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AIDAblu (II) 

AIDAblu sailing into the port of Amsterdam for the first time, at the 15th of march 2010.

Background

Although AIDA Cruises is a relatively new brand, the name AIDAblu was used twice already. When P&O started up AIDA Cruises together with Seetours in 1999, they planned to put one of their ships into the new company and wanted to give her the name Tosca. It seemed that the ships of AIDA Cruises, that sailed with the Aida at that time, would be named after opera's. The ship chosen was the 1989-built Crown Princess. Instead of this first plan, P&O ordered two slightly larger ships then Aida for the new company and Crown Princess was instead placed in the fleet of A'rosa Cruises under the name A'rosa Blu from june 2002 onwards. Next to this large ship, two rivercruiseships were also sailing under the A'rosa brand, that was loosely based on the AIDA concept.

When Carnival took over P&O Princess, the A'rosa brand was sold to a private firm and the A'rosa Blu was transferred to AIDA Cruises as AIDAblu. This was in 2004, just before the order for the new Sphinx-class was placed. In fact, the first AIDAblu was mainly used for the crewmembers to get familiar with larger ships so the step towards the 70.000-ton Sphinx ships wouldn't be that difficult. Just before the first Sphinx-class ship, AIDAdiva was put into service in 2007, the first AIDAblu was transferred to another P&O daughter, Ocean Village.

Construction and general statistics

The keel for AIDAblu was laid at the Jos L. Meyer werft at Papenburg, northern Germany at the 20th of october of 2008 and she was built under yardnumber S.680. The last of her 55 buildingblocks, the funnel, was added at the 7th of july of 2009. She finally left her building dock at the 5th of january 2010 and ten days later, she departed the wharf for her transfer towards the sea over the river Ems, a journey taking up 16 hours. She was the first ship of a slightly modified design to the first trio of ships, making her the largest ship within the AIDA Cruises fleet. Because of the change in design, the new ship was not officially a member of the Sphinx-class, but referred to as Ikarus-class. The ship measures 71.304 tons, is 252,07 meters long, 32,16 meters wide and she has a draft of 7,30 meters. In comparissement with her earlier sisters, AIDAblu is 1,44 meters longer. She can sail with up to 2500 passengers maximum, although her normal number given is 2174 based on two passengers per cabin. Also, 646 crewmembers are there. Her homeport is Genoa, Italy, due to the connections between AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises. She is propelled by two five-bladed propellers, powered by two diesel-electric engines of Siemens-design giving her a speed of around 22 knots. The main language aboard is German and the ship really caters for the German market, but the ships crew knows their English so that should not be a problem when your German is not that well. AIDAblu was delivered to the company at the 4th of february 2010, before she set sail for Hamburg where she was named at the 9th of february by Jette Joop, a German fashion designer.

Design

The ship has some novelties. She has its own micro-brewery where the beer that is served onboard is brewed, th first ship in the world to have one. A TV studio comes with the package and also, she has one of the largest spa's afloat, even surpassing the large Samsara spa aboard the Costa Serena and Costa Pacifica, once named the biggest Spa's at sea. The Spa onboard AIDAblu measures some 2600 square meters, some 300 square meters more then her earlier sisters. For children, a special Kids Theatre is also available. The deckspace aboard AIDAblu is some 50% more as that of her earlier sisters of the Sphinx-class, so that her decks do not feel crowded at all. Cabins are designed with a sunny-yellow shade on the walls, fine wood finishes and purple-red carpeting. Due to her clubship-style, cabins are only cleaned once a day but with the German thouroughness, for most people this will be adequate enough. Then there is the interactive entertainment system aboard, iTV and every cabin has a twin-sized bed, a sofa and  a bathroom with a shower. There is also the possibility of renting a free hammock for use on your balcony, if you have one.

For entertainment, the three deck high and 3000 square meter Theatrium of course is the central hub aboard, a combination of an atrium and a theater as the ship does away with the large broadway theater seen aboard other ships. But the shows that are performed here are no less interesting and every day another show is played so you'll never see a show twice while on your cruise.

There are seven restaurants aboard, including four buffet-style restaurants, all devoted to one particular style. There also is the possibility of a-la-carte dining and there are outdoor terraces with around 200 seats. Also aboard there are 11 bars, one of the main ones is the Aida Lounge, where the bar has been designed in the form of a compass-rose in the middle of the space, making it very easy to interact with other guests. The ship was, like her sisters, designed by the Hamburg-based Partner Ship Design. They created a ship for especially youth orientated guests, so do expect many children aboard when you cruise with the ships of AIDA. When you are looking for a quiet cruise, the ships of this company may not be your choice.  

The ever-smiling AIDAblu seems happy to have a small shower while entering the port of Amsterdam, I kind of like to know how big the smile on the ship was when she learned about her record crossing of the English Channel...

Carreer

After her naming, the ship sailed for the Mediterranean port of Palma de Mallorca, that could be named the Mediterranean homeport for the ships of AIDA Cruises, because they are seen there quite often. Afterwards, she has mostly been sailing northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and around the Canary Islands. A nice record was set by AIDAblu, when the magazine 'Ships Monthly' announced she had made a record cruiseship crossing of the English Channel (or La Manche for the French), between Le Havre and Southampton. I did not exactly know about this competition in this strech of water, that kind of reminds of the Blue Ribband of the North Atlantic. According to the magazine, AIDAblu crossed within 6 hours and 45 minutes, while the weather was truly bad with 70 mph winds and 5-meter high seas. This record crossing was made at the 5th of september 2011.

In early december 2013, the ship was berthed at Funchal, Madeira during a heavy storm and she was pushed against the pier, heavily damaging her portside. Luckily, it was only the outer skin of the hull and provisoric repairs made by the crew were adequate enough. The pier itself had also been partially flooded, so her passengers were unable to get off the ship. No injuries or worse were reported. 

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