasn’t just my shirt collar that had those symptoms.

The ferry ride from Sorrento to Naples takes just 30 minutes. The same journey by car would take 2 hours and a lot of being sworn at………………..driving in this area requires skill and a knowledge of Neapolitan hand signals and as I always say……….brown pants.

The ferry ride was however much more relaxing and we stood outside in the breeze and watched the beautiful private yachts sail by…………..I even saw George Hamilton again.

And so we arrived at the ship and as the ferry brought us into the harbour we had our first close up view of the art work on the bow. Now, as regular readers of my thingy will know I am not a big fan of some of the art work slapped on the outside of some of the ships. However, and not just because AIDA is part of the family. Whereas, other cruise lines just give a paint brush to a hippy who is already a bit happy before he sniffs the paint and splashes his paint in a Freestyle and slap happy way…………….Aida’s art make sense………..it compliments what’s inside. Think of it as an Honda Accord…………you can paint stripes and go faster crazy custom designs on the outside but once you get inside……………well……………it’s still a Honda Accord. That’s the same with other vessels………….they have all these crazy futuristic and meaningless designs on the outside but inside……………..well…………it is still The M/S Honda Accord……………………sorry to any Honda drivers but I don’t think Norway has a car industry.

However, with AIDA diva’s outside art work what you get outside is a taste of what you get inside,……………………it does exactly what is says on the label.

The highlight of the artwork on the bow is a luscious pair of ruby red and orange lips. The kiss me now lip design is the signature mark of German artist who has created similar designs on other Aida vessels although no two pairs or is it no two pair……………anyway the lips are different on every ship and are also a feature of every piece of his art, much of which is for sale onboard.

We arrived at the gangway of the AIDAdiva and I was immediately reminded how lucky I am to be allowed to visit all our brands. This was enhanced by the fact that our guides for the day arrived in the shape of Captain Lutz Leitzsch and Club Direktor Clemens Spangler. In case I forget would you allow me to thank them now? I realise how important port days are for the crew so to have the two most senior officers spend the day with Heidi and I is truly wonderful………..thank you gentlemen.

Before I give you the grand tour let me tell you about The Germans and their love of vacation. There is nothing more important to a German than their vacation or Die Ferien as say the locals. German people work hard…………harder than many other European countries and if a German says they will be there at 11:05am……….they will be there at 11.05am……………the British will be there at 11:30am or when they have had a tea break and the French will be there on Thursday.

Anyway, this very strict work ethic means that when German’s go on vacation, they play hard and having seen what I did today my misconception that the German’s have no sense of humour is……………Das Bollocks.

So, AIDA caters for hard working Germans of all ages and let me try and explain the Club system to you.

Club style vacation is very popular in Germany where everything is included in the final cost and where they can do what they want when they want…………..you will see what I mean shortly when we begin our tour. The concept that this land vacation dominated club style vacation could be transferred to a cruise liner was a little difficult at first. This was because of one of the most popular German TV programs ever……………Das Traumschiff…………..the German version of the Love Boat. This program was a huge hit in the 80’s and featured characters like Der Kreuzfahrt Direktor (Cruise Director) Helga Macoy and unfortunately portrayed old Germans playing cards and going to bed at 8:00pm with a good book and a glass of warme Milch (warm milk)………….then along came AIDA and suddenly the German’s had their club style vacation at sea ……………..and oh……….how they love it.

The AIDAdiva is indeed made up of 2050 German and Austrian guests with one or two other nations represented here and there but 98% are German speaking. There are 600 crew of which 250 are German speaking. Most of these are employed in the service areas however there were many crew from Asia who speak little German but who I saw communicate quite easily with the guests.

One more note about the AIDAdiva crew. I will be explaining more about the Club concept shortly but one way to describe it would be “easy going” and totally relaxed. This was evident also in the crew who all seemed relaxed and to be enjoying life on board. Sometimes the industry throws so many rules and regulations at the crew that having fun with the guests can sometimes appear to be forced. This certainly was not the case with the crew who all seemed to love working in the relaxed style that the Club environment produces.

And so our tour began. Heidi’s attention was immediately drawn to the balcony cabins which along with the usual lounge chairs also contained inviting looking hammocks. I asked the Captain if I could try one. He said “Nein”, I said “No, just one” and we carried on with our tour.

The AIDAdiva is full of bright and cheerful colours and its design is truly unique.

There are no formal nights and the evening dress code is simply cruise casual, something which is very important to the German guests.

At the center of the ship is the showroom……….uhhhm, except…….it’s not a showroom and thinking outside of Das Box, the designers have created something totally unique. The theatre has been replaced by something called Theatrium which is a cross between a theatre and an atrium. It has no doors and this means that it is constantly open and even show rehearsals are open rehearsals and indeed are listed in the daily program for people to enjoy. The Theatrium is built “in the round” with great seating everywhere. There are 4 performances per evening and I particularly enjoyed hearing that the shows were recorded and replayed on the guest’s TV’s throughout the week. The highlight surely is the Cirque style performance with a beautiful young lady performing miracles high above the Theatrium suspended from what looks like a few bed sheets. This is also the place for lectures and afternoon fun and activities. It has a open feeling to it and although not your usual showroom, it has all the gimmicks and gadgets for a striking show, yet somehow the design makes you feel, once again, totally relaxed to see the show or just pass through.

This is one of many examples of this feeling. There are no doors, no passageways, just one area connecting to another making the ship feel much bigger than it actually is.

Indoors there are many areas for Club style relaxation. Huge, soft, comfortable, inviting, sleep inducing chairs and beds are located throughout the ship. They include headsets to listen to relaxing music or at a press of a button a TV appears for you to watch a movie or replay of the show. These seats and beds are located in such a way as to give you the best views of the sea and the ports of call. I know, I keep going on about chairs and the need to make them comfortable…………………well, here on the AIDAdiva they had outdone themselves and as you will see in today’s photos, their seating is as comfortable as an old pair of underpants.

Relaxation is at it’s peak in the Wellness Center. This cavern of delight includes more huge sofa bed seating, a private jacuzzi and a chance to sit in the sun or in the shade in total peace and tranquility. There is a 15 Euro charge for this, however, I was told it is very popular.

The open deck spaces are, once again, truly magnificent. They include 2 main pools and a walking track filled with cold water where you can go for a refreshing paddle.

Now, I should explain that the Germans, like many western European people, love anything outdoors. They work indoors all year and therefore anything and everything they do on vacation, they do outside. Therefore, AIDAdiva has brilliantly designed the open decks to allow for this fetish. No more so than my favorite part of the vessel and something that I wish I could have on a Carnival ship. It is called the Anytime Bar. This is located at the aft part of the ship and is a huge nightclub with half indoors and the other half outside…………… no doors…………………just a brilliant use of space and by far the most popular place to be at night. This may also be because it is one of only 2 smoking locations on board. How superb then that smokers and non-smokers alike can enjoy this brilliant location and thanks to half of the room being outside, the smell of smoke is virtually non-existent. This is something that I hope we can put on other ships as it certainly gives the best of both worlds and being able to enjoy the experience indoors and outdoors at the same time is just wunderbar!

Continuing with the German’s love of being outdoors, the themed deck parties are truly extraordinary. The open deck has a large stage and entertainment complex. There are four deck parties during a seven-day cruise, including Club 54, 80’s and famously, an iconic outdoor laser show. From what I was told today, the German passengers celebrate like no other and these deck parties are something to be seen.

As we toured the ship, there were quite a few passengers still on board, most of which were sunbathing. The Germans love their sun and some love their sun so much that they want an “all over tan”.

Now, if you remember, a few months ago Heidi was walking on the deck of the Carnival Freedom when she came across ein Freie Willy…………………..or for those people who do not understand my German translations…..a naked sunbathing man. While this particular style of sun worshipping is not permitted on board most cruise ships, it is definitely allowed on the AIDA vessels. This is done in an enclosed area. I was invited to have a look and was about to say yes, when I got one of those looks from Heidi that said, don’t you dare………..Das Bugger.

Certainly, the open deck design is one of the very best I have ever seen and once again, a lot of thought is gone into what the passengers really want and really expect on a Club style vacation.

Jetzt sprechen wir von den Mahlzeiten. ………………..or …………….let’s talk about food.

Today was the wrong day to start my diet……………….so I didn’t. Never before, and I mean this with the greatest respect have I seen better presentation of buffet style food than I did today on AIDAdiva. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served buffet style or Club style and not only is the presentation is the best I have ever seen but the choice is beyond belief. Club style also means that you can eat when you are hungry and sit who you want to sit with anytime you want to. This is the German way of not being told when to eat and is what makes Club style cruising so popular with them. Unlike some Lido areas, which offer good food but with dampened down service and decor, AIDA has gone all out with luxurious seating and total service. Before I describe some of the food, I should tell you that included in the price of the cruise is unlimited wine, soda and beer with breakfast, lunch and dinner……….and trust me, yes, they have beer with breakfast.

In the same way as passengers would help themselves to free ice cream on some ships, so is the case at meal times with passengers helping themselves to draught beer at meal times. Soda machines are located at every station and the easy going staff will place a jug of white or red wine on your table before you bottom is on the chair. And so to the food.

The choice includes ……………………….and I say includes……………….because I can’t remember it all……………….the following.

Bella Vista – A huge Italian designer restaurant featuring a buffet presentation of pastas and Italian delights.

Weite Welt Restaurant – This centerpiece contains delights from around the world. Each day you can chose delights from 24 different countries. Today this included China, Sweden, The Philippines, to name just three. There was also a most wonderful salad bar which I totally ignored (my diet starts right now) and so many different dishes, it was overwhelming.

A note to other cruise lines. AIDA, allow their chefs, who are from all over the world, to cook their traditional dishes for the passengers. They utilize their talents for which I applaud them. The highlight of the food selection was the Markt Restaurant (Market Garden Restaurent). When you enter the colours of the world’s fruit are so vibrant, you find yourself reaching for your sunglasses. Then you discover the German world of sausages and meat. As you will see from the photo tomorrow, these meats, hams and sausages are a carnivores dream. Also located here is something again, I have never seen before a ” smokery “. Here you find a talented Chef trained in the art of smoking fresh fish, including Herring, Mackerel, Trout and many others……………..the smell was divine and I am not surprised that this particular area was one of the most popular on board.

Of course, as is tradition on ships these days, there are also areas where for a fee you can enjoy a special dinner in one of the restaurants. This is no exception on the AIDAdiva.

There are two specialty restaurants. The first is called Rossini Restaurant. What I liked about this restaurant is that it has a different menu every night. The food is adventurous and modern and complimented by deep varnished wood and expensive cream leather seating and is the only place on board that has a semi formal dress code. What I particularly liked here was that the menu changes every night, something which may be similar restaurants on other ships can take a look at. Twice a week you can indulge yourself in a 11 course dinner…………………that’s right, 11 courses, 12 if you include Das Stoppenvonfahrtenpillen you will need afterwards.

Then there is the Buffalo Steak House. Germans are big meat eaters and it is not surprising that many vegetable names do not translate into German. For example broccoli in German is Das Broccoli and it is meat that makes their world go ’round. It is not surprising therefore to find a fantastic steak house on the AIDAdiva. The room is dominated by 2 huge real Buffalo heads who oversee the cooking and service of some of the finest steaks and meats at sea. The Captain and Club Director told me that everyone who comes to the Buffalo Steak House is very very happy……………………………except the 2 buffalo’s who are happily mincing about on plains and suddenly found themselves with kein Legs and stuck on a wall watching Hans and Gretel munch on a Porterhouse.

Once again, tremendous thought has gone into the Germans’ love of the great outdoors and there are many areas to enjoy the buffet delights outside. Again, I know I am repeating myself but honestly, you have to see the food selection. Don’t be put off by the word buffet, this is a buffet like you have never seen before and is one of the main reasons why Club style cruising is so brilliant and so popular with the Germans.

My poor fingers will not allow me to tell you about the yoga center, the gorgeous spa, the casino, the AIDA bar (which is the longest bar at sea), the AIDA lounge, the fact that every cabin is smoke free, except on the balconies and that every cabin has internet access.

My fingers are too tired to tell you too much more but one thing I must mention is something that I guarantee you have never seen before.

The two most popular drinks in Germany are coffee and beer. Picture this.

You are waiting for a tender or to go ashore and you are thinking of a place to meet your family and friends. So, putting this together, the people at AIDA have produced an extraordinary tender / embarkation bar and lounge where right by the gangway and right where the tenders embark from, you can sit, relax and have ein Bier oder ein Kaffee. A platform also extends outwards giving you great views and a total unique place to wait for your transportation ashore and just watch the world and the ocean go by.

It seems that someone just gave the people at AIDA a blank piece of paper and said ” You know what, why don’t you think outside the normal parameters of cruising and create a truly unique design for Club style cruising “……………………and you know what, they did and my goodness, how it works.

Give me this ship with this design in the Caribbean for United States Spring Break, I can only imagine how they would just love this.

I can see now why Carnival Corporation was so excited to have AIDA as part of the family. I can see just why Club style cruising is so popular with the Germans and I cannot see why a similar concept would not work with other nationalities or demographics.

At the beginning of this blog I mentioned that maybe AIDA have not been given the recognition it deserved. Well, there is no “maybe” about it.

You know, a few weeks ago I was in Germany. At the time the AIDAbella was due to be launched and this occasion was celebrated by the flying of the German flag from cars and buildings……………National Pride was there for all to see……………….and after seeing what I did today I can understand why

And so we return to our hotel. Ready to pack for our journey to Genoa and the shipyard tomorrow. My diet starts as of now and I live off the fumes of the smokery and other delicious delights I saw today.

Danke Schoen to all those who made today so special and if you see an AIDA ship in port, you will know that on board are 2050 German speaking guests who are having the time of their lives………………….you will see the name AIDA and hopefully realise as I do now that this cruise line is very, very special………………..and deserves total recognition………….oh ………and if you are docked next to an AIDA ship and walk out onto your balcony to have a look at what club style cruising is all about ………………remember……………some of the passengers……………………will be naked !

I leave you with some photos:


AIDAdiva


AIDAdiva


AIDAdiva


Hammock on the balcony


The Welness Center


The Welness Center


One of the open decks


One of the open decks


The anytime bar


A great way to show you which bathroom is yours


A great way to show you which bathroom is yours


Heidi lounging in the AIDA lounge


John and his ex-girlfriend in the Buffalo Steak House


The Buffalo Steak House


John, Heidi, Captain Leitzsch, Club Director Spangler with one of the performers in the Theatrium


Markt Restaurant


Markt Restaurant


Smoking the fish


Markt Restaurant


Markt Restaurant


Tender Embarkation Bar


John on his Raspberry, what a shocker


The view from our hotel balcony in Sorrento, guess the name of the ship

Guten Nacht

Ihre Freunden

Johann und Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.