My family (48, 46 & 18) sailed on the Spirit 1/4/09 out of New Orleans. This would be our fourth cruise. We arrived one day early and stayed at the Drury Inn on Poydras St. It was a surprisingly nice hotel, across the street from La Pavion. Our $94 room rate included an evening happy hour and hot breakfast, but best of all, free parking during the cruise.
We took a short walk to the quarter for dinner. Cruise day we took a 10 minute cab ride to the terminal ($21 for three) dropped off our luggage at the cage (not marked well) and took the escalator upstairs. The security line went fast and on to check-in. At check in, the "Latitude Member" line was about 3x as full as the regular check in and the hostess expedited our check in. We were on the ship in less than 45 minutes from the time we left the hotel.
Our balcony cabin (11566) while not large, was still nicer than some on previous cruises. The layout of the bathroom with enclosed shower was a nice touch. The cruise staff was always available and friendly.
We dined in the Windows dining room two nights and Gardens the rest. Windows is larger and a little more formal with the same menu. The food was very good and we ordered an extra entree several nights to share when the options looked too good. Service was good but lacked the personalized attention you receive when you have the same wait staff for the entire week. We did not dine in any of the "pay" restaurants, but heard good reviews of them.
The Raffles buffet was always busy at lunch and breakfast with a good variety of food. The Bier Garden offered a nice view and burgers and hotdogs.
The pool was great (buckets of beer 6/$24) with four hot tubs and not overly crowded.
As for entertainment the "Second City" shows were funny and the Magic show was good. The productions were my least favorite but our son enjoyed the shows.
In Guatemala we booked the waterfall tour through "Happy Fish." The eight of us fit nicely in our van and we arrived before the large groups from the ship. This is a very poor but beautiful country and they truly appreciate you being there. Be on deck for the show as you leave port.
In Cozumel we did the catamaran snorkel and beach break booked through the ship. The reef they took us to was disappointing but the private beach and sail was nice, not to mention the open bar. We had plenty of time left for shopping. Great prices on liquor, shirts and got a pair of alligator boots. We finished the day at Carlos and Charles and the conga line.
In Belize we had signed up for Cave Tubing on our own but were late getting off the boat (long tender ride) so we booked snorkeling on shore and lunch at their private beach. You have to try the nachos at the "The Wet Lizard" and a Belkin beer (2 for $5) right on the dock. The shopping was more expensive here.
Costa Maya has a brand new dock and beach area with a large shopping mall with bargains to be had. We booked the beach break from the ship and took an air conditioned bus to the beach which had kayaks and an open bar, food for purchase (cash only). Our son did the parasailing and had a blast. The beach is owned by the son of the man who built the cruise ship dock. The area is still recovering from past hurricanes; I was told that at one time this beach had over 2,000 lounge chairs and a Dolphin encounter.
We carried off our own luggage and we were off the ship and through customs in about 20 minutes. Overall I would score this ship 8 out of 10, deducting for entertainment and the above average but not great food.