Costa prepares AIDA ship for its new Chinese home


Costa Group Asia is set to launch its AIDA cruise brand in the region next year, with the first AIDA ship arriving in Asian waters for deployment in April 2017.

The AIDAbella will be based throughout the year in China, homeporting in Shanghai as the first German cruise ship to ever sail from there, and the latest of a slew of internationally owned ships rushing to call the fast-growing city home.

With Germany now the greatest cruising nation in Europe, and China by far the greatest of Asia’s cruising countries, this may well be a match made in heaven. AIDAbella’s ‘Made in Germany’ concept brings such onboard features as an authentic ‘Wirtshaus’, and an Oktoberfest beer festival event, serving beers from a famous German brewery.

“The essence of our product, for which AIDA stands, will still be preserved, “ says Aida Cruises’ president, Felix Eichhorn. “However, we have taken a very close look at what connects the Asian guest with Germany. What premium products does he or she prefer? What cultural differences, including those relating to consumption habits, do we need to keep in mind?”

With these questions in focus, AIDAbella is undergoing a dry dock refit next March, prior to its Shanghai deployment and aiming to customise the vessel to best make its Asian guests comfortable. An Asian hotpot restaurant named ‘Hot & Spicy’ will be added to the buffet, the latter renamed ‘World of Asia’ – yet German brands such as Hugo Boss and high-end luggage giant Rimowa are also coming on board.

Costa Group has plenty of experience in the Asian region, with its Costa ships cruising this area since 2006 when they arrived as the first international cruise company to operate in the Chinese market.

“Over the past decade, Costa Group Asia has understood the market in China better than any other player,” says the group’s president, Buhdy Bok, “and we will remain committed to providing the most innovative and high-quality cruise products for our Chinese passengers.”

The group recently entered into an agreement with Sanrio Company Ltd to theme cabins with Hello Kitty fittings on three of its China-based ships: Costa Atlantica, Costa Serena and Costa Fortuna. Walls, doors, sheets and pillows have now been adorned with the iconic character and her friends.

“Since we are part of Carnival Corporation’s Costa Group, which includes AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises, our colleagues at Costa Asia will be supporting us with their know-how, particularly in the area of sales and human resources,” Eichhorn comments.

The 252-metre-long AIDAbella was originally built in 2008 and boasts four diesel engines that bring 50,000 horsepower and a speed of 22 knots to the ship. She can carry up to 2,050 passengers in her 1,025 cabins, 457 of which are balcony staterooms or suites. Just like her AIDA fleetmates, the AIDAbella is easily recognised due to the fleet’s trademark giant eyes and lips painted on the hull.