For a first time cruiser the Thomson Spirit was a nice introduction to small ship cruising. Although not at all fancy or grand she was kept tidy and polished by a crew who had taken the 'FISH' concept on board.
The cabins were satisfactory - again a little dated in terms of decor and fittings - however when I mentioned that the bed was a bit uncomfortable the mattress was immediately changed.
Food was an interesting mix of British/Filipino and European dishes -again not fancy but well presented and varied with moderate portion sizes in the Compass Rose.
Activities on board ship were perhaps too prosaic for some - but beanbag quoits and putting were as hotly contested as the 100 metres - in fact even Usain Bolt may have had some competition.
The entertainment team were motivated, cheerful and presented their shows/acts/cabaret with gusto and enthusiasm. The resident comedian was funny without being lewd.
There was also guest speakers with Gordon Banks being a lively, articulate and amusing orator and a gentleman who discussed ports of call and the famous Stave churches in Norway, a little dry for me but well attended nonetheless.
The overall attitude of the crew was polite and helpful, the hospitality crew are mostly Indonesian, Filipino and Eastern European and throughout the holiday maintained a cheerful and considered approach to the guests in my opinion -
The Itinerary took in most of the major sights north up the Norwegian coast - including Flam. Molde, Tromso, Hellesynt/Geiranger, Honningsvaag and North Cape, Alesund and Bergin. The excursions were moderately priced and generally had all the must 'sees' included. One amusing aside was the 'Sami' camp on the way to the North Cape, which consisted of a family of four, in their wooden hut selling souvenir's. Dad was outside with a slightly sunburned albino reindeer, whilst across the road was a nice bungalow with 4X4's parked outside - 'you canny beat the dream' as they say in Scotland. The real stars of the show of this holiday though was the amazing scenery and the weather. Despite being rainy and even snowy at North Cape the sun shone almost every day of the holiday and was even warm enough to sunbathe on the top deck. The Fjords were truly breathtaking - they dwarfed the ships as they passed through with thundering snow melt waterfalls around every corner.
Whilst other commentators have noted that the ship is like a 'Butlins' at sea, I have to honestly say that I did not find that. Most of the other guests I spoke to were interesting and congenial, a very few were not, but then I was not travelling with them so it made no difference.
The ship does have a persistant 'judder' minor I thought and perhaps not the best stabilisers in the world - but the sea was mostly mirror calm so I cannot comment on how she would have handled bigger seas.
The positive points of this cruise were the hospitality and itinerary, perhaps the more critical points would be the limited facilities and tired cabin decor - a lick of paint, some nice curtains and bedspreads would brighten up the lower deck cabins. Whilst I found this to be a relaxing and enjoyable cruise I would probably choose a comparable small ship to travel on. I did not find Thomson particulary 'cheap' especially travelling solo and this would influence my choice of holiday should I cruise again.