When the 38,600-ton, 1,250-passenger Aida launches service next month, she becomes more than just another new ship with her smiley-face painted bow.
Built by Kvaerner Masa-Yards for DM 300 million for Gennan-based Deutsche Seerederei (DSR), the Aida is designed for so called "club cruises," according to J.F. Engel, Managing Director, and developer of the concept. He said the ship is designed for the clientele which goes to Club Med and the German version, the Robinson Club, and for past cruisers who are not fond of conventional cruises.
The Aida will sail alternating seven-day cruises in the Mediterranean during the summer and in the Caribbean, from the Dominican Republic, during the winter.
"We know from market research that there is a large potential market of cruise passengers who hesitate to take conventional cruises," Engel said.
"This is the type of person who dislikes the typical cruise program and believes cruises tend to be for the elderly and that cruises are old-fashioned and boring.
"Our resort club experience has shown that today's modern travelers want three things: first, a range of activities including sports; second, fun and entertainment; and third, they want to meet other people with similar backgrounds.
"Thus, we planned the Aida for the young and sports-oriented in the age range from 30 to 55, who are also experienced travelers and are looking for fun, activities and special events."
Engel also said that DSR realizes that it may take time to make the trade and the consumer fully understand the concept and that DSR is prepared to roll out a "lot of publicity and marketing, if necessary."
The German-speaking populations of Germany, Austria and Switzerland count more than 100 million.
Among the Aida's facilities is a large spa, referred to as a "wellness center" in German, a theater, disco and bars, and a large sunbathing area.
There are also four restaurants, one of which is open 24 hours; and one restaurant with waiter service. Soft drinks, beer and table wines are complimentary.
The dress code prescribes casual attire instead of formal evenings.
"Every public space has multiple functions," Engel said. "Thus, we can create events and happenings anywhere, anytime. We can turn a bar into a small theater, a restaurant into a lounge, or the theater into an aerobics center.
"We want to create different atmospheres and continuously change to surprise our passengers and take them from one happening to another," Engel said.
"You may call this 'event hopping' which is the latest trend in German tourism," Engel added.
Up to 1990, DSR was a government company of the former East Germany. Its flagship, the Arkona, cruised mostly with selected members of the East German labor unions and government.
Following the reunification of Germany, DSR was sold to a Hamburg company and is today part of a group that also includes tour operations, hotel ownership and management, club resorts, and a growing chain of travel agencies in norlhern Germany.