12 June 2011

AIDAcara in Kiel, 22 May 2011

AIDAcara

IMO 9112789
Built 1996, Kvaerner Masa-Yards Turku New Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 38 557 GT
Length 193,30 m
Width 32,60 m
Draught 6,20 m
1 230 passengers
1 230 berths
4 MAN diesels, combined 21 720 kW
2 controllable pitch propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 21,5 knots

AIDAcara is Aida Cruises oldest ship and as such the very beginning of the veru successful casual cruising brand. Yet the history of the ship is a bit more complex than just being the first Aida ship.

During the first half of the 1990s the German cruise line Deutsche Seetouristik began planning building or acquiring a new ship, to complement their existing Arkona (which sails today as the Saga Pearl II). It's perhaps worth noting that Deutsche Seetouristik was originally an East German company. In any case, Deutsche Seetouristik were looking for a casual, club-like ship. Initially the company considered buying the Silja Line cruise ship Sally Albatross (today sailing as Louis Cruises' Cristal) but in the end opted for a newbuilt ship. The resulting ship does however bear strong resemblance to the Sally Albaross, and the looks have been carried over to the subsequent Aida Cruises ships.

However, Aida Cruises was still nonexistant at the time the ship, originally named simply Aida, was delivered in 1996. As a marketing slogan, she was referred to Das Clubschiff. Some sources claim this was also the ship's name at some point during her career, but this is not the case. Aida was a very successful cruise ship and her success attracted the attention of larger players in cruise business. In 1999 P&Oacquired 51% of Arkona Reisen (as the Aida's owners were now known) and established a new brand, Aida Cruises, for the Aida and planned new ships in similar vein. (The Arkona continued sailing for Arkona Reisen until 2001 but she was, naturally, never a part of the Aida Cruises fleet).

In late 2001 the Aida was renamed AIDAcara in preparation of the delivery of Aida Cruises second ship, the AIDAvita in 2002. Also in 2002 P&O Princess Cruises (as Aida Cruises' owners were now known) merged with the Carnival Corporation to form Carnival Corporation & plc. As a result of the merger, Aida Cruises now became a part of the Carnival Corporation's main European arm, Costa Cruises. Aida Cruises was never the less retained as a separate brand. Following Aida Cruises' extensive newbuilding programme, the AIDAcara is today the smallest ship in the fleet.

The photographs below show the AIDAcara departing the Ostseekai cruise terminal in Kiel on the evening of 22 May 2011. Click on the individual images to view larger size.

Reversing away from the terminal...
...and backing to the pool next to the HDW shipyard (in the background).
Notice the added balconies above the boat deck. They don't look too bad, for balconies added on later, but they don't seem very private - especially as the partitions between them seem very low.
The certainly eye-cathing livery with the eyes and the lips draw from the same original as the ship's name: Verdi's 1871 opera Aïda. According to a popular misconception the opera was written commemorate the opening of the Suez canal, but this is not the case (Verdi had been asked to write a piece for the occasion, but had declined).
Heading out after turning. Interestingly, the blue stripe along the superstructure windows was originally in a shade of darker blue (perhaps in reflection of her role model Sally Albatross' black-striped livery).
The funnel colours fit the rest of the livery beautifully, consdering the rest of the livery predates the funnel colours by several years. (Naturally) the ship originally carried Deutsche Seetouristik's bird symbol on her funnel.
Heading out for a Baltic Sea cruise.

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