Last updated: 10:30 PM ET, Mon March 30 2015

Sailing Italian Style

Costa's sleek new ship is packed with great design, dining and entertainment

Vacation Agent | Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Greg Shillinglaw

Sailing Italian Style

PHOTO: Costa Diadema features Western Mediterranean cruises.

Italian was truly everywhere during a recent Mediterranean cruise aboard Costa Cruises’ new Costa Diadema. Illy espressos helped start the day, a glass of Ferrari sparkling wine topped off happy hour, and Barilla pasta always made an appearance on the menu at dinnertime.

There was authentic Italian cuisine from the country’s different regions, perfected with help from a Michelin-star chef. For dessert, Gelateria Amarillo tempted passengers with 12 creamy, delicious flavors of gelato in a space reminiscent of a neighborhood shop. Vinoteca Gran Duca di Toscana, a wine bar on Deck 5 and one of 11 bars on the ship, also offered up an extensive list of bottles from more than 50 Italian wineries.

Since entering service late last year, the 3,724-passenger Costa Diadema, the line’s new flagship and the largest ship in Costa’s 16-vessel fleet at 132,500 gross registered tons, has showcased what Costa executives are calling their “Italy’s Finest” philosophy. The concept is rolling out fleetwide as Europe’s number-one cruise company markets its Italian roots, a strategy the line has turned to in the past. Think of Diadema (which translates to “tiara”) as your Italian home away from home, even when you’re docked in Barcelona.

Italians account for 25 to 30 percent of bookings on most cruises, followed by travelers from France, Germany and Spain, all of which gives sailings a truly international flavor. Depending on the destination and seasonality, North Americans can make up 5 to 15 percent of the ship. Nevertheless, English is the “universal” language on board and all crewmembers need to know how to speak it. Here’s a rundown of what the ship offers its guests.

PHOTO: The Lido Diana pool features a retractable roof, giant screen and hot tubs.

Public Spaces: Veteran Carnival and Costa architect Joe Farcus calls Diadema the best ship he’s ever designed. His handiwork is noticeable as you walk throughout the vessel. The Eliodoro Atrium, the first interior space guests see when they embark Diadema, is often the liveliest place on board and a popular meeting spot. It features wavy designs and a bluish-installation spanning multiple decks that prompts guests to stop and snap photos.

The 1,640-foot promenade on Deck 5, the longest in Costa’s fleet, is also worth checking out, with six cabanas and two Jacuzzis extending from the side of the ship, creating the sensation of being suspended over the sea. There are three swimming pools, including one with a retractable roof that also functions as a party space. Other great features include a kids’ area that boasts a mini waterpark, outdoor pirate ship and castle.

PHOTO: Ristorante Fiorentino is one of the ship’s three main dining areas.

Dining: Menus in the larger dining rooms — Fiorentino, Adularia and the open-seating Corona Blu restaurant — are heavy on Italian classics, though with noticeably smaller portions than what some American travelers might be used to. The pasta dishes tend to be the best choices.

Corona Blu transforms into a buffet by day for breakfast and lunch, featuring a salad station, focacceria, rotisserie, grill and specialty foods from destinations on the itinerary.

There’s also the option to pay an additional charge of €25 (roughly $26) per person to dine at the “à la carte” Club Restaurant, which serves up a tasty lobster Cesar Salad and a nice surf and turf. Those looking for healthy options can enjoy a lighter menu at Samsara Restaurant, which is geared toward guests staying in spa-class cabins and suites.

One of the best gastronomic experiences aboard this Italian-centric ship, however, isn’t even European. Tavola Teppanyaki restaurant offers a style of Japanese cuisine where a cook prepares dinner in front of guests on a griddle. The concept isn’t new to the industry, but certainly provides a great evening of entertainment as chefs encourage diners to catch cooked pieces of egg in their mouths.

Teppanyaki’s menu happens to be one of the best among Diadema’s seven restaurants, with grilled squid and scallops, seared duck, and Wagyu rib-eye to choose from. There’s also a mountain of fried rice with fresh vegetables tempting your palate. Guests need to make a reservation and can expect to pay a surcharge of $25 (roughly $26).

Accommodations: With 1,862 staterooms in 14 different categories, including inside cabins, balcony cabins and suites, Costa Diadema offers a range of accommodations depending on what cruise customers are looking for.

This includes 130 staterooms and 11 suites on Decks 11 and 12 with the option to purchase a package permitting special access to the four-level, 67,000-square-foot Samsara Spa, the largest wellness and beauty area in the fleet.

Staterooms have flat-screen TVs (though English entertainment options are limited), a North American-friendly outlet, Wi-Fi and room service (both of which include an extra charge). Suites also offer priority boarding, a personal butler (excluding Mini Suites), choice of pillow from the Pillow Menu and a Jacuzzi.

Entertainment: The nightlife on board is part of what helps separates Costa Diadema from the pack. Europeans (and some North Americans, too) enjoy staying out later, so there’s a livelier atmosphere after dinner, with a piano bar and discothèque catering to night owls.

When it comes to post-dinner plans, the ship’s sparkling three-level Emerald Theater runs productions of four shows and another show is expected to be added in 2016. Shows include “Flavors of Italy,” a hodgepodge musical tribute, featuring a bizarre soundtrack of contemporary songs and Italian classics. (English-speakers might have a hard time understanding what’s going on.) “Kings and Queens of Pop & Rock” is packed with tributes to Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Queen.

In step with the rock-theme, Country Rock Club has a live band playing classic tunes from Paul Simon to U2. One of the easiest places to grab a drink during peak hours, this bar and lounge is conveniently located near most of the nighttime attractions. Nearby, Birreria Dresden Green, a German-themed beer garden, serves international bottled and draft beers.

As for other post-dinner plans, Diadema’s Star Laser area of the ship is a solid spot for gamers, and those who think they can defeat a Mission: Impossible-style laser maze. Just don’t try to set the ship record on a full stomach. That advice also can be applied to the 4-D cinema, which shows several five-minute movies that literally put you in the action as theater chairs move and shots of air hit you in the face. Then there’s the Grand Prix racecar simulator, something Costa has rolled out before. These services come with an extra charge.

Excursions & Activities: One of the more enjoyable shore excursions offered in the Mediterranean, where Diadema is spending its first year, provides guests with a look at the troubled existence of Vincent van Gogh. “A Day in the Heart of Provence” lasts eight and a half hours, leaving from Marseilles in the early morning. The tour flies by as a quick-witted guide narrates stops in Arles (where Van Gogh cut off his ear). The cost is $70 (about $74) per adult and food is not included.

Back on board, daily programming includes artisanal beer tastings, dancing to Latin music, and arts and crafts for adults. For children, the Squok Club provides programming catering to ages 3 and above. For kids 12 and over, the teen zone is waiting with Xbox Ones at the ready.

Key Points: The main selling point for Costa Diadema is its international client base, where guests will be immersed in all things European. It’s also a beautiful and brand-new ship with state-of-the-art design and facilities. Finally, it offers a big ship Mediterranean cruise at value prices.

“The most important thing to keep in mind is that we are an international product,” says Scott Knutson, vice president of sales and marketing for Costa Cruises North America. “We are uniquely positioned as the only international brand that hasn’t adapted its product to the American market. That authenticity allows us to go to a certain segment of the market. It’s those vacationers who like the international experience — the food, the wine, the service.”

Itineraries & Fares: Costa Diadema sails on mostly seven-night roundtrips from Savona, Barcelona or Madrid. Depending on the homeport where the cruise begins, ports of call can include Barcelona, La Spezia, Marseille, Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome), Palma de Mallorca and Savona.

When it comes to pricing, a seven-night Mediterranean cruise on Diadema can start as low as $499 per person, double occupancy and go up to $2,600 in suite cabins. There’s also the option to embark from different ports of call along the itinerary.

Costa pays a base commission of 10 percent, which increases up to 17 percent based on annual production. Given its global size — Costa claims to be the fourth largest line in terms of available beds — Costa’s compensation tiers are “very aggressive” in favor of travel agents, allowing them to be well compensated without the high thresholds that accompany some other lines’ programs.

For more information, call 800-GO-COSTA or visit the travel agent website at or

For more information on Costa Cruises, Mediterranean

For more Cruise Line & Cruise Ship News


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the April 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.


Latest Travel News

Who, Exactly, Was Paul Gauguin?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship

Tips For The Solo Traveler

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship

Journeying Along The Columbia River

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship