Ship Reviews

Ship review: Costa Diadema

Costa Diadema is marketed by Costa as the Queen of the Mediterranean, and now she’s coming to Dubai to cruise roundtrip in the Arabian Gulf, providing the Middle East cruise market with a ship perfect for the cost-conscious family or group of friends looking for a good time on the high seas.

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Designed by Joe Farcus, the renowned designer of many flamboyant ships for Carnival Corporation, and with a name that means ‘tiara’ in the language of this exuberant Italian cruise line, Costa Diadema at the time of writing is the most glitzy, loud and immensely fun of Costa Cruises’ ships.

Carrying 3,724 passengers, she is 132,500 gross tons with a length of 302m. By every unit of measurement, she is the largest cruise ship Costa Cruises has ever homeported in Dubai. And she brings something truly special to the Middle East cruise market. Think Costa Mediterranea (Costa’s current Dubai-based ship) on steroids.

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When she entered service in 2014, Costa Cruises called her ‘Regina del Mediterraneo’, the Queen of the Mediterranean, and it’s a title she’s proudly held for half a decade (she will soon be superseded by Costa’s newest ship Venezia).

There’s never a dull moment, or indeed piece of architecture aboard Costa Diadema. In the true spirit of Dubai’s legendary excess, glass and colorful neon lights adorn the central atrium, ceramic or glass tile murals or eye-catching artworks stand in for walls on every deck, and even the hallways on the accommodation decks boast floor-to-ceiling artworks.

She is a cruise ship perfect for Dubai, where glittering hotels and over-the-top malls stand sentinel on the shoreline. Costa Diadema is the jewel in the Italian cruise line’s crown, and if the previous success of the line’s former Dubai-based ships is anything to go by, she’s going to be a massive hit.

Entertainment and amenities aboard Costa Diadema

Costa Diadema is an immense cruise ship. There are six dining rooms, thirteen bars and cafes, 1,862 staterooms, three pool areas, eight Jacuzzis, two nightblubs, a casino, spa, full-size theatre and even a Grand Prix simulator. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Farcus was asked to blend regal with bedazzle aboard Costa Diadema, and he did a remarkable job. There are more than 7,000 artworks on this ship, but her real charm lies in the re-imagined design of Carnival Corporation’s Dream-class cruise liners.

Costa Diadema has a 1,640-foot open-air Promenade, which is intended to resemble a real Italian seaside terrace (or terrazzo, if you please).

Located on Deck 5, one of the ship’s three main entertainment decks, the 16-foot-wide promenade entirely surrounds the ship and features six outside cabanas linked to various restaurants and bars. It’s reminiscent of Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Bliss, or perhaps Bliss is reminiscent of Diadema as she was launched first.

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Here on the ‘terrazzo’, passengers can also relax in one of the two whirlpool tubs that sit outboard from the ship’s sides, providing amazing views of the Arabian Gulf and Musandam Peninsula as she cruises for Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island or any other of the regional cruise destinations she’ll be visiting during her 2019/2020 cruise season out of Dubai.

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Eliodoro Bar

Here on the main entertainment decks there is a bar or café around every corner. It starts on Deck 3, where Customer Service sits adjacent to Eliodoro Bar. This is the lowest level of the ship’s immense 10-deck atrium that, unlike on most mega cruise ships, sits just forward of amidships.

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Bar Bollicine

Aboard Costa Diadema, the cruise line debuted splashy, innovative specialty food and drink venues such as Tavola Teppanyaki, a wine bar that focuses on rare vintages, and a two-deck beer garden. There’s even a Country Rock Club that competes with Pietra di Luna Disco as the ship’s main late-night party spot.

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Country Rock Club aboard Diadema

And while relaxing at the pool during the day, reading a book in the onboard library in the afternoon or taking dance classes in the Orlov Grand bar in the early evening are certainly great ways to pass the time at sea, Costa Diadema is a ship that comes alive from cocktail hour well into the early hours of the morning.

Pietra di Luna Disco Diadema

Pietra di Luna Disco

Though admittedly the same could be said of any Costa Cruises ship, even the little Costa neoRiviera that homeported in Dubai back in 2016.

The majority of passengers aboard Costa Cruises’ Dubai departures are Italian, German, French, British, South African, Indian and of course GCC nationals and expats, and they all really know how to party on an Arabian Gulf cruise.

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White Night aboard Costa Cruises

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Even the kids can get involved, running riot aboard ship at all hours. So it’s a great ship for families. A key thing to remember when going on a Costa cruise is that you have to immerse yourself in the Italian culture, the Italian way of doing things, or you won’t enjoy the experience.

Orlov Grand bar Costa Diadema

Orlov Grand Bar

At night on Costa Diadema, guests can enjoy complimentary shows in the three-story theater, dance in the disco or Country Rock Club and play games in the casino. Then there are also the various bars where evening drinks can be enjoyed to the sounds of various styles of music.

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The theatre aboard Diadema

At night there is music in almost every public venue on the ship, so take this into account when you choose your stateroom. Cabins near public spaces can sometimes suffer from all the boisterous cruise fun.

Dining aboard Costa Diadema

There are seven restaurants from which passengers can take their pick. Three main dining rooms where breakfast, lunch and dinner is free, and four specialty venues that require an extra fee.

Corona_Blu Costa Diadema

Corona Blu

Passengers will be assigned to one of the three dining rooms based on the stateroom booked. All are very similar in terms of cuisine and service, but each has its own unique atmosphere.

Corona Blu on Deck 10, for example, is the more casual buffet option. The Sissi dining room all the way aft occupies both Decks 3 and 4 and is truly cavernous, and therefore very loud and noisy during the height of dinner. This is a good option for families with rowdy kids.

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Sissi Restaurant

Scudo Rosso on Deck 3 amidships does an excellent buffet lunch that is less busy than the buffet, but dinner is the only meal during which all the dining rooms are open, with different ones for breakfast and lunch, so check the daily program.

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Diadema is the first Costa ship to feature Tavola Teppanyaki. At this reservations-required Japanese grill, a personal chef chops and juggles select courses at the table, which is worth the extra charge, especially if you’re after that key Insta-pic or Boomerang of the day.

There is also a genuine gelateria overlooking the atrium and a Neapolitan-style pizzeria amidships on Deck 5, next to the specialty restaurants Samsara and Club Diadema.

The quality of food aboard Costa Diadema is on-par with that across the rest of the fleet, with some truly standout meals (especially the pastas) and some misses (generally the steaks). Service in the main dining rooms can also become a tad slow during rush hours, but its important to note that Costa Cruises is cheaper than MSC for a reason. This is a cruise line for the budget cruiser, but nothing about it feels cheap!

Club Diadema restaurant

Club Diadema

The speciality restaurants on the other hand are a totally different experience. The Club Diadema restaurant is a haven of peace and near one-on-one attention, with an exceptional menu, while the Samara dining room is basically the closest one can get to first-class aboard a mass market cruise line.

Staterooms aboard Costa Diadema

Costa Diadema has more than 1,800 staterooms or cabins, there are a multitude of price levels, but they all broadly fall into Inside, Oceanview, Balcony and Suite categories.

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Suite aboard Costa Diadema

All the staterooms include flat-screen TVs and minibars and suites come with extra perks like butler service and bathtubs.

Outside and balcony staterooms

If you want even more pampering (and the Middle East cruise passenger generally does) opt for the Samsara category cabins, which offer exclusive access to the Samsara Restaurant and spa at no extra cost. All passengers can use the spa, but there’s a daily fee.

Family facilities aboard Costa Diadema

Costa Diadema is a fantastic cruise ship for children. Kids are taken care of in the Sqouk club, and they even have their own fairy-tale castle and a mock pirate ship on the top deck.

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Most cabins have third and fourth berths to accommodate bambinis and there is an expansive teens zone as well, up top on Deck 11, with video games, arcade stations and lounging areas. Children even get their own pool area.

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Costa Cruises is definitely a line geared toward families, and Diadema is no different. Many child-free groups of passengers for example often complain about the free reign that kids are given.

None of the bars are off limits to children for example, which is convenient for a couple who want to enjoy a drink and live music with child in-tow, but can be off-putting for other passengers who feel uncomfortable drinking in front of children.

Passengers aboard Costa Diadema

Multiculturalism is the defining aspect of the passenger make-up on a Costa cruise from Dubai. Europeans make up the majority of cruisers, primarily Italians followed by Germans, French, Spanish and Brits.

There are also many Indian passengers, either expats in Dubai and the wider Gulf, or fly-cruisers from Mumbai, as well as Middle East nationals.

A huge portion of Costa Cruises’ passengers on the roundtrip Dubai itineraries are families, most with small or adolescent children. The age range, therefore, is as wide as the demographics. All announcements are given in five languages Italian, Spanish, French, German and English, but they’re limited to important information.

Dress code aboard Costa Diadema

Costa Diadema, like the rest of the Costa fleet, has no set evening dress code. Suggestions are posted in the daily program, ranging from casual to informal and formal. Like the many different cultures on-board, the interpretation of these dress codes is also wide-ranging.

There is at least one gala night on each 7-night cruise, which requires cocktail dresses for women and jackets and ties for men. One night of the cruise is also deemed White Night, when Costa holds its famous White Party, requiring an all-white outfit, but again, many passengers just wear one white item.

The only dress-code that Costa seems to enforce is a ban against wearing a swimming costume in the buffet.

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Costa Diadema then is a big ship, a city at sea, with many different types of passengers and an endless variety of ways in which to enjoy your cruise. If you don’t like crowds, don’t cruise aboard Diadema. The sheer volume of people on board – especially the large number of small children – will not suit those looking for a romantic getaway for two.

She is however perfect for the group of friends looking for a wild couple of days at sea in the Arabian Gulf, or the young family looking for an inexpensive getaway that will provide something to delight everyone.

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