We have just returned from a Fjords 6 night cruise with the Spirit, having cruised with Ocean Village, NCL and Princess previously, we boarded the ship at Harwich, if you have boarded at Southampton you will find Harwich less impressive as regards to parking as you have to leave your luggage with porters then proceed to the car park and then take a shuttle to the ship, at Southampton they take your car for you to the car park and you just stroll into the cruise terminal. Having said that we arrived at 12pm and was onboard by 1.10pm so not bad at all.
First impressions of the ship are a bit disappointing in terms of decor, but having read all the reviews we knew what to expect so did not let that worry us too much, we had lunch in the Lido buffet an excellent choice of food and on par with the other cruises we have been on. For the evening meal we dined in the main restaurant which allows you to turn up at any time after 6pm they put you on tables of 4, 6 or bigger there are a few tables for 2 but we thought we would sit with other passengers, what a wonderful bunch of people we met from all walks of life and I have to say this was the most sociable cruise we have ever been on, if like us you are a bit concerned about dining with strangers don't be, it was a great experience. It was nice to discuss the days excursions and what other people thought about cruising etc.
Our cabin was booked 3 weeks prior to sailing an inside deck 1 or 2, we ended up on deck 3 just 1 deck below the main restaurant which was ideal as we also ended up having breakfast there also, you could have waiter service, or if you prefer they did a buffet service in this restaurant as well, I am not sure if all passengers are aware of this, but it was very relaxing and no queuing at all as is not the case sometimes with the Lido buffet. On all occasions when arriving at the main restaurant we never queued once which was brilliant.
All the bars are good and we normally found a seat, the drinks are par for the course Â£3.50 pint lager, house wine Â£16 a bottle, you can have an all inclusive package if like a good drink I think it works out at Â£30 a day. Good thing is no gratuities on drinks or daily fees, what a breath of fresh air, well done Thompson, we tipped our brilliant steward at the end of the cruise.
Our cabin was of a good size the beds were in a 'L' shape format so you could not put them together, the mattresses could do with upgrading a bit lumpy in places, the cabin was kept spotless and for 4 nights out of 6 we had wonderful towel animals waiting for us on our return. The suitcases fitted under the beds and the wardrobe and draw space was more than enough. The toilet did stop flushing once but we told our cabin lady and she stopped what she was doing and went to get the plumber, when we returned after breakfast the toilet was fixed - great service. The TV's are old with the usual channels, but to be honest we hardly ever have the TV on so was not bothered.
After you spend 1 or 2 days on board you stop noticing the dated aspects of the ship and start to see why people return to this ship and the Thompson brand, the food, entertainment and staff are as good if not better than any other cruise we have been on.
The swimming pools (2) are not that big, more for cooling down than a good swim, on our cruise it was not really warm enough for swimming so cannot comment, but they were emptied everyday and cleaned thoroughly then filled with filtered sea water. We always got a sunbed or chair on deck, not always around the pool though but there are always some available around the ship.
Getting on and off ship was easy never queued once unlike the bigger ships we have been on, except leaving the ship at Harwich where you have to sit in the lounges and wait for your deck number to be called.
Now to the main concern 'the vibration' yes there is one, not all the time and not everywhere, nothing like I was expecting when reading other reviews, I notice all other ships in the fleet are being upgraded except the 'Spirit' maybe her days are numbered.
To summarise if you want a great value cruise (book late like we did) and are not bothered by lack of glitz and glamour but want excellent food, comfortable surroundings, small enough to get around quickly but big enough to find some quiet places, and the great service and entertainment then you will enjoy this ship. It is the kind of ship you grow to love, a bit like an old armchair past it best but still very comfortable.