AIDA Cruises has come a long way since it launched itself onto the German market with its relaxed cruising concept back in 1996. President Michael Ungerer says: “Today we are the leading cruise operator in Germany. On the German market, we are experiencing a constantly growing interest in cruise vacations.”
Next year the company introduces its new generation of ships to the market under the banner ‘2015: Rediscover Cruising’. “I believe that, with AIDAprima, we will usher in a new age of cruising,” says Ungerer. “Our new flagship offers more room, more variety, more individuality than ever before.”
Highlights of the first of two ships being built at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries include the AIDA Beach Club, housed beneath an all-weather transparent dome, the Four Elements, with waterslide and climbing walls, and the AIDA Mini Club, providing childcare for children six months and older.
Another first is the AIDA cooking school. Fuego will be an additional buffet restaurant for the whole family. Of the 18 bars, two are new: the Spray Bar, over two decks at the bow operated in cooperation with Moet & Chandon, and the Lanai Bar at the stern on Deck 8.
The heart of the entertainment facilities is the expanded Theatrium, outfitted with a new circular stage, modern LED technology, aerial performance equipment for unique artist shows and an interactive floating globe.
AIDA receives high satisfaction ratings from passengers, which Ungerer puts down to “our high quality standards, excellent service and the most modern environmental standards”. However, the company is looking for further growth with more product innovations.
He explains: “Encouraged by the desires of our guests, we are constantly thinking about what will be the trends of tomorrow. AIDAprima is the first ship on which you will not depend on the weather.”
With Germany being the second largest source market in Europe and cruises becoming increasingly popular (as demonstrated by the 1.63 million Germans who booked a cruise in 2013), it is perhaps not surprising that AIDA has opted to place AIDAprima year-round in Hamburg from June 2015.
Ungerer says: “Being the first cruise line to have a ship setting sail from a German port all year round shows that we are again pioneers of the industry. I think our potential to grow further in this market is far from being realised. To continue we must keep up with the good work which is being carried out. We must constantly find ways to innovate our product and discover today the demands of future customers.”
When it comes to itineraries, it is too early for specifics from the 2015-2016 brochure, which is published at the end of March. However, he says: “What I can tell you today is that we are continuously expanding our programme in northern and western Europe.”
Ungerer cites some examples, such as the cruise season in Hamburg, beginning in March and ending in December with itineraries of between four and 10 days. “With the concept of shorter cruises, we appeal to city travellers as well as wellness fans,” he explains.
Turning to AIDAprima, there will be many environmental innovations on board. Ungerer comments: “I’m convinced that to be able to offer cruises successfully, we need to operate in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, not only when it comes to efficiency. The new generation of AIDA ships is setting new standards in terms of environmental protection.” He adds: “For us, sustainability is a question of responsibility. An AIDA ship currently consumes only three litres of fuel per passenger per 100km. AIDAprima will consume even less.”
Innovations include installing a comprehensive filter system developed with Carnival Corporation & plc to reduce exhaust emissions. “With this new exhaust treatment technology, we are able to filter and thus reduce between 90% and 99% of all three significant emissions, namely soot particles, nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide, for the very first time.”
Another first in the industry is the use of the Mitsubishi Air Lubrication System (MALS), which allows the ships to glide on a carpet of air, thereby further reducing fuel usage. The latest in pod drive technology also contributes significantly to the decrease in fuel usage. A completely new kind of hull design increases energy efficiency considerably.
Ungerer points out: “These new-generation AIDA ships will be the first passenger ships to be outfitted with dual-fuel engines that can also be powered almost emissions-free with liquefied gas regardless of availability in the port.”
Also incorporated to cut energy consumption and reduce emissions are, for example, silicon coatings for the hull, heat exchangers in the airconditioning systems, energy-saving lighting and a waste heat recovery system for the four main engines that not only works to generate steam and produce drinking water but also assists the airconditioning with cooling.
AIDA is working on initiatives such as the LNG hybrid barge, which will provide clean energy to cruise ships when in port, and has prepared all its ships that have come into service since 2007 for onshore power.
When it comes to sailing within Emission Control Areas, Ungerer comments: “We are supporting the step-by-step plan of the IMO for reducing ships’ emissions. Already today, our engines can use high-quality fuels, such as low-sulphur heavy fuel oil and gas oil.
“Low-sulphur fuels have been a reality at our important destinations for many years now. We have basically been using only low-sulphur fuel in the North Sea and Baltic Sea since 2007. In all European ports since 2010, engines have been using exclusively diesel with a maximum of 0.1% sulphur.”
He says: “From my point of view, it is not important which kind of fuel you are using. What is essential is how you can reduce the emissions in the most efficient way. We don’t just want to set new standards with our new ships, we want to continually improve the eco-balance of our entire fleet. This is why we will also be fitting our other ships with the new comprehensive filter system.”
This article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2014 edition of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.
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