First off, let me say that I'm always of the opinion that any cruise is far better than no cruise at all. Secondly, this particular cruise experience has taught me a very valuable lesson: you get what you pay for.
The NCL Spirit is a wonderful ship and is very well maintained. My dear husband and I enjoyed all of the lounges and other public rooms. Frankly, its one of the best laid out ships I've ever been on and I thought the atmosphere was very nice.
The cabin was more than acceptable and I thought the bathroom with the partition doors worked very well. Plenty of storage space. We had a balcony for the first time and enjoyed it very much. It was wonderful to sit out there in the evening and enjoy watching the sea go by and look for passing ships. We will probably never go back to a cabin without one! The beds are indeed very, very, very firm and we had no problems getting the foam cover and extra pillows from the cabin attendant.
I'm a big fitness fan and enjoyed all of the fitness amenities on board. The gym area was spacious and well laid out. Plenty of stationary bikes, recumbent bikes and treadmills with a couple of universal weight stations and some free weights. Had no trouble getting a quality workout in. I liked the resistance pools that allowed you to get a swim workout in...nice touch. Gym was never too crowded and didn't have to wait for anything. The extra classes (yoga, aerobics, etc.) were conducted in the theater and seemed well attended (they charge $5 for each class though).
Plenty of deck space for laying out and the weather was great for the most part once we got out of a very rainy Miami Sunday night. The pool was very cold though and I rarely saw people in it. I tried once and it took my breath away! Jacuzzis were always used but never too crowded.
We went to Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Been to both places before so we didn't expect to see much new. However, Cozumel seems to have cleaned up a bit since we last visited. We just walked the main drag and shopped. Grand Cayman was an eye opener! The hurricane damage is extensive, but Georgetown is fully functional and the people are in great spirits - they seemed glad to have tourists back. We went to Stingray City and had a great time.
The big down side of the cruise was our overall experiences with the service and the food. Simply put, the food was mediocre at best and sometimes downright poor. We tried virtually every dining option: Maxim's, Shogun, Bistro, Windows, Biergarten, room service and the Raffles Buffet. The best meal we had was at Shogun, but it was not above what you would expect in a main dining room on most other cruises we have been on. Certainly the food did not merit a surcharge at any of the "specialty restaurants." Further, the Freestyle Dining was something that did not appeal to us at all. Tables for 2 were very limited, so we were encouraged to dine with others at larger tables. We have no problem with that, but every night felt like the first night of a typical cruise when you meet your new tablemates for the first time. The service was rushed because there were so many guests waiting on tables (I saw guests waiting quite a while to get a table). We weren't even offered a drink beyond water for the entire dinner one night!
Overall service was mediocre. I think this is due to the automatic gratuity and the fact that you never really meet any of the service crew on a consistent basis. They do their job (we never went without a drink or a clean cabin), but never did the crew seem like they needed to do much more than the minimum. What incentive is there if you never get to know them and offer a gratuity based on ongoing service?
In the end, it was an enjoyable experience, but one which we will not be looking to duplicate in the future. In the future, we will stay with cruise lines that have a better reputation for food and service. It may cost more, but the experience will be better - you get what you pay for!