After sailing on the Spirit over Christmas, comparison curiosity has kept me scanning the reviews since our first cruise. Luckily, our cruise did not experience the "virus" as did subsequent cruises. We found the staff to be meticulous about keeping the ship clean, although an outbreak, once started, is difficult to control.
In retrospect, NCL is notorious to nickel and dime their customers to death. It's an unpleasant aspect of the cruise and so obviously designed to make money that one feels bombarded by Midway tactics at the local fair. I found their ship photographer intrusive, failing to take the hint. If I had wanted a photograph, he certainly was readily available, and I didn't need him continuing to track us down at meals, at ports, and seemingly everywhere we turned. While some people love the "theme pictures" upon disembarking at various ports, once again I was irritated at yet another attempt to make money.
The food was good, not gourmet. I would compare it to hotel banquet food, so in general we had no complaints. Serving 2000 customers in and itself is a monumental feat. The wait staff in the restaurants provided fast, exceptional, warm service. Comments from family members who ate in the specialty, premium restaurants was very favorable and pleasant. Our meal at Cagney's was comparable to a good steak restaurant but was below par to a steak restaurant like Ruth's Chris or Bones. Breakfast foods were varietal and more in keeping with what one could expect at a convention. Although portion sizes were small, one is free to order more. Soups, salads, and entrees changed nightly with ample choices. The desserts were OK.
At a 2000+ capacity, at times I felt as if I had joined up with my new best friends from the mall, yet rarely did we feel over-crowded except in the pool area.
The staterooms (thankfully, we had a balcony) were clean and adequate. Our stewards were attentive and responsive to our requests. Beds were comfortable but not luxurious. The decor, albeit somewhat dated, certainly is no reason to exclude the Spirit.
I find the consistent comments about tendering irritating. Once again, NCL as a company seems to care more about catering to profit-making than genuine service, so I was put-off by their providing preferential treatment to those customers who booked NCL excursions. While understanding providing some degree of consideration to those NCL excursion customers, there is certainly no need to penalize others who choose to book their excursions elsewhere. Where routine activity is concerned, NCL does just fine. However outside their "comfort zone" NCL doesn't extend much of welcoming service, in my opinion. What an opportunity to solicit repeat customers although in this area I would give them a low grade.
Assessing value received for money spent, I'd say we pretty much got what we paid for. The Spirit is no luxury liner but also no freighter. It's an adequate, mid-range cruise ship that provides a fun experience. I believe the common threads that have run through the reviews correctly report what one could expect. We discovered cruising a blast; in fact, in May we're going on a Greek Island cruise, this time choosing a smaller capacity ship where service ranks a bit higher.