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Carnival Corporation AIDA Cruises: Worst Thanksgiving in history


Said one passenger who had booked the Pre-Christmas Cruise already in March and paid the full amount for a voyage in April 2018, “Worst Thanksgiving in history.”

Last-minute cancellations of booked cruises for December on AIDAnova, the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) operated cruise ship in the world until  December 19, left thousands of passengers frustrated and angry. AIDAnova is a cruise ship built by Meyer Werft GmbH in Papenburg, Germany, under contract from Carnival Corporation forAIDA Cruises.

According to customer information from the cruise company, Meyer Werft and its partners needed a little more time. In addition to the maiden voyage, due to sail from Hamburg to Gran Canaria on December 2, five more cruises have been canceled. There also has been a fire in 2 cabins when sailing for test voyage. It is not clear if it was arson; Dutch police are still investigating.

The ship will now be handed over to AIDA Cruises in December and available on December 19 for the first guests in Tenerife, Canary Island.

AIDA is Europe’s largest German cruise line (followed by TUI) targeting younger and more active travelers. AIDA was founded in 1960 (as “Deutsche Seereederei”) and in 2000 was acquired by P&O Princess Cruises, which in 2003 merged with Carnival Corporation (shipowner). AIDA’s first World Cruise AIDAnova is currently being completed by Meyer Werft Papenburg shipyard that wants to finish the work on the world’s first LNG Cruise ship carrying up to 6,600 passengers – a town by itself.

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What happened?

The AIDAnova cruise ship was built at Meyer Werft shipyard (Papenburg Germany) at cost of

US$950 million. This is the first of 3 AIDA Helios-class liners. The second ship (still unnamed) will be launched in the spring of 2021, while the 3rd (TBN) will be delivered in 2023.

Meyer Shipyard  is known for punctual  delivery and many times has finished ships prior to  delivery dates. The Meyer Werft Papenburg informed AIDA Cruise Management in October that the vessel will not be ready on time for November 30 delivery.

The reason for the new delay was that the public areas aboard the 337-meter ship had not been finished.

So why did AIDAnova Management in Rostock not react?

Why did they wait until November 16 to inform passengers who  were already preparing for leaving on the first AIDAnova cruise?

AIDAnova passengers received the  bad news on November 16 when the company announced that December cruises were all cancelled.

Travelers were left with any answers from their travel agents or in writing directly from AIDA management at Rostock headquarters. It has been days since they sought answers and are still waiting on the decency of AIDA management to make a binding statement.

For days now, AIDAnova  passengers have been sending emails asking for compensation. But they only  are receiving automatic and useless advice to book a spa treatment or land excursion, as right now everybody at AIDA is busy, assuring that someone will answer at a later date. We all know that will never happen, it never happened in the past, so why now?

Okay, if it is not Germany – not Italy Costa Crociere in Genua  – then Carnival headquarters in Miami, the company owning the cruise liner should be able to answer. But the Carnival Miami head office  is not available – it is the Thanksgiving holiday in America.

While some passenger presume that the company needed an  urgent  credit loan by working with their money for over 7 months prior to canceling the cruise, others are totally upset that it has messed up their entire Christmas plans and the plans of their relatives, friends, and family, too.

Christine Duffy, the first woman as president of the largest cruise line operator in the world, she is not only the captain of the biggest brand in the fleet of global cruise industry, leader Carnival Corp., the world’s largest leisure travel company says: “I’m a big believer in giving back. One of our core company values is to show care and respect for each other, our ships, our home, and the places we visit.

“We strive to be a good corporate citizen and are very proud of our team members who volunteer, support, and share this enthusiasm for doing the right thing.” (But never during Thanksgiving.)

The company that sails a fleet of 26 ships and annually hosts more than 5 million guests has nobody answering the phone over the Thanksgiving holidays. One can only hope everybody is busy getting the AIDAnova ready to set sail. 

The 183,900-ton, 5200-passenger cruise ship AIDAnova is among the world’s most technologically-advanced vessels. The newbuild was handed over to the company in autumn 2018.

Besides the ship’s staff and crew, AIDA cruise passengers are also served by Peper robots – the latest cyborg technology implemented fleetwide in 2016. These humanoid robots greet and guide passengers upon embarkation. They also assist them throughout the cruise by providing information and tips on onboard dining, entertainment, enrichment programs (workshops, pre-scheduled events), casino and shopping promotions, shore excursions, and tours. Peper robots are mobile and communicate in 3 languages (English, German, and Italian). They can also interpret human emotions by analyzing voice tones and facial expressions.

In July 2015, Carnival Corporation signed a shipbuilding agreement with Meyer Werft for the construction of all 4 new-class vessels.

Of these, 2 liners were for Costa Cruises and another 2 for AIDA (Nova and TBN1). On February 27, 2018, Carnival Corporation signed a shipbuilding contract for a 3rd AIDA ship (scheduled delivery in 2023). This was the 98th ship order for the cruise industry’s global fleet (vessels in the orderbook 2018-2026).

Serving mainly the German-speaking market, AIDA operates the Nova ship with fly-cruise deals from Germany and also from the UK.

On February 21, 2017, the vessel’s steel-cutting ceremony was held at Meyer Werft shipyard (Papenburg Germany). With this special event, the vessel’s construction works officially started.

In February 2018, it was announced that AIDAnova will offer new (“premier cruise”) itineraries scheduled prior to the maiden voyage on December 2. The description read:

  • All premiere voyages (“mini cruises”) were opened for booking on February 1, 2018.
  • The first 4-day itinerary departs on November 15 – right after ship’s delivery in Bremerhaven. This one-way cruise leaves from Oslo to Hamburg (arriving on November 19).
  • Next short cruises depart from Hamburg to either Oslo Norway or Rotterdam Holland.

This was all wishful thinking.

It is time now that the management reacts and comes out with a compensation plan addressing their disappointed passengers and trying to regain their confidence.

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About the author

Elisabeth Lang - special to eTN

Elisabeth has been working in the international travel business and hospitality industry for decades and contributing to eTN for nearly 20 years. She has a worldwide network and is an international travel journalist.

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