Costa Diadema at Christmas

My travel writing on-board Costa Diadema December 23rd – 30th 2016

My travel cruise is a bit different this time since I was hurt before leaving and I had to move using sticks. This experience showed me how people can be discourteous sometimes!

I can’t count how many lifts I was unable to take because some rude passengers tried to close the doors as fast as possible or ran to catch a lift even if I was waiting for one for a long time…

Thursday 22nd, December

Ready to reach Marseilles by car.

We hopefully managed to squeeze everything in the car! Let’s go!

Friday 23rd, December

Once arrived in Marseilles, we park our car in the carpark of the terminal. We will have to wait because the boarding is to start at 1 pm. What can we do? We’re too tired to go downtown, so we’re having a nap in the car looking at Costa Diadema at the same time.

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Midday: Boarding Room

While we’re waiting, we meet a nice couple from Brittany. They’re cruise-addicts (they like travelling with MSC or Costa Cruises mainly). They are telling us little anecdotes from their last cruises. They usually have to face technical problems and I hope nothing will happen to them! In any case we stand in awe of them.

12.30: Boarding has just been announced!

One of the hostesses suggests I should take a wheelchair to get on the boat. I am first unwilling but I know that’s a long walk to get to my cabin. So I agree and a crew member takes me to the cabin. We are welcome by our cabin steward. His name is Taupik and he’s from the Philippines.

We fancy something to eat and decide to find the club restaurant. This place will be our restaurant during the cruise because of our Perla Diamante member status. Lunch highlights one of the Italian regions as usual and today it is Campania.

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In our cabin there is a bottle of Ferrari. But the cabin steward has also brought some toasts to celebrate Christmas. Our Perla Diamante member status also gives us the opportunity to have fresh fruit every day. Yum-yum

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4.15 pm: Emergency Drill

I was supposed to wait for a crew member to help me go to the theatre. But I was forgotten.

Let’s go the theatre on our own. But we’re late… The film is already over. Passengers are called according to the letter written on their lifejackets. Once you are called (for us it is letter D), you are escorted to the muster station. We’re escorted by a crew member who’s going a lot faster than me and my sticks. A crew member is showing us the wrong direction (I was sure he was wrong as it is our third time on-board this ship and I know the muster station D is the club restaurant). In brief, the emergency drill is over before reaching the muster station. Not great, is it?

Around 6 pm we are getting dressed to go to the club restaurant. Let’s have a drink all together in a bar to celebrate our 15th cruise and after that, it’s time for the restaurant. It is 7.20 pm.

The maître d’ doesn’t seem very happy to see us. He’s explaining to us that we should know there are 2 seatings and that flex times are now over! With an unfriendly tone he finally tells us to come back 1 hour later.

Ok, so we have plenty of time to attend the show. Tonight the show stars the Solitary Ground, 2 flying acrobats. The show is spectacular and time’s flying…

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We’re back at the restaurant and a waiter is asking us to wait outside. We’re told to come back at 9.15 pm for the second seating. What’s going on??? Where’s the maître d’? I won’t leave the restaurant without a clear explanation! I’m sure I haven’t misunderstood. He has definitely said 8.30 pm, not 9.15 pm… When the maître d’ arrives, he states he said 8.30 pm but to make us wait outside for 45 minutes and then be sure to get a table for 4!

Great, I can’t stand the idea of waiting for 45 minutes with my sticks (all the more we’ve travelled for 12 hours by car and we’re exhausted). So the maître d’ advises us to have dinner somewhere else, such as the Adularia or the Corona Blue. Ok, let’s see if there is a table or not. Of course, I’ll give you 3 guesses, those restaurants are full. The queue is so long that we can’t see the entrance…

So let’s wait outside the club restaurant. Honestly this organizational problem was predictable because the number of passengers with a Perla Diamante member status and the passengers travelling in suites are higher than the number of seats in the club restaurant. We can expect longer queues every evening…

After dinner, we’re going to our cabin to relax. On our way back we help 2 lost passengers who are unable to open their doors with the cabin card. I understand it may be tricky when you’ve never done it!

Saturday 24th, December: Barcelona

9 am: It’s time for us to wake up. Everybody is in a good mood because it is Christmas Eve tonight!

The ship is already in the port of Barcelona.

We’re going to the club restaurant to have our first breakfast. Let’s have waffles with chocolate sauce or a typical English breakfast.

Once ready we leave the ship to go downtown. We hire a taxi because it’s cheaper to take a taxi for a family of four than buying tickets for the shuttle bus by Costa Cruises. To drive us to Catalonia Square, he charges us for 13 euros. It is mild outside and we stroll in the streets.

The cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia in the Gothic district:

I really advise you to visit it since the nave is worth a try!

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The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Eulalia, a young goose keeper who was a martyr in Roman times. She was killed at 13 years old by 13 different tortures. Today we can see 13 white geese in the cloister to honor Eulalia’s memory.

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After that, no visit to the Ramblas, no visit to the famous market Boqueria! What a pity!

1.30 pm: Back to Costa Diadema

In the afternoon, swimming pool and Jacuzzi

Christmas Eve is coming. It is high time we got dressed. Besides we’ve received an invitation for a wine-tasting in the wine bar at 6 pm. During the wine-tasting 5 different wines are presented: one prosecco, 2 white wines (from the North-East and North-West of Italy) and 2 red wines. Wines are served with a plate of grissini, parmesan cheese and dried meat.

In the meantime the other members of the family have to queue in front of the restaurant. It is nearly 6.10 pm and there are already 10 people queueing…

Christmas dinner is a treat: lobster, beef, panettone… It is a treat for our taste buds and our eyes also!

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9.15 pm: Show starring the Kings and Queens of Pop and Rock

That’s a great show but some passengers find it too loud.

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Strolling on the ship to take pictures of the beautiful ice sculptures and the giant panettone!

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Our cabin steward likes making sculptures with bath towels and a different animal will wait for us wisely on bed every night.

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11.30 pm: Christmas Midnight Mass

The first song is sung by the wonderful tenor, Alberto Herranz. Readings and psalms are read in different languages. There is a booklet for each language. This is our 2nd mass on-board a cruise ship and I find this one sadder because there is no song between the readings.

Our Christmas Eve carries on with music and dance (for the others, not me!)

Sunday 25th, December

We wake up late (it is 10 am) and we take our breakfast in the cabin.

We choose smart clothes because we’re invited to the VIP cocktail with Captain Giorgio Moretti at 11 am. Before the cocktail, we greet the Captain and we take the traditional photo with him. It is a pleasant cocktail. The international hostesses, the managers and even the Captain come and greet the passengers in Theodora Lounge. We wish Merry Christmas to each other.

We have a toast and discuss with each other. We get to know the Austrian hostess, Brigit, who can speak French very well.

11.30 am: On the Diario di Bordo, it was written “Christmas Market” so we decide to have a go. But they only sell watches and Peppa Pig soft toys. How disappointing!

12.15: Lunch at the club restaurant

We get the last table for 4 although the restaurant only opened 15 minutes ago. We feel the waiters are stressed and thus less kind. I will understand why later. Our daughters would like to attend the Voice of the Sea at 1 pm. I ask the waiter to have their plates a bit faster explaining they would like to be on time. The waiter seems irritated and answers that everyone here is in a hurry. They eventually get their meals before us and are on time at the show!

As for us we arrive later to attend the show (it is Christmas so why hurry?). If you know the programme The Voice UK, you know how people compete. There are several passengers competing: France is the most represented country with 3 contestants. After their songs, one of the 3 coaches chooses his/her favourite contestant. And the passengers who were given a remote control at the beginning can vote for one of the 3 contestants. The winner is Sonia who deserves her award because she sang beautifully!

The weather is mild and sunny and we spend the rest of the afternoon on sun chairs and in pools.

4 pm: Gelateria Amarillo

When you are on deck 5, you are attracted by the smell coming from the giant chocolate fountain or the fresh-made crepes. That is not included. So you’ll have to pay 1.50 euros + service charges for an ice-cream or 0.95 euros + service charges for a fruit with chocolate.

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4.30 pm: Arrival of Santa Claus in the Atrium

It suddenly starts to snow and Santa Claus gives presents to the children of the kids’ club. One-day princesses parade in front of their parents taking photos or films!

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In the meantime, teens who are less interested in Santa can play table tennis or virtual games in the game room.

For everyone who likes challenges, there is a new game, MyCosta Hunt. This is a team game that leads you on the different decks of the ship. I would have liked to take part but I couldn’t with my sticks. Next time!

Back to the cabin to get dressed: gala dress for me!

Monday 26th, December: Cagliari, Sardinia

9 am: let’s have breakfast in the club restaurant

I decide to order Belgian waffles with chocolate (this is the Belgian breakfast on the menu). Good resolutions will wait until 2017! The weather’s beautiful and the temperature’s mild.

Passengers have left the ship and pools and Jacuzzi are empty. So let’s choose the Jacuzzi on deck 5. We feel as if it was our private Jacuzzi. There is nobody on the deck.

After lunch (this was a Sardinian menu today), we leave the ship to visit downtown. We know that all is closed because it is December 26th but we fancy fresh air.

Even if we knew it was the day after Christmas, we are surprised to see how quiet it is at 2 pm. No taxi, no tourist train… So what can we do? If I could, we could walk downtown as we already did it twice in the past, but I can’t.

Back to ship!

Tonight is the Notte Bianca or White Party. It’s time to wear white!

After dinner, we attend the show by the Tenor Alberto Herranz. Even if you don’t like classical music, you’ll enjoy the show all the same because he’s some kind of funny guy who is able to mix jokes and well-known melodies!

Before the beginning of the party, let’s taste spumanti at Bollicine Lounge.

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Tuesday 27th, December: Civitavecchia (Port of Rome)

The ship enters the port at 9 am and there are many passengers ready to disembark and many passengers who go and visit the breathtaking city of Rome.

If you plan to visit Rome, either you take a coach (it takes 1 hour 30 minutes) or you take the train (the Roma Express, it takes 1 hour). To visit the Eternal City, you need to walk. As I can’t walk, everyone agrees to stay with me on board.

We’re so glad to have the ship for us! At lunch time, we meet our friends from Brittany and they made friends with others. So this is a joyful band that has lunch together. It is incredible but we could check how strange things could happen to them. When we are served the dessert, our friend shows what treasure she has found in her panacotta: a chicken bone! This is no lucky charm! Everyone laughs at it and so does the waiter.

Tonight is Italian night. We learn that next to the terminal, there is a shop selling accessories with the Italian flag: hats, ties and so on. What a good idea, no?

After dinner, we attend the show “Sapori di Italia”.  This is a kind of musical with well-known Italian melodies. We are well-seated. Indeed thanks to our Perla Diamante member status, we are seated next to the stage.

After the show, we have a drink in bars while listening to Italian music and watching people dancing.

Wednesday 28th, December: La Spezia

The ship arrives at 9 am but our excursion is at 1.30 pm. So we have plenty of time to relax in the cabin. Most passengers have left the ship to visit Florence, Pisa or the Cinque Terre (meaning the 5 lands).

Harsh reality is coming back because on the one hand, a butler has just brought us our end of cruise gift (a bath towel) and on the other hand, we have just received the “magic bag”. This is a laundry bag in which you can put up to 25 clothes to get it clean freely (another advantage given to the most faithful customers).

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At lunch, let’s discover food from Tuscany!

At 1.30 pm: we’re in the coach to visit Brugnato Outlet Shopping Center. It is 45 minutes driving from the port. We drive along the Gulf of Poets where famous poets as Lord Byron or Shelley lived.

In the shopping center, a local hostess invites us to a “welcome drink” in the local food store. We are given a 10% discount coupon to use in the stores. From 2 pm to 4.15 pm, we do shopping in wonderful Italian stores such as Baldinini, Camomilla or Liu-jo but there are also American brands such as Nike.

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After the outlet shopping center, the coach drives us to Sarzana, a Ligurian tourist city 40 minutes far from Brugnato. That’s a nice place to see: the fortress, the cathedral and also Saint Andrea church. The main street displays art and antiques.

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But it is late afternoon and the temperature has decreased. So we’re frozen when we go back to the ship at 6.30 pm.

We’re anxious to be late because we’re not sure to find a table. So we head on directly. Hopefully there is one left. After washing our hands, we are ready for dinner (casual clothes tonight!)

9.30 pm: the show is “Gente di Mare”. It is a show starring crew members and animation team members.

This is an entertaining show even if the show is the same on every Costa ship. We have good fun.

After a drink, we wait for the show “Tu si que vales”. It is in Italian but it doesn’t matter. This is the Italian version of “Britain’s got talent”. It stars passengers as well as artists from the ship. But they are not in the same category. We vote for our favourite contestants with the remote control we have been given at the beginning. Three jury members comment upon their acts: Francesco, the Cruise director, Carla, the Hotel Manager and Guisy, the singer. As for the 3 artists, there are Bogdon (one of the flying acrobats), Alex Carolli (Carolli Circus) and the singer. They all do something different from their traditional show. Alex chose an act with shadow puppets and he got the award! As for the 3 passengers, there are 2 singers and a diabolo-player. Kevin is a 13-year-old Italian boy and he’s very good at it. He wins the award with 81.8%.

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Thursday 29th, December: Savona

We arrive at 9 am and since yesterday evening there has been hullaballoo in the hallways. Most of the passengers will disembark in Savona. Indeed there were so many suitcases in the hallways yesterday evening!

As Savona doesn’t mean disembarking for us, we enjoy an empty ship! After some time in pools and a quiet lunch in the club restaurant, we doll ourselves up with a manicure called “Indian milk with honey and Marma point massage”. It’s a pity the discount (30 % discount for a treatment between 12 and 4 pm) was only for face or body treatments…

Suddenly on deck 5, we can hear a friendly voice talking to laughing passengers. Who’s that? That’s Pepper, the human-like robot! So glad I can see it at last! I take time to interview Pepper and take photos. It’s a very funny robot able to speak in 3 languages: English, French and Italian. You can play or take selfies with it.

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Back to the cabin to pack…

Don’t forget to prepare another bag with all you need for the last day: clothes, shoes, medication, etc.

I always bring a foldable backpack in my suitcase. I bought it in the Costa shop on board another ship. It’s quite cheap and doesn’t take more space than a T-shirt when folded.

Last party before Marseilles: the passengers who have just embarked seem ready to celebrate New Year and there are paper streamers and confetti everywhere in the atrium!

Friday 30th, December: Marseilles

Our labels are red. So it means we disembark at 9 am.

After breakfast, we must go to the reception desk because we’ve noticed a mistake in our bill. The magic bag was supposed to be free but it’s not the case. No problem, we get a new one. But there are several unhappy passengers who have just understood they will have to pay for hotel charges (10 euros per person and per day) and apparently their travel agency hadn’t said anything about it before the cruise.

With the assistance of a crew member, we leave the ship and once in the terminal we take our luggage to go to the carpark.

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Bye for now, Costa Diadema!

Enregistrer

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