A surprisingly painless flight, although bags took quite some time, Jet2 Manchester to Barcelona. Anyway into a taxi (Barcelona is the city of taxis - you never wait for them and every other car seems to be one) and 39Euros later plus tip we are checking in at the cruise terminal and on the ship for 2pm along with what looks like an entire classful of 16 year old students who are never seen again!
The Costa check in procedure is a little different though a lot quicker - No one asks for a Credit Card or takes a pic or even hands you a ship card. Sign here - wait there - and get called to board. Hopefully all will become clear at some point and hopefully in English as apart from a couple of Canadians and two American ladies we seem to be the only English speaking people in the check out line. Eventually we are called and taken aboard where your photo is taken just as you set foot onto the deck. We have a balcony cabin which is well proportioned and clean. Its nicely laid out and functional, it just lacks a little plushness and luxury of say Celebrity and can't compete with NCL on wardrobe space - this is more functional and oddly feels a little dated in the decor even though this is a practically new ship. One unusual design feature is the lack of french windows - instead a door leads out onto a pretty decent sized balcony. Your ship cards are waiting for you on the bed and your drinks package and dining arrangements are printed on the rear of this. You then scan your card at one of the many portals around the ship and link it to your credit card. Its hard to judge if this saves any time as the Diadema is a year round,same route & can embark at any port. So less people per port embarking & disembarking.
We decide to head to lunch in the Buffet/Lido. I wouldn't call this an easy ship to navigate as the amount of Italian bling decor can be a bit confusing as it leaves a lot of the public areas looking very similar. However we find the glass elevators and follow the general flow of people to the buffet restaurant. All I can say is it is much nicer than I expected as a lot of people had commented on how poor the choice is, how you can never get a seat and how rude and aggressive the passengers can be. We found none of this and there are hundreds of seats if you walk a few steps to the aft as the area used for Corona Blu restaurant is opened up during Lunch time. We both choose some lovely roast ham from the carvery, washed down with lots of red wine and finished with fresh beautifully baked foccacia and cheese. The other choices look fine, plentiful and hot. OK a lot of the dishes may have an Italian theme to them but guess what, this is an Italian ship with a mainly Italian or Spanish clientele (if you need a Yorkshire pudding with every lunch your probably on the wrong ship).
Muster practice is unusual in that we actually have to don life jackets - fortunately the demonstration is only in two languages & is over quickly and efficiently.
Dinner is in the main dining room where we meet Jamie our waiter and find we have a table to ourselves. We never normally do the set time dinner thing but decide to give it a go. Costa seems to run the dining room a little differently. Your waiter runs 3 or 4 tables himself which includes taking orders, serving, clearing and drinks. It seems to work fine, Jamie never lets the glass run dry (we have the Brindiamo level drinks package) and is attentive and helpful. The meal is beautiful, 4 courses presented Italian style; light starter, pasta dish, main meat/fish followed by dessert) its all very well presented and extremely tasty. Good service, the wine and water continuously flowing (thank God its included) and the food and plates always hot (NCL take note). The Diadema slips silently out of Barcelona some time during dinner.
We find a Bar (at this point the ships still a mystery so I have no idea what it is called) for an espresso and capuccino as coffee is not served in the MDR. Wherever you wander on this ship the smell of freshly ground coffee permeates the air like a glorious perfume. It appears this rooms going to have some sort of talent competition so we move next door to a smaller club (the piano bar) where an Italian or Spanish singer/piano player (Stefano Marcolini) does a marvellous set - they also know how to mix the perfect campari and soda.
Wander around a little more and find ourselves at the main theater where a rock style show is taking place - nice theatre, good staging, and most importantly a live band. Quite enjoyable and certainly better than some I have seen on other ships - again the band making the difference.
The ship has a nice multilevel, large and spacious feel to it with many rooms, bars and restaurants spread around. That does not mean this is a quiet ship though, in fact it's quite the opposite - the decor is loud and the people are lively. Its not annoying though - to slip into stereotypes; there's a positive listening to a lively Italian or Spanish conversation - you can't tell what the foreigners are talking about :)
Click here for day 2
Click here for day 2