Our family, which includes three teenage girls, cruised with the Spirit on April 2010 from New Orleans to Boston. This was our second cruise (the first on Royal Caribbean lines) so we would not be considered "seasoned" or experienced cruise travelers. Our last cruise was on Royal Caribbean - Grandeur of the Seas- (Aug. 2009) so this is mainly what I will be comparing the Spirit with on this review. Here are a few thoughts
OVERALL EXPERIENCE (grade): B We had a nice time as a family- travel with teens can be wearing -I believe so much of life is attitude and we kept a good attitude.
STATEROOMS (grade): C- We had two inside cabins on deck 5. Rooms are small. The furniture is of lower quality compared to our last ship- less drawers and cubbies to put away items. Carpet is orange and 80% worn out. Beds ok but a little hard. We had four pillows, which was nice, but they were extremely over-filled with stuffing- causing sore necks. In addition, one of our pillows was horribly urine-stained when the slip was removed. Shower stall is excellent compared with last cruise. Only one 120V outlet, so bring a 4-way or cord to give you more plugs.
CREW (grade): A- The crew was very nice and helpful, which really was a surprise, since you do not have any control over their gratuities. One waiter at the Blue Lagoon went in search all over the ship at 10PM to find us a cookie. People who cleaned room were very pleasant and friendly.
CLEANLINESS (grade): D Main areas of ship were fairly clean, but rooms were not up to standard. Most all of the bedding and towels had stains of some sort on them. The carpet was filthy. (They use some kind of shop vacuum with no brush; how can you clean anything this way?)
OTHER GUESTS (grade): F The "freestyle" manner of cruising seems to attract people of lower status-manners and appearance as a whole. Our ship had about 80% of people over sixty-five years of age which is not so bad except that most of these folks were named Billy Bob and Martha and in need of several months with Richard Simmons while having their jaw wired shut. To me, "freestyle" means eating dinner with a guy at the next table who is wearing a stained wife beater t-shirt while his wife chews with her mouth open and food coming out. If you go with Norwegian DO NOT bring any nice clothes along because you will feel out of place.
FOOD (grade): B+ The food was not as bad as some of the reviews indicated. However, I have a problem when there are nine places to eat on board and only 3 of them are free-of-charge or included in the cruise ticket price. Twenty to twenty-five dollars per head is a very exorbitant price to charge to go to these "better" places (to eat with our party of 5). We were unable to go to any of these since an additional $150 for a meal was not in our budget. Raffels (the cafeteria) was fine, but not enough places to sit in the morning. We found at our two visits to the Garden restaurant to be of inferior service. The Windows restaurant was excellent for dinner and had good selection and quality; however we prefer to have the same waiter every night, which "freestyle" does not allow. Blue Lagoon is fun to eat lunch at, however, the tables are always filled.
SHIP (grade): C- So much of this ship is poorly designed. With only really one swimming pool, overcrowding is a big problem. The back half of the ship is reserved for kids under 12 years of age with a mini kids water park, which is empty. Also, for teens a large premium view room with a "mini kids bar disco" which was totally empty. I am trying to keep my kids away from this type of social ill anyway. The main atrium is very nice; however the Norwegian staff fills this daily with cheap trinkets and jewelry to sell. You will find on this ship, which has SIX for-profit (charge) restaurant's aboard- this does not leave much public space. They had very talented singers (Arvin and Emily) but no place to seat people to watch them perform.