| If you haven't heard of AIDA yet -- well, you're about to. This German-based line, part of the mammoth Carnival Corporation family, is launching its newest ship this week. AIDAdiva, one of the industry's few genuinely original designs to premiere this year, has been delivered from Meyer Werft to the cruise line; the inaugural festivities will take place in Hamburg this weekend. |
What's special about AIDA to begin with is its ultra-casual atmosphere (in fact it inspired the creation of the British-based Ocean Village) that's geared to attracting families and younger-than-usual cruise travelers. Interestingly, there's no big-ship line with a similar mellow ethos geared to North Americans. At least not yet.
With AIDAdiva, by far the largest in AIDA's fleet of five (learn more about AIDA), the emphasis is on options. This is the first AIDA ship with multiple specialty restaurants in addition to the traditional buffet venues that are staples on AIDA ships. The new eateries include a steakhouse, pizzeria and sushi bar.
Other special features -- not found on other AIDA ships or, frankly, most European-based vessels -- include a high percentage of cabins with balconies, and an increased number of entertainment options, the focal point being the Theatrium, a circular, glass-walled, glass-domed combination theater/nightclub located right in the middle of the ship and surrounded by several bars.
The ship marks another milestone for AIDA -- at 68,500 tons and 2,050 passengers, it's nearly twice as large as its fleetmates, such as the the 38,531-ton, 1,180-passenger AIDAcara, and the 42,289-ton, 1,266-passenger AIDAvita and AIDAaura.
AIDAdiva's sister ship, AIDAbella, will follow in 2008, and two more as-yet-unnamed ships will debut in 2009 and 2010, all cementing AIDA's position as by far the largest German cruise line.
AIDAdiva is set to depart on its maiden cruise on April 30 on an 11-day cruise commencing in Hamburg with stops in Paris (Le Havre), Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca, where it will be based for regular cruises.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor, and Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor