This is my cruise review for my recent Aidanova Canaries cruise. Cruisecritic doesn't currently have this ship listed in its review section, so I'm posting it here.
This cruise was a 7 night Canaries cruise on 16th November 2019.
As a British cruiser this was my first experience of Aida cruises and German cruising. It's important to note that this cruise line is directed exclusively towards Germans and you won't find an English website. However if you call their reservation line, all of the staff speak good English and will happily book your cruise. Likewise a travel agent will be able to make a booking for you. Personally I chose to use website translation and booked online.
Once you've booked there is limited access to your booking in English via Aida's website, but everything is available in German. Google Translate became my best friend throughout this process and helped me enormously to book restaurant reservations and added extras like beverage packages and a coffee machine. Likewise all documents will be emailed to you in German, not English. Again, you can find many pdf translation websites online to translate your documents.
I chose to cruise with Aida because I found a great price for a balcony cabin. In addition I was aware that the Aidanova was a brand new ship. Having previously cruised with Norwegian, P&O, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, I thought it would be nice to try something different. I was curious to see how different German cruising would be, if at all, from the UK and US cruising experience.
We boarded in Gran Canaria and boarding was incredibly easy and straightforward. Most if not all staff spoke English and we were onboard in less than 15 minutes. Be aware that Aida embark and disembark passengers at multiple ports, not just one. This is very much like MSC cruises. So during your cruise you're likely to see an influx of new passengers, as well as extra Muster drills (which you will not have to participate in). For our 7 night Canaries cruise we boarded new passengers in Tenerife as well as Gran Canaria.
Things I loved about the Aidanova.
The interior design and decor of the ship was beautiful, especially the restaurant areas. There's great attention to detail and theming without being too 'Disneyfied.' In particular the Sushi, Teppanyaki Asian and Ocean restaurants are beautifully themed. Likewise the 5 buffets look great, especially the Yacht Club which has vast LED walls and moving graphics. Overall, the entire ship is colourful without being excessive and gaudy.
Plenty of Bars & Restaurants
There are plenty of places to eat and drink as there are 17 restaurants on board. There really is something for everyone and for all tastes. When the restaurants are closed they have several casual eating areas to choose from. Their Street Food concept is fun, offering casual eats from 12pm til 2am. Here you'll find three food offerings: Sandwiches and Pastries, Donner Kebab and Currywurst Sausages. There's also a Barbecue bar offering hot dogs and loaded Fries during the day.
Balcony Comfort Cabin
The balcony comfort cabin (12087) had a light and bright decor with aqua marine walls and maple furnishings. The carpet had a sandy beach pattern and the balcony was very big. Note that it's much cheaper to book a guaranteed cabin than select your own with Aida. The price is doubled if you opt to choose your own cabin, so I would avoid that option. The bathroom was the largest we've had on a ship, but strangely there was no mini fridge in the room. The daily cruise itinerary that was delivered to the room was in German, but you can use the google translate app (camera option) to hold your phone up to the itinerary and translate it. (Wifi or 3/4G required). Failing that, a member of the crew will be happy to translate for you. All safety announcements were broadcast in English as well as German.
Plenty of Friendly Crew
All of the crew and servers on board were very friendly and all spoke English. There was never a long wait at any bar and if a mobile waiter saw you waiting, they usually approached you to take your order. Indeed there seemed to be an above average ratio of crew to passengers throughout the cruise.
Things I didn't like about the Aidanova
The removal of the Theatre.
Apparently Germans love buffet restaurants and the fact that there are 5 of them on board proves this. 4 of them are huge but get totally packed out at every dinner sitting. Now whilst I enjoy a buffet, these areas have come at the expense of an onboard Theater. Aida have removed a dedicated Theatre from the Aidanova and have instead merged the Atrium and Theatre together and called it the 'Theatrium.'
Whilst this sounds like quite a novel and innovative idea, I think it leaves a lot to be desired. Atriums are usually the only open and airy space inside a ship. They're generally the hub of a ship and offer an open design that helps make the onboard experience less claustrophobic. The Aidanova boasts a three deck high glass Theatrium and technically speaking this should flood the space with natural daylight. Sadly this is not the case. The entire space is taken up by the Theatrium and walkways. As a result limited daylight comes into the space unless you're sitting directly next to the windows. When rehearsals or a show begins on stage, all of the automatic window blinds close and make the area totally dark, like it would be in a theater.
Moreover, the capacity of the Theatrium is significantly less than that of a Theatre. This results in huge crowds of people having to stand on all three levels to watch perfirmances. Personally speaking this is a waste of a great Atrium window design. If you want to see the full potential of this space then look at the forthcoming P&O Iona which is the same design as the Aidanova. However the P&O design is much better. P&O have kept a separate Theatre and the Atrium is a glorious open space flooded by daylight. I've only seen this on YouTube, but I can assure you it's a much better use of the design and space.
Poor Structural Design.
In addition to the poorly executed Theatrium, the rest of the ship feels like a rabbit warren in it's design. In particular trying to access the buffets and rear sections of the ship can be confusing. The design of the ship doesn't flow like others I've been on, and it's very easy to miss whole sections of the ship. In many ways the location of certain key areas of the ship also feels misplaced. Guest services which is usually found near an Atrium was tucked away next to a set of lifts. This placement isn't ideal at all as it causes a bottle-neck due to passenger queues.
Because the Aidanova doesn't have a main dining room, extra pressure is placed upon the 5 buffets that have replaced it. You would think that 5 buffets would easily handle the crowds of passengers flocking to them, but sadly this was not the case. Every day Breakfast and Dinner became a buffet cattle market with lots of buffet refugees endlessly seeking available seats and tables. We often had to give up on one buffet and move to another one in search of a seat. What was also odd was the lack of 2 seater tables considering the quantity of couples on board. There was an over abundance of 4-6 seater tables. Every buffet was a bustling and hectic experience and we were thankful to leave the area as quickly as possible. To be fair, the later you attend the buffet the less crowded it becomes, but then you have to settle for eating very late in the evening. The lunch buffet was also much less crowded, especially on Port days.
The food inside all the buffets was practically identical, regardless of its theming. This was odd considering the themes of the restaurants such as Italian. There was a range of German cuisine on offer but there was also plenty of non German fayre to be had. Sadly the cuisine never changed from night to night and became boring very quickly.
Small Swimming Pools
The two swimming pools on board are TINY for a ship that's 180,000 tons and holds upward of 6000 people. The Beach Club especially, which is under a large dome at the top of the ship is a vast area, but Aida have chosen to make this a social space for live events with a stage and a bar with a very small pool to one side. This is an odd design choice. Though as a large open space, it does compensate a little for the lack of an Atrium. Again, P&O plan a much larger pool for this area on the Iona. I believe that the forthcoming Carnival Mardi Gras is also the same ship design as the Aidanova, so expect Carnival to do things differently too. There is, however, a plethora of hot tubs situated all over the ship.
Smoking Allowed on Balcony Cabins
Though smoking wasn't allowed anywhere inside the ship, smoking was permitted on all Balconies. We had several instances where we had to vacate our balcony quickly due to the stench of cigarette smoke as it was very strong. This was a real shame and not something that's allowed on US and UK cruise ships. (though many still flout this rule)
Overall we enjoyed our Canaries cruise on the Aidanova. Funchal was well worth visiting, but the other ports were much less attractive. It was very interesting to see how the Germans cruise and the ship itself was lovely. However I don't think we would cruise with Aida again. It's simply much easier to cruise on a ship where everyone speaks English. This avoids those awkward moments sharing tables at meal times, as well as the fact that all entertainment and excursions are in German, making it hard to enjoy.
I think P&O and Carnival will do a better job with the design and layout as they will stick to a conventional theatre space and separate atrium. Also they will both have main dining rooms and no need for multiple buffet restaurants.
In many respects the Aidanova is a brave design that dares to break with cruise design convention. In this respect Aida are to be admired for such a bold move and there are many people who loved the Theatrium. However I would question its execution, as its come at some cost to other areas of the ship. Though it makes me wonder whether other cruise lines will see this 'innovation' as a way of cramming in more attractions onto a ship by removing traditional spaces.