Agree with panamapd and sorry to hear that rotjeknor's experience did not meet expectations. We sailed the Canary Islands on AidaNova in February and enjoyed it very much. This was our 2nd Aida cruise, we're non-Germans, so we knew what to expect.
True it's a different cruise than other lines, it's more "Spartan" or simple, although we have to say AidaNova is a major improvement compared to her predecessors. If you set your expectations high, you might get disappointed. Comparing with other cruiselines on similar level, I think Aida is indeed a hidden gem. We had a very good deal for the four of us, so we kept our expectations on par and made the most of it.
What we like is the laid back atmosphere, civilised people, good kids club where they also speak English, plenty of activities, the gym is very nice (one of the best and largest gyms we've seen on a cruise with indoor and outdoor area) well maintained and clean.
We booked a Vario-fare online at Aida (cabin allocated by Aida, only 2 water bottles on 1st day) instead of Premium (you choose own cabin, every day 2 water bottles and more perks), which nearly twice the Vario-fare. With this "saving" we decided to book the more secluded (specialty/a la carte) restaurants for dinner in advance, which is highly recommended if you don't like the buffet restaurants. We went to:
- Teppanyaki: kids (and adults too!) still love the tricks the cook does while he prepared food in front of us 😄 we've seen most of them but still had a good laugh!
- Rossini: the "poshest" restaurant on AidaNova, pleasantly surprised by the high quality of food and presentation here
- Time Machine: food with impressive entertainment, entering the restaurant was for us unprecedented at sea (we got to talk to the Dutch owner of the company that installed the audio-visuals there, very interesting to hear how much effort had been put in this restaurant)
- Churrascaria Steakhouse: the meat unfortunately did not meet our expectations (sorry we're meat lovers and expectations were high!) ordered medium-rare beef mignon/tenderloin but was too well-done. Didn't bother to order another one, service was a bit unattentive here, could get something at "Best Burger at Sea" (inclusive) afterwards...
- Brauhaus: towards the end of the cruise we were pretty saturated with all the food, it looked well though, the enormous pork knuckle looked and smelled good, but I just could not anymore. My DH finished everything though
- Fuego: the only buffet restaurant we went for dinner, our favorite lunch place as well, kids love the soft ice cream machine.
For lunch we went to buffet restaurants when at sea and to nice restaurants on land during port days, we had some great excursions there. When kids were at kids club, we went to the gym (we're not that sporty at all, but this was so convenient!) or just relaxed in the sun in a beach chairs on deck or hammock on our balcony. After dinner, we had a nice stroll around, watched some entertainment (Voice of the Sea with contestants who are crew-members was great to watch!) and/or danced at the beach club.
What we missed was a mini-bar and coffee machine in the cabin, but than again, for the price we paid, we could not complain!