This was our first cruise. We do not take tours or stay in all inclusive resorts, and we spent the week prior to this cruise cycling in the area a few hours south of Venice. We are very well traveled and in our early 50's.We've hiked in Nepal, India, Thailand, etc and know how to rough it. So, a cruise was a rather severe departure from our usual style of travel.
We decided on the cruise because we wanted to cover a lot of territory in two weeks and this seemed the easiest and also turned out, to be the most economical. We chose the cruise on very short notice and got a no brainer deal that we couldn't pass up and fit in perfectly with the cycling trip, our main reason to visit the Venice area.
In previous years, we'd already visited most of the cruise destinations, but were happy to return to those very fascinating cities (who can get enough of Rome or Istanbul). The ship's décor was a bit on the tired side, but still very acceptable - a rather interesting mix of Asian in the public areas and Caribbean in the staterooms. Fabulously comfortable bed, lots of closet space, nice balcony for reading or cocktails, fridge, safe, and efficient bathroom (though shower grout could use refreshing). Overall, very pleased with accommodation and would choose the same if doing a future cruise.
Food on board was very good, not WOW! However, the specialty dining really was better than very good. My steak dinner in Cagney's was one of the best steak meals I've had in years. We went to Le Bistro a few times and it was excellent. La Trattoria was very good, and the other restaurants, including Raffles buffet, were very good. Service at all times was excellent.
I guess my main complaint would be about some of my fellow cruisers. The ship is freestyle, casual, which is what attracted us - no set meal times, my executive husband didn't have to wear a suit (wears one everyday to office so that's not holiday wear to him). However, there were a few passengers who were slobs and I think the ship could actually beef up their dress code a bit for all dining rooms, excluding Raffles. At least, wear some sort of collar shirt - even a polo/golf shirt, instead of a ratty t-shirt. Strangely, even though the menus in both Windows and The Garden were more to our liking, we ended up at Raffles most nights for dinner because we could take our meals outside to Raffles Terrace. We loved being on the ocean under the stars, especially during the full moon, and so the buffet was our choice most nights (as well as breakfast and lunch).
We thought the Spirit was great as a ship, loads of deck space for basking in the sun during those days at sea. I preferred the deck above the children's pool, very quiet while my husband preferred the deck around the adult pool and the lively band. Servers are everywhere, so I was always able to order a drink even though I was well away from a bar. There are hundreds of lounge chairs, so everyone who wants to sit in the sun (or find some shade) on deck can do so and not feel crowded. I initially felt the gym was small and would be crowded, well - out of 2000 passengers, maybe 50 actually worked out. So gym was great, really enjoyed. Went to the disco one night, good band, but just not into that scene. Went to the theater a couple of times. Fabulous acrobatic act, audience was glued to seats during performance. Went to a Scottish singer's performance later in the week because the acrobatic performance instilled confidence in shows, but yikes, what a disaster. Audience members streamed out during her performance. My husband wanted to leave but since it's unbelievably rude to leave during a performance, I wouldn't let him go. Anyway, after that we didn't go to another theater event. We discovered the Australian/English lounge act too late in the cruise, so only enjoyed their show for three evenings. They were great, very enjoyable.
Didn't choose any excursions, big tour bus/big group definitely not our style so we just got on trains or taxis. Hired a private boat in Capri that took us around the island for two hours which was fabulous.
Anyway, for anyone who is considering a cruise on any cruise line, take a careful look at the logistics/distance from each day's port and the attraction/city. Some of the main attractions are a fair distance away which doesn't leave much time for visiting the attraction. We hired a car in Toulon, France and drove to Aix en Provence. Nice drive, but not a lot of time to see Aix en Provence or for a drive back along the coast.
So, would we do another cruise? I don't know, but if we were to do another cruise, I'd definitely check out other itineraries with NCL. Staff were great and NCL is OTT about hand sanitizing, "washy, washy" staff spraying in every on board food service area. They are very proactive about ensuring no one gets sick on board.