My husband and I had never been on a cruise before - here is our review...
We made our own way to Barcelona, arriving at the airport at approx. 10.30am local time. We decided to just take a cab from the rank outsaide the airport rather than pre-book transfers, I think this is actually the cheaper option for 2 people, was 30 Euros.
On arriving at the port our first view of the Spirit was lovely, it seemed enormous to us! NCL staff took our luggage from us from jsut outside the terminal. We went in, no queues, checked in etc and waited for boarding. Free coffee and cake was served which I think was a lovely touch. About 15 minutes later we were boarding, I think we were onboard by 11.30am. Very smooth process and stress free.
First impressions of the ship was great, very impressive atrium area, lots of welcoming staff, pianist playing in the corner - lovely! As it was so early we decided to explore before having lunch to try to get our bearings. We had lunch in Windows restaurant (a great tip from CC to avoid the crowded buffet), was really interesting sitting in a window seat watching them load the ship with provisions for the week.
I'll try to summarise now otherwise this will be too long!
We ate at the buffet for breakfast all except one morning, we aren't early risers so didn't have too much of a problem with crowds. Huge variety of food, freshly cooked eggs were great and loads of fresh fruit. Breakfast was great there. One morning in Windows was ok, but not worth the wait time and
selection far more restrictive. Lunch tended to be either buffet or Blue Lagoon - bit more 'hit and miss' dependent on the time you got there - but generally ok. Dinner - we ate in Windows most evenings, much nicer than the Garden room for ambience. Food here was ok, nothing special and normallly luke warm at best. Presentation could be a bit slap dash too. Service was generally good. One night in Cagneys - excellent, one night in Le Bistro - not as good as I expected but ok, one night in Asian - very good.
We didn't participate in any of the daytime activities, preferring to do our own thing. Evening shows were mostly good, highlights were the acrobats, the motown /soul band, the comedy juggler and the Irish string quartet (hilarious!!). The ships own singers were pretty bad (ie head in hands at their attempt to do 'rock and roll' night), we avoided shows were it was just them after one experience! Dancers were alright but not great.
Really enjoyed Madeira and Malaga. Lanzarote and Tenerife are ok, but less there to see close to the ship. We didn't do any excursions so can't comment on those. We enjoyed just strolling of the ship to explore. The cable car and toboggan ride in Madeira should not be missed!
Really enjoyed the treatments in the spa. Quite small area but staff were very good and massage therapist was excellent (Liza).
Well laid out and well planned storage. Never seemed to be thoroughly clean - but then with such quick turn arounds I'm not surprised. Our room steward forgot to replace our pool towels at least 3/4 times - got a bit fed up with trying to track him down in the afternoon when we wanted to swim.
Overall service was good. Senior staff were very visible and approachable (not that we had need to speak to them!). Captain's addresses were very funny! Cruise Director had the habit of addressing everyone like she still worked at Butlins. Hostesses at the Windows main dining room did not enforce the dress code, I know this is supposed to be relaxed but track suits/trainers/vests on men at dinner were allowed. Loungers are not monitored around the pool, so towels (rather than people) were set out for hours on end with no one moving them. This needs to be monitored, especially on sea days.
We enjoyed the cruise and came back really relaxed. Before we went everyone told us that we would love cruising so much we'd never go on another type of holiday again - I definitely disagree - we liked it but found positve and negatives (as with all holidays!). All in all I would compare it with a 3* resort.