A frequent complaint from American passengers is charging for drinking water. In Europe, it's customary to drink (and pay for) bottled water at restaurants. Free tap water is rarely an option. On the ship, it's only available at breakfast and lunch, not dinner. The bottom line? Go with the flow and remember you're cruising the Italian way. However, there is a relatively reasonable way around paying for water one bottle at a time. Costa Diadema offers a drinks package for 25 euros per person, per day. Considering it covers water (by the glass), sodas, coffees, selected wines, beer, cocktails and bar tips, it's a good value. Note: The beverage package must be purchased by all adults on the same booking and by adults dining together. A soft drink package for kids (ages 4 to 17) costs 16 euros per day. Cruisers from North America should check their key card. If it's marked "waterUSA," water by the glass is included, but not other beverages.
Service at the restaurants is by an international mix of waiters, many from the Philippines or India. The good news is English is readily understood, making it easy to order what you want.
Fiorentino Restaurant (Decks 3 & 4): The larger of the two main dining rooms occupies a two-level expanse located at the stern. Cruisers can take in the ship's wake while dining at the open seating breakfast (7 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m. on sea days only) or fixed seating dinner (7:00 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.). Times may vary slightly.
For those wanting a cooked breakfast of eggs and bacon, Fiorentino is the only free place to find it. Hot dishes are served at your table. You choose cold items (fruit, juice, yogurt, cereal, rolls) from the buffet in the center of the room. Lunch, when open, is a selection of light dishes ordered from the menu. Those with special diets may take lunch in the upper level any day, even when the lower level is closed. The dinner menu is fairly limited in selections. There are two appetizers (such as squid with buffalo mozzarella or prosciutto salad), three pastas (pasta with beans and mussels, risotto), two main courses (suckling pig, sea bream fillet) plus a vegetarian option, cheese and two desserts (sugar-free chocolate mousse cake). In addition, the always available items include a soup, spaghetti, tagliatelle pasta with Bolognese sauce, cod fillet and grilled chicken breast. Portions are on the small side. We particularly liked the bottles of excellent olive oil and balsamic vinegar placed on the dinner tables to enjoy with the bread instead of butter.
The dining room's gold and white decor is subdued with an emphasis on lighting, such as lamps made to look like alabaster urns. Dinner may be interrupted at any moment by a burst of operatic song or pair of dancers swirling around the room. At the end of first seating, the lights are suddenly turned up, announcing it's time to leave and make way for second seating.
Adularia Restaurant (Deck 3): The Adularia Restaurant, the second main dinner option, stretches the entire width of Deck 3. The golden colors are enhanced with details in mother-of-pearl. Panoramic windows allow for views on two sides. The menu is the same as Fiorentino. Adularia is only open for dinner and occasionally for lunch on sea days. During the day, you can walk through it to avoid having to detour up or down a deck in order to pass from one end of the ship to the other.
Corona Blu (Deck 10): Costa Diadema's buffet restaurant, designed to be casual and comfortable, is an explosion of colors and flavors. During the day, you'll find tables both inside and outdoors around the pools. Enjoy breakfast (7:00 a.m. to 11 a.m.), lunch (noon to 3:00 p.m.) and tea or snacks (4 p.m. to 5 p.m.) here at your leisure. Once tea is over, there is no more buffet service until breakfast the following morning. In the evening, Corona Blu is transformed into an informal, open-seating dinner restaurant. Passengers who choose this option are assigned to Corona Blu as their primary free dinner restaurant throughout the cruise. The benefit of dining here at night (6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.) is just showing up when you wish rather than at a set time; the menu here is the same as in the two main dining rooms. On the flip side, there's no buffet option on the ship for a casual dinner.
During buffet hours, coffee and tea are available free of charge only at breakfast and hot tea at tea time. Water (for free and not the bottled variety) can be had from dispensers at breakfast and lunch. Food stations are clearly marked. Breakfast is Italian-style cold cuts, cheeses, an amazing array of breads and pastries, fruit, cereal and yogurt. Nothing cooked. A nice touch is the coffee pot set on each table. Lunch has more variety, though dishes don't change much from day to day throughout the cruise. Stations include high-quality cold cuts, cheeses, breads, hot dishes (stews, vegetables, fish), three Asian dishes (chicken stir-fry, fried rice), grilled meats, salads, paninis, focaccia and desserts. There are no trays to carry, and your cutlery is already on the table in a cutlery stand. Tea time brings cakes, cookies, small sandwiches, fruit and tea.
The buffet is always crowded, but if you move to the back of the ship, further from the food stations, you're apt to find a quiet seat near the window.
A hamburger grill by the midship pool is open during lunch hours. At the aft Lido Stella del Sud pool, burgers are sometimes served later, around 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Note: During the day, Corona Blu is referred to as Trattoria Lido Diana. It's all the same place.
Room Service: Room service fees are, in a word, perplexing. You can order continental breakfast (rolls, yogurt, cereal, juice, a pot of good strong coffee) for free in all but Classic level cabins, where the charge is 2 euros. A full cooked breakfast costs 5 euros per person in most cabins. Delivery of other meals and snacks throughout the day or night has a 2 euro charge per order. Or it may be free, depending on your cabin level. It's best to ask before you order if you're concerned. The limited 24-hour menu includes a soup, four salads, four sandwiches and three desserts. Delivery is prompt, and we even had breakfast arrive early, before the requested delivery time.
It's well worth spending a bit extra to experience one of Costa Diadema's specialty restaurants. The cuisine is a cut above, as is the level of service. Reservations are required in the new, highly popular Tavola Teppanyaki and Club Diadema. Hours may vary slightly from day to day.
Club Diadema (Deck 5); 25 euros: Costa Diadema's fine dining venue is elegantly decorated with black and white chairs, mauve walls and blue mood lighting. Tables for two or four are set with white cloths, vases of fresh roses and faux candles. At one end of the room is an open kitchen for watching the chefs. Another wall looks out over the promenade. The Italian-inspired menu offers four courses with a wide selection for each. Your appetizer might be a spiny lobster Caesar salad; first plate a risotto with pears; and the second plate grilled tiger shrimp, salmon fillet, rib eye steak or lamb chops -- all served with sauces and sides of your choosing. There is one vegetarian option per course. Desserts include cannoli, chocolate decadence and cheeses. Service is attentive, as you would expect in an upscale restaurant. Dinner reservations are a must; Club Diadema is open for dinner between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Tavola Teppanyaki (Deck 5); 25 or 30 euros: If you're seeking a different kind of evening entertainment, try Tavola Teppanyaki. In this Japanese-style restaurant, a chef prepares dishes to order on a hot grill built into your dining table. Dinner begins with soup and salad while your chef chops and grills your rice, veggies, chicken, beef and seafood, all the while putting on a show. You choose from three menus. It's 25 euros for vegetarian or "classic," which is one main item. For 30 euros, the deluxe dinner gives you two choices from wagyu beef, rack of lamb, lobster or shrimp. Everything is served piping hot. Make reservations for either of two dinner seatings (7 p.m. or 9 p.m.). Tavola Teppanyaki may be open for lunch on sea days at the same prices.
Samsara Restaurant (Deck 5): 25 euros for non-spa cabin passengers: The spa restaurant focuses on lighter, healthy cuisine with a focus on fish and seafood. The Asian-themed decor is the most calming of the ship's restaurants, featuring silk-screen paneled walls adorned with framed Japanese ceramic masks. Tables are set with white cloths and white roses. However, just because it's free to passengers in spa cabins doesn't mean Samsara is kid-free, especially at breakfast (7 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.) or lunch (12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.). Dinner is open seating from 6:45 to 9:30 p.m. Passengers not in spa cabins pay 25 euros each for breakfast, lunch or dinner and need to make reservations. Space is usually available as there are no set dining times. The spa menu is a set three courses at lunch, perhaps a marinated swordfish and shrimp appetizer, followed by a pan-fried mullet filet for the main dish, and almond cake with berries for dessert. Dinner offers two choices per course. You can also order from the main dining room menu, and your dishes will be specially plated.
Piazza Pizza (Deck 5); 6.5 euros per pizza: Going for a pizza is a fun, informal way to enjoy dinner. As in the best Italian pizzerias, the dough is tossed by a pizzaioli (pizza maker) and comes out puffy around the edges. Order your favorite pizza and sit at an indoor table covered with a red-and-white checkered cloth, or outdoors in a cabana with a sea view. Despite the extra charge, the room is always crowded. Open 5:30 p.m. to midnight.
Gelateria Amarillo (Deck 5); 1.5 euros for one scoop of gelato: With a multicolored gumdrop ceiling (it's actually glass light bulbs) and centerpiece chocolate fountain, the ice cream bar is hard to pass up. Along with 18 flavors of gelato and ice cream, there are yummy macaroons from Luigi Biasetto, 6 different types of crepes, hot chocolates and pralines, all for a fee of a euro or two. A macaroon, for example, costs 1.20 euros. Servers dress in casual car-hop fashion with yellow and blue aprons and baseball caps. Hours are 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.