The Spirit was built in the mid 1980's for Holland North America line, and despite some extensive upgrading, is now old-fashioned and a bit tired compared to our two previous cruise vessels MSC Lirica & MSC Orchestra. On the other hand, there was much more public space and open deck space than is common on the new large cruise ships, and the cabin was very roomy with lots of wardrobe space etc. Unfortunately, we were on deck 3 forward, so only had a port-hole which was 4' away from the cabin.
The general standard of catering was superb. The restaurant and bar staff were generally excellent. The entertainment was superb - much better than MSC which we had thought was good anyway. We paid for the all-inclusive drinks package, and I can assure everyone that this was superb value for money - I am ashamed to say we probably consumed twice the drinks cost during the course of our visit. We enjoyed the cocktails particularly.
We had two areas of disappointment. Firstly, the ship suffers from constant vibration, even when docked alongside. This is simple poor engineering - there must be unbalanced equipment running all the time to cause this. The ship is due for a big refit soon so one can only hope they fix these basic problems. Secondly, the first two ports of call were extremely disappointing. Palermo (which we visited on a Sunday when it was shut) is the arsehole of the Mediterranean,and should be avoided by all cruise ships. Naples, despite sounding romantic, was not much better. Even Pompeii was a trial. The later destinations were much much better, especially Sardinia & Barcelona.
We booked Cruise Only, and flew independently from Southampton, as we did not like the offered flight times from Gatwick. This was quicker & cheaper, but we were not made very welcome when we arrived at the ship - no one to greet us.
The passengers were largely British, and made a great effort dressing up for Gala Night - a pleasant change from MSC. To sum up, if you could transport the crew and food to a modern ship, you would have a perfect holiday. Value for money and enjoyment was still excellent.