I had gone on several cruises "back in the day" when cruise ships were "ocean liners" so when I booked this cruise on the Spirit I had my fears. I did not really pick this ship as it was chosen because my family and I wanted to travel with my wife's sister and her family. I did what I consider exhaustive research on this ship from its beginnings as the SuperStar Leo for NCL parent company Star cruises to the what appeared to be MANY negative reviews by posters on this an other web sites. I became terrified but was calmed after I read the review from George N.Y. as well as personally communicated with him by email before the trip. I am one who adores cruising so I took a deep breath and went with an open mind along with my wife and first time cruising 13 and 15 year old kids.
Embarkation- Considering that NCL is moving 2000 passengers onto the Spirit, they did a nice job. Juices, cookies and cake were available in the pier as we waited although the juice was so watered down it was horrible-a preview to the OJ on the ship!!!. Our pictures were taken for our Embarkation cards.... this is your room key, credit card, and security access on an off the ship for the cruise. We were on board relatively quickly.
Room: WAY smaller than I imagined. We were in an inside room deck 10, 4 people. The room steward magically transformed the room to 4 beds every night although I DID have issues with him. He did not introduce himself until day 5 of the cruise (unacceptable to me); he recycled towels that we clearly left on the floor to be replaced necessitating a call to the chief steward; and my toilet had a constant odor of urine despite what appeared to be a very satisfactory job cleaning the room every day. Beds were small but comfy. Reasonable closet space even for 4 people but BRING HANGERS. We asked for several more and got them. Bathroom was a very nice size with a great shower but very dimly lit.
The Ship: I personally loved the décor of the Spirit. Its Asian origins made it very pretty and almost classy in appearance. The center atrium was beautiful!! It appeared very clean. Carpets were always vacuumed, decks were clean although it seemed that all of the pretty brass had fingerprints on it especially in the elevators (not a surprise due to the traffic). The staff always encouraged us to squirt alcohol hand gel to clean our hands-dispensers were all over the ship. The public rooms were pretty and nicely done.
The pool area was very nice however way too few chairs for the amount of passengers. It seemed that half the 2000 passengers wanted to hang out by the pool. If you did not get out by early am (8:00) no chairs for you, although there were available chairs forward and aft away from the pools. Pool was nice-mixture of salt and fresh water. The hot tubs were kept not too hot as to keep the folks who spent hours in them with their drinks did not pass out!! A reggae style band played out there daily and although they were pretty good, they wear on you after the first few days.
The casino was the largest of any ship I personally have been on. Plenty of tables and slots, but be prepared, IT STUNK OF CIGARETTE SMOKE AT ALL TIMES!!
DINING: The freestyle experience was not as bas as I expected from someone who has always dined with a fixed schedule. My party was able to secure fixed reservations for dinner every night although not fixed seating, which I actually enjoyed meeting different waiters every evening in the Windows restaurant, which was very nice. The food ranged from mediocre to very good but it was consistently presented nicely. Service was slow but you are at dinner on a cruise-. what's the rush!!
Reviews I read of Raffles Buffet before I went on my cruise scared the heck out of me. horrible food etc. Regarding Raffles, keep this in mind; it is a BUFFET. For a buffet the food was good to very good. Fresh made omelets, eggs, waffles for breakfast. Fresh stir fry for lunch, and a nice selection of other entrees. One criticism is that it can be VERY crowded during peak times. My wife had hot coffee knocked out of her hand by someone who appeared to be quite hungry!
Another common complaint I have read is of the burgers by the pool as being "dry" and people tossing them "after one bite". During my cruise I found out WHY. A chef both on deck and in the Blue Lagoon grill told me the burgers HAD to be cooked well done for health code purposes. No choice there!!!
The entertainment was great with terrific shows in the theater every night.
Overall I had a very nice trip, as did my 13 and 15-year-old boys. My wife was disappointed mainly due to the lack of space by the pool to just sit and chill without music blaring. Would I travel on NCL again?? Possibly, but I would like to try RCL or even some lines with smaller ships. Keep in mind that with newer and more massive ships being put into service that bigger is NOT always better!! Give me a 20,000-ton ship with 300 passengers any day.