AIDA Prima Western Mediterranean
Of course you have seen these outrageous looking ships with eyes and a huge kiss mouth right on the bow, and you might be a little curious to find out what on earth it's about. I decided to find out for myself, and I went straight ahead for the flag ship herself.
AIDA isn't like anything else that I've experienced on the seven seas.
This is possibly as far away from classical cruising that you can get right now. If you love the freedom to do your thing, and have it your way then you're in for a good time. I actually can't remember standing in line a single time during this cruise.
Some things that stand out is the multitude of buffet restaurants on the ship. Together with the restaurants featuring table service they offer excellent food in nice environments. The variety should cater for most tastes . You can choose between European, Italian, Venetian, French, Oriental, gourmet, a steak house, a cooking studio an Alpine brewery and a couple of fast food places.
In the buffet restaurants you can help yourself to water, soft drinks and good enough beer and whine. The restaurant experience is an important part of cruising for a lot of people, and the buffet options on a ship doesn't seem to appeal to most review writers, but AIDA certainly challenges any pre-conceived ideas about grabbing your own food on a cruise ship. My wife was concerned about this, since she really enjoys being served at the table, but the quality, variety and environments in the different restaurants pleased her to the degree that she never even went to any of the restaurants with table service. However I did so. Out of pure curiosity I tried out French, Venetian and Alpine cuisine without getting disappointed. Even so, the impression was that people abandoned these venues going for the buffets instead.
Another feature that makes AIDA stand out is the Theatrium. It doesn't offer as many great seats as a theatre, and it's nowhere near as fancy as a classical atrium, but it's extremely (multi-) functional.
For a family where everyone is an individual with his and her own way of enjoying a cruise it's ideal way to come, go and regroup during a show in a way that you seldom can do on a cruise.
If the Prima has a theme it has to be innovation. The Theatrium isn't the only multi-purpose venue onboard. In the aft you'll find a kind of water playground that turns into a movie theatre at night. In case of a big televised event, like world cup football this will be the place where the passengers can enjoy watching a game on an enormous screen. The beach club is a kind of hybrid between indoor and outdoor that changes according to the climate, and it becomes a nightclub and event space in the late hours where you can actually swim up to the action. The Lanai deck is a delight. It's a wide out door deck that runs around a large portion of the vessel. Here you will find fancy stairs, classical German beach baskets, an aft bar with great views, the outflow of a restaurant, and infinity pools.
And who said that exit passages have to be horribly industrial in their appearances? Here AIDA got themselves a game changer with stylish venue design, plenty of interactive screens, a reception area, a cafe' where lots of items like fruit and sandwiches for your time in port are free of extra charge. And as if this wasn't enough there is a robot to play with while you wait to get off the ship.
Like other great cruise lines there is no baksheesh nonsense /gratuities/ service charges. The ship is well kept right through, and all crew are totally cool- just the way I like it. Of course this shoe does not fit everyone. If the classic design of ships, service, musts and don'ts is your thing then you may not be so impressed with AIDA. Another odd thing for most cruisers is the FKK-Bereich, a nude section right up up the top of the centre of the ship. Certainly not for everyone, but for the few a way to get away from the crowds and get a nice place in the sun at the same time.
And the flip side.
AIDA is all in for the German speaking market. So you either need a working command of German or you need to be cool about not always knowing what's goin on. Since you really don't have so much interaction with the crew you don't get any extra attention for being the odd ones. We were about 60 people from outside the main target group so the ship put on an international English language gathering with free drinks in one of the night clubs.
The tiny little outdoor pool area is far from sufficient. The hours you when you can serve yourself alcoholic beverages in the restaurants are limited and strictly kept. It's not the most generous cruise line when it comes to the port chuttles, but not among the worst either. Access to the Sauna is only at a surcharge. Our kids liked the cruise, but they enjoyed most other cruise lines better because AIDA really does not cater specifically for kids who do not speak German.
The ports were well chosen. Ajaccio on Corse is a delight. If you pass on a trip on this beautiful island and stay in the capital you can enjoy a pretty town and the beaches after a lunch onboard. Civitaveccia is for a visit to Rome and not much more. Livorno is definitely nicer than Civitaveccia, but you'r better off if you choose between Florence, Lucca or Pisa. The last stop on the cruise, Barcelona offers something for everyone.
Ajaccio on Corse is a delight. If you pass on a trip on this beautiful island and stay in the capital you can enjoy a pretty town and the beaches after a lunch onboard.