Having tried other cruise lines before settling on NCL as the one which suited us best, we were astonished that the oldest ship in the fleet, the Spirit, has taken over the position of our favourite ship.
We had five days in Torremolinos pre-cruise and the highlight of that part of our holiday was a trip to Gibraltar which is an enchanting place with a unique history. To be honest, we could not wait to reach Malaga to embark on our sixth NCL ship and were immeditately taken aback at the classy look and quality of the public areas.
There was none of the garish colours used in most NCL ships but instead a more subdued look which was very pleasing on the eye. Our cabin was excellent although our balcony was the smallest we had ever had but that was a minor complaint.
Our first meal was up top in the buffet and somehow there was never any problem in getting a table to ourselves during the whole nine days. In fact, we came to the conclusion that the more modern ships just dont allow the same space ratio per passenger compared to the Spirit. No matter where we went to eat, relax or be entertained there was a comfortable feeling of spaciousness.
That was certainly true in the Windows restaurant, the biggest eating place in the NCL fleet, but it was the same in Cagneys, Le Bistro, Shogun, etc with only the Blue Lagoon being cramped.
apart from the feeling of space, the main impression we took away from the Spirit was the consistent friendliness of the staff. It was smiles all the way every day and the standard of service was a credit to the company. Ragu, our cabin steward, was a real gem and totally committed to his job. Star of the show, however, was Le Bistro waiter Alex. He knew our name before he even took our orders and recognised customers instantly whenever they entered.
The captain and the ships officers mingled happily with the passengers and never once passed us without a friendly greeting. This was certainly one happy ship.
We had been to the ports of call before but took in three or four excursions which were well organised. In magical Madeira, however, we headed straight to the Xaramba restaurant in the old town. Situated between the two top eating places, Portao and the Fort, Xaramba is a must for the tastiest pizza ever and the best flagon of Sangria served up anywhere.
NCL certainly have a winner in the Spirit and having sailed on her we now realise why so many Americans mourned the fact that she was moved to Europe.