As an experienced cruiser I took my partner for her first cruise on the Thomson Spirit in early December. I had been on this ship may years ago. The Spirit is an old girl and she has her roots set in the 50/60's although she was not built until the 80's.
The one thing most people complain about is the vibration, the intensity of which varies depending where you are on the ship. I find it more of a 'rumble' than a vibration and my partner said she found it quite soothing. Most of the people on the ship were regulars and not bothered by it.
Cabins are larger than on some ships and kept clean and tidy. They may not be the most modern but they are certainly fit for use.
Great points about the ship: Staff. staff and staff (apart from a couple of the Russians). The staff are friendly and attentive, and if you bother to give them a little of your time they soon learn your name and your requirements. Especially good were 'Tatyana'. our cabin steward and 'Shine' the waitress on the promenade deck although the others were all excellent as well. Thanks for looking after us.
Entertainment was very good for the size of the ship and Richard ( cruise director) takes his job very seriously but chatted with everyone and was up for a laugh.
Food. The 'Lido' buffet provides a fair quality of food from 6am till 1am. great for snacks but if you want to eat properly then the 'Compass Rose' restaurant (5 courses) is where to go. Excellent food and service, songs and cake for my birthday, nothing to fault or complain about. The Chateaubriand and rib-eye were worthy of a special mention. We didn't try 'Sciroccos' restaurant but others who did reported it was also excellent (7 courses!)
The cleanliness on the ship was excellent. At 2am, when most were in bed, every surface including door handles, lifts, stairwells etc. were sprayed to prevent the transmission of germs and banisters and other commonly used surfaces were cleaned constantly. Food areas were spotless and everything shone that should do.
We didn't bother with excursions preferring to make our own way. We saved a fortune by doing the Madeira cable-car and toboggan ourselves.
Overall we had a great time, met some wonderful people and kept the bar staff up to some very silly hours. Sorry guys.
The Spirit is a little tired but if you want a great budget cruise with good food, staff and entertainment give her a try.
TIP. take the drinks package if you like a drink. Thomson are getting a little bit greedy with their drinks prices these days.