Celestyal Acquires AIDA Cruise Ship Previously Set for Three-Year Cruise

cruise ship
Rendering of the AIDAaura refitted as the Celestyal Discovery (Celestyal)

Published Nov 16, 2023 4:52 PM by The Maritime Executive


Celestyal Cruises, a niche operator focusing on the Greek Islands, purchased a former AIDA cruise ship from Carnival Corporation that was slated for the widely publicized three-year world cruise planned by a Turkish company. Pictures appearing online today showed the ship’s identity being transferred to Celestyal and the registry transferred from Italy to Malta confirming that the handover has been completed.

Celestyal reports that the acquisition of the AIDAaura, built in 2003, is part of the company’s efforts at “fleet refreshment.” The cruise ship, which is 42,000 gross tons with accommodations for 1,266 passengers, will be used to replace the Celestyal Olympia, a 38,000 gross ton ship that was built in 1981 for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line as the Song of America as part of the early generations of modern cruise ships. She was operated by Celestyal (formerly Louis Cruises) since 2014 and was due to enter winter layup in the coming weeks.

“Given the strong market and business conditions, we are thrilled to have expedited the renewal of our fleet,” said Chris Theophilides, CEO of Celestyal. The company reports strong interest in the Eastern Mediterranean cruises and with new investors was working to replace its two older cruise ships. In September, they introduced the Celestyal Journey (built in 1993 as the Ryndam for Holland America Line) as a replacement in their fleet deployed on 7-day cruises from Piraeus.

The Aida cruise ship is being renamed Celestyal Discovery and will be overhauled during the winter before entering service in March 2024. She will be operating short 3- and 4-day cruises from Piraeus. The line highlights that she brings new amenities including 10 percent of her cabins, 62 out of the total of 633, offer private balconies. She will also feature a grill restaurant, a Greek deli, a health and wellness center, and a juice bar.

The 20-year-old cruise ship was retired by Carnival Corporation in September as part of its ongoing efforts to modernize the fleet and focus on the ships producing the best financial returns. The company reported that she was for sale and she was laid up in Bremerhaven, Germany. AIDA had previously retired her sistership, which has not returned to service, and the line's first cruise ship, which was sold to Russian interests as the Astoria Grande.

A Turkish company, Miray Cruises, reported that they were buying the AIDAaura and that she would be refitted for a three-year world cruise as the Laura. The program drew wide media attention but in recent weeks reports began to surface of potential problems. The company said there was a delay in the handover due to complications in transferring the monies and its crew left the ship they said citing the delays. 

Marketed as Life at Sea, they reported the ship would require a three-week refit and they pushed back the departure date to November 1. Unconfirmed media reports said the company’s executives have now resigned, although the webpage remains active still showing the November 1 departure date. Miray is also promoting its 2024 cruises aboard another cruise ship.