REVIEW: You can see Italy, Spain and France in glamourous style and plush comfort when you take a cruise on the Costa Diadema. The 3,700-passenger ship is aptly named. Diadema means “tiara”and while you’re surrounded by luxurious decor, the crew will treat you like royalty. This ship is a crowning glory of the line and an irresistible choice.
The Diadema offers unusual embarkation flexibility for a cruise ship. It circles the Mediterranean like a luxury hop-on, hop-off floating resort. You can start your cruise at any of the ports it visits which includes Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca in Spain; Naples, Savona and Le Spezia in Italy; and Marseilles, France.
Cabins are smartly designed with all the creature comforts you could want. The beds are soft, the linens are crisp and the duvets are deep. More than 80 per cent of the suites have an ocean view.
For dining, there are seven restaurants ranging from casual buffets to formal settings. In the formal dining room, you can choose the 7 or 9 p.m. dinner seating. The later dining time is usually busiest, with families and even young children staying up until 11 p.m. You can also eat dinner in the buffet area where breakfast and lunch are served, but it gets converted to a restaurant where you have to wait to be seated.
There are also five specialty restaurants which charge a nominal fee. However you can purchase an all-inclusive package for reduced rates of about 15 Euro per person. If none of these restaurants options suit you, there’s always room service.
More than 15 bars offer something for everyone and several feature live bands. The three-storey theatre has live shows from jugglers and gymnasts, to singers and dancers. The acts are more singular, rather than Broadway-style shows.
Three pools, eight hot tubs, a well-equipped gym and large spa will spoil you. More unusual ship features include a 4D theatre (see the “Dino Safari”movie for the thrill of being chased by virtual dinosaurs); a Formula 1 full-size racecar simulator where you can experience virtual speeds of 260 km/h; and a challenging laser beam maze.
Since this cruise is so affordable, there are a few unexpected costs regarding food and drink that might surprise you if you have cruised before. For example, pizza is often free on cruise ships, but the Diadema has a pizzeria that charges you for it. Water at dinner also costs extra which is unusual. Water at breakfast and lunch is free. There are all-inclusive drink packages you can purchase. Packages range from pop and juice combinations, to wine, beer and spirits, starting at about 16 Euro per day, per person.
However the ship isn’t the only reason to take this cruise. The ports-of-call provide exciting shore excursions which are important to fully experience Europe. While some of the ports are interesting enough to explore on your own (such as Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca), a tour takes you further afield to unforgettable sites, as long as you don’t mind a one- or two-hour bus ride. The low cruise price makes spending on shore excursions easier. Prices start at about $25 Euro per person.
Barcelona is ideal to explore by double-decker bus to see Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces such as the cathedral and many other monuments. Palma de Mallorca has a lovely harbour and town, or take a tour to the Caves of Dragon to see the enormous chambers and underground lake.
The port of Le Spezia, Italy is close to Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terre (five quaint fishing villages). From Savona visit Monte Carlo, Portofino, Nice or Genoa. In Naples you can reach Pompeii, Sorrento or take a ferry to Capri for spectacular views of cliffs and rock formations.
When stopping in Marseilles, France take a tour to visitAix en Provence for its quaint, tree-lined streets and boutique shopping.
Keep in mind that this is an Italian cruise line, with mostly Italian and Spanish passengers, so you’ll be exposed to their customs and procedures. English is the third language spoken for announcements and North Americans are in the minority. This is a cruise where you’ll experience Italian style and culture, both on and off the ship, and get fully immersed into the meaning of “Viva la vita!”