New ships are in the pipeline at AIDA. “We have developed a wonderful new project with Carnival Corporate Shipbuilding and are in discussions with shipyards at the moment,” AIDA President Lars Clasen told Cruise Industry News just prior to announcing his own move to Deutsche Seerederei. While he would not release any more details, Clasen did suggest that the new ships will be somewhat larger than the existing fleet. The first delivery is expected in 2007.
The club ship concept was first introduced in 1996 and has since been refined. The AIDAblu offers service elements that were adopted from the A’Rosa Blu. “We have broadened the AIDA concept,” Clasen said. “We have added more choices, more service elements and made the concept more sophisticated. But we have maintained all the efficiencies,” he added. “The new ships will offer a further development of the AIDA concept – slightly bigger, but not much.”
“The key to successful cruise ship operations is to have the lowest possible cost,” Clasen explained. “If you can achieve that with medium-sized ships, you are fine,” he said, adding that AIDA’s cost structure compares favorably to cruise lines operating much larger ships.
Clasen explained that gaining cost efficiencies starts with the design process of a ship. He noted that AIDA splits each day into 15-minute intervals of what the guests can be doing, what value they can receive, and what they may be willing to pay for.
“We are not just saving money by offering buffet food service,” Clasen said. “We also have other departments with much lower crew compliment, and our processes and ship designs are also different. We have the efficiencies of bigger ships.” He also pointed out that the buffet service is different too, with many different islands with staff serving, carving or cooking, while there are no lines. “This is why people accept it,” he added.
This summer, The AIDAblu sails in Northern Europe, while the other three ships are in the Mediterranean. The AIDAvita is sailing from Palma de Mallorca, while the AIDAaura is sailing from Heraklion and the AIDAcara from Antalya – all three offering alternating seven-day itineraries.
Next winter, the AIDAcara, which was in the Far East this past winter, will instead be sailing from Palma de Mallorca. The AIDAblu goes to the Canary Islands, while the other two go to the Caribbean, the AIDAvita sailing from the Dominican Republic and the AIDAaura from Jamaica.
The Far East winter program of the AIDAcara will not be repeated. Clasen explained that last season was impacted by the war in Iraq and SARS, both of which necessitated discounting to fill the ship, in addition to high flight costs. He described the winter deployment of the AIDAcara out of Palma de Mallorca as AIDA’s version of “homeland cruising.”