You might have seen the cruise ships in port on your sailings in the Mediterranean or Caribbean. You know the ones, the ships with lips – right there at the bow. AIDA is part of the Carnival Corp. family of nine cruise lines, and it’s a line that caters almost exclusively to the German cruiser — and it’s especially popular for families.
I sailed for a week on the AIDA’s newest ship, AIDAperla. The ship has a big water park with a ropes course, fast waterslide and lazy river. This area and the small pool at the Beach Club were packed with adults and kids alike having a blast playing in the water together.
My cruise had 4,300 passengers onboard. More than 1,400 were youngsters and teens, and a great many of them were traveling with their grandparents. All signs, menus, entertainment, tours and almost every TV channel are in German. But all crew members speak English, so it’s not hard to navigate things.
As an American, it was quite a different experience than what I am used to from the major cruise lines with which I am most familiar, like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess, for examples.
Overall, here is what it’s like on an AIDA cruise.
The Beer – Being a German cruise ship, beer is a pretty big deal. This makes sense. The ship is one of the first to have an onboard brewery. Brauhaus is like an Oktoberfest garden, with long tables, entertainment at the stage and a master brewer who makes three craft brews right on the ship. AIDA passengers 16 and older can drink beer. This was a strange sight to see, especially for a cruiser from America, where the drinking age is 21.
We saw a regular group of young cruisers (boys and girls) gather in Brauhaus to enjoy beers from a 10-liter barrel that was set up on the table. This multi-serving barrel is 72 euros, and the youngsters would be there daily from about 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. slowly draining the barrel while holding court playing card games and chess.
Additionally, beer and wine (sodas, too) are included at lunch and dinner time in any of the ships five buffet eateries. Passengers line up early to get seats for their meals here, and many linger in these spaces to take full advantage of this amenity on AIDAperla.
The Spa – Your experience in the main areas of the spa (the pool, hot tubs, loungers and common areas) will largely be the same as what you are used to. But the saunas are clothing-free. That is the naturist style, as they call it in Germany. We know it as nude. And we also might think of it as “no chance in hell” am I doing that.
Under the Roof – Very few parts of this ship are open to the sky. AIDAperla was built as an all-weather, all-regions ship, and the waterpark and the Beach Club are under roofs and domes (they can be opened partially). There is a small portion of the pool on the outside of the domed space, making it a combo indoor-outdoor pool. But there are few loungers outside. The only spaces outside at the top of the ship are a short jogging track, mini-golf, chess, shuffleboard and a few small viewing areas, as well as some promenade and private spa areas on lower decks.
Even the exclusive sun deck for certain cabin categories and the nude sunbathing area (yes, they have that on Deck 17) are in covered areas.
Dining – AIDAperla has no main dining room. The ship offers a dozen places to eat and a few snack spots, as well. But Germans like buffets, it seems, and the ship has five buffet eateries.
It also has a steakhouse, Italian and French restaurants, Brauhaus, Tapas (Spanish small plates) and Rossini, a gourmet farm-to-table dining experience. You can also have a cooking and dining experience in a wonderfully appointed cooking facility, Koch Studio.
The Staterooms – Standard cabins don’t include mini-fridges, and ours also did not have a mirror anywhere but in the bathrooms. Yes, bathrooms. One small room houses the shower and a sink, and a second one across the entryway hall has a toilet and sink. We had a balcony cabin, and this small outside area features a hammock that can be strung across the space on two hooks, which we think is pretty cool.
Smoking is allowed on all the balconies (and there are many more smoking areas inside the ship and outside than you will find on U.S. cruise ships), and this unfortunately drove us back inside our cabins as it required us to slide our balcony doors shut frequently. Room service is not an option, either.
The Theatrium – AIDAperla also does not have a standard theater that U.S. cruisers would be familiar with. The space to watch shows on the ship fills the atrium space covering Decks 6 to 8. The smallish stage on Deck 6 faces rows of seats, and additional seating banks line the rails on Decks 7 and 8. Those who don’t get prime seats, can fill into a number of alternative seating options that line the atrium on these decks and be able to watch the game shows, music and dance performances and other programs on the numerous TV screens.
The Theatrium area is filled with activity all day and night, whether a show is on or not because all the decks here have several nearby bars and quirky seating areas that look out through floor-to-ceiling glass windows to enjoy views of what is outside the ship.
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.