As she made her inaugural arrival into Southampton, AIDA Cruises brand new AIDAprima glistened in the early morning sun. Just a few hours later and I would be onboard, along with a small group of British journalists and photographers. We were some of the first British people to visit what is predominantly a German-exclusive cruise ship. As a result of this, I know many people are curious about the AIDA brand and the facilities onboard its ships.
Over a year behind schedule, AIDAprima is the first in the line’s Hyperion Class, with AIDAperla launching next year. It’s AIDA’s largest cruise ship to date and its most eco-friendly, running off of LNG fuel provided by Shell while in port, and a low-sulfur fuel when sailing.
The first thing guests see when boarding is the spectacular Theatrium. An AIDA tradition since AIDAdiva in 2007, the theatre is combined with the atrium, creating a bright, and spacious three-tiered circular venue in the centre of the ship. Unlike most ships where the theatre is often unused during the day, apart from rehearsals, on AIDAprima it is a great place to sit and relax during the day, especially with the large floor-to-ceiling windows. The theatre itself is a technological wonder. A giant LED globe is suspended from the ceiling, as well as two sophisticated tracks on the ceiling used for moving aerial dancers around the large space and out into the audience! The stage can also be raised and lowered in multiple different ways.
Vinothek is the dedicated wine bar onboard as is a great place to relax in a quiet and intimate atmosphere, before heading for the theatre show or a meal in the nearby Buffalo Steak House. A specialty Sushi Bar is also located just a short distance away from the Theatrium.
Located at the front of the ship, within the bow itself, is the Spray Bar – a two-deck high champagne bar, in partnership with Moet & Chandon. Located on the top floor is a doorway leading outside onto a small sheltered deck space at the very front of the ship. There are also several quirky windows located along the walls and even the ceiling!
Nachtclub Nightfly is an adult-only lounge, featuring live entertainment and burlesque-style shows. Located next door is Disco D6, the main nightclub onboard. The decor was really funky, especially as you walk along the entrance way. There’s several booths dotted around, for those who want to escape the loud music and socialise with new friends.
As the theatre is situated within the atrium, a separate area called AIDA Plaza houses the onboard shops and is a popular meeting point among guests. Head to Scharfe Ecke for the best Currywurst at sea and other popular German sausages. Also situated within the multi-level AIDA Plaza is Tapas & Bar (serving exactly what the name sugguests!) plus a Magnum ice cream store.
East Restaurant located on Deck 6 is a complimentary buffet-style restaurant serving classic Asian cuisine, while the Bella Donna Restaurant serves Italian favourites. For a small surcharge, guests can dine in the Mediterranean-inspired Casa Nova Restaurant.
The Markt Restaurant wraps around the aft of Deck 6 and is the main buffet-service restaurant onboard AIDAprima. This buffet is all about serving fresh, quality and healthy ingredients, you’d expect to find at your local market stall, and this is immediately noticeable as soon as you walk through the main entrance, with an impressive floor-to-ceiling display of various fresh fruit. Inside, you’ll find a fresh meat counter – home to a butcher, slicing cold meats, such as prosciutto, right in front of you. There’s a tempting array of salad accompaniments and a wide range of desserts, including a scoop-your-own ice-cream, with various flavours, sauces and sprinkles to choose from! Sparkling water is placed on all tables, however complimentary drinks, including soda and wine are available in the majority of restaurants onboard the ship, which is a great touch not many other cruise lines provide.
One deck above is the bright and spacious Weite Welt Restaurant, serving cuisine from all far corners of the world. Guests can also choose to dine alfresco on the spacious outside deck overlooking the aft of the ship.
The wide promenade deck, called the Lanai, wraps around the outer edges of AIDAprima. Along the route are several outdoor dining areas, bars, sun loungers and even four hot tubs that overlook the sea. Although rather overlooked, balcony staterooms on Deck 8 feature a really cool feature. It’s quite hard to explain – this video highlights the features of the staterooms – but the balcony windows fold out to create a seamless transition from stateroom to balcony! It would be great to see more cruise ships adopt this innovative idea in the future!
Deck 15 on AIDAprima is home to Four Elements. Inspired by the four elements of the world – water, fire, air and earth – the retractable dome roof houses two waterslides collectively known as AIDA Racer, a lazy river, a ropes course, and a giant movie screen, with tiered seating. During our short time onboard, we managed to have a quick go on the ropes course and it was really scary, hard work and incredibly hot in the enclosed venue. The first two obstacles actually seemed the hardest to do, and they gradually got less intense as we went around the course, which included crawling through tubes, flying on a magic carpet, walking over Flying Saucers, and maneuvering around planets, to name just a few of the challenges that faced us! Also located near Four Elements is the dedicated family dining venue, the Fuego Restaurant.
Overlooking both sides of the ship at the back are four glass elevators and two glass-floored walkways called Skywalk that extend over the side of the deck!
One of the best venues on the ship however, has to be the Beach Club. This giant greenhouse (the official term is called foliendom) remains at a constant 25°C no matter what the weather is like outside (particularly great for a 7°C Southampton). It really did feel like you’d been transported to a tropical paradise! There is only one main pool onboard the ship, but it is very large and even has an indoor and outdoor section, allowing guests to swim from the cool outdoor temperatures of Southampton, to the indoor warmth of the Beach Club.
AIDA Bar is a popular place to have a drink on other AIDA cruise ships, and on AIDAprima that is no exception. Thanks to its unique star-shaped design, striking a conversation with someone new is very easy and is a great place to socialise in the day.
A peaceful hideaway is situated at the very front of the ship on Deck 16. The Patio Deck is an adult-only area, exclusive to those staying in Panorama cabins. The exclusive area features a large private pool, a dedicated pool bar, comfortable sun loungers, and amazing sea views from the two glass hot tubs overlooking the bow of the ship!
In summary, AIDAprima is a marvelous, modern and spacious ship. Although the ship was nice, I personally would not choose to cruise with AIDA. Unlike similar cruise lines like Costa and MSC, who cater for a European clientele, AIDA is truly dedicated to the German cruise market. The ship is great for families and also for those who want to relax, with several adult-only areas, but also plenty of family-friendly venues too.