Me and my wife and 2 teenage kids (14 and 17) went out of New Orleans on the Spirit, departing on June 19th. Overall, it was an exceptional cruise. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the NCL Spirit. Although it is one of NCL's older ships, it is in top-notch shape. My wife and I shared a balcony stateroom while the kids had an inside cabin. The rooms were a bit more spacious than I expected with a comfortable bed, better-than-average shower and a toilet that could probably flush a medium-size animal. Steward service was excellent as well with Charlie and Benji being the most affable workers I've ever had. Turndown service was prompt and their rapport with the kids was outstanding. We had a coffee maker already in the room (although I've heard that some had to request it). The inside room was not as spacious (the bathroom was half the size and did not have a private toilet like the balcony room), but my son thought it was the perfect man-cave to chill in the a/c and watch complimentary movies on the tv.
New Orleans - We stayed at the Holiday Inn in the French Quarter on Royal St. The hotel has seen better days, but the location can't be beat. NOLA has become quite a bit seedier post-Katrina and the bad smells can be overwhelming. However, the food is outstanding. Recommendations: Mother's, Plum Street Snoball, Irene's. The Holiday Inn has a deal where you can leave your car in their garage for the extent of the cruise. However, a cab ride is $7/per person for a 6-7 block ride - almost criminal.
NCL Spirit Dining - We were pleasantly surprised also with the dining options. We tried most of the restaurants and were generally impressed with the offerings. Raffles is the standard buffet restaurant and has good, if not impressive fare. Some highlights include several choices of lettuce and fresh greens, made-to-order egg breakfasts and decent smoked-salmon. Other buffet options include the outdoor grill on the 13th level serving hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst and occasionally, bbq and paella. Windows and the Garden Room are the two, nice sit-down dining options that don't require a fee. One side of the menu changes daily, while the other side remains the same for the entire trip. Keep your eye out for the lobster tail for it apparently is only available once. The appetizers seemed to beat out the main courses consistently in creativity and taste so try several. In my opinion, the specialty restaurants on the Spirit is where NCL really shines. The food is more creative and the ingredients seem a cut above what is offered at the non-specialty venues. My personal favorite was Cagney's - well worth the $20 extra charge. The lamb was excellent and the fillets were high-end steakhouse quality. Le Bistro was equally impressive. Although, Teppanyaki was a bit steep at $25/person, it was highly entertaining. One note on La Trattoria, the strange, evening-only Italian restaurant that is actually carved-out of a section of Raffles with curtains. Don't be put off by the strange dining surroundings. It might be the best deal on the ship. We had a free coupon for 2 of us and the other 2 were just $5/person. NCL will deal on La Trattoria. The food is better and average and worth a visit. TIP: Visit Blue Lagoon for a quick, made-to-order lunch. Well worth it.
Entertainment - Generally good, it not Broadway caliber. Standouts include Bill, a terrific stand-up comic that was actually very funny without resorting to profanity or R-rated material; and Second City, the hilarious improv group from Chicago. The other entertainers were not exceptional, but were worth seeing nonetheless. Yorgos, a magician and a passable Cirque-type acrobatics act were worth checking out. TIP: Check out the man and woman singing act that played at Champagne Charlie's and the Galaxy of the Stars. He was hit and miss, but she was exceptional!
Excursions - 3 really good ports and one dud! Unfortunately, Costa Maya did not compare to the other ports. Apparently, a storm hit it hard 3 or 4 years ago and it has not been rebuilt enough to warrant a visit. Barely adequate beach facilities are hardly worth steep excursion fees. TIP: Skip the NCL excursions on this island and haggle a price with a local tour guide to a private beach. Don't pay more than $15/person though, or better yet, skip all the excursions and just chill at the huge salt water pool near the dock. Roatan, Honduras is a beautiful place. TIP: We bypassed the NCL excursions and got a Victor Bodden guide for the "Zip and Dip" excursion which included great zip-lining, monkeys and a great beach. Belize is equally beautiful with a spectacular coral reef. TIP: This is the place to get a NCL excursion because it gives you priority in exiting the boat. The snorkeling in Belize is amazing. Cozumel is equally amazing. Me and my son booked a private bay fishing trip while my wife and daughter road the dolphins.
Overall, the trip was great. The only problem that is a constant is the persistent nickle and diming you to death that NCL (as well as Carnival, RCL etc...) batters you with the moment you get to the loading area on the very first day and lasting to the end of the cruise. From the overpriced drinks, wine, photos, art etc...you can't escape it. Another pet peeve is the lack of a smoking rule enforcement. Smoking seemed to be allowed in the pool area, in the Internet cafe/library and other public areas. C'mon NCL. This is 2011. Keep the smokers away from the general population. Our complaints were few however and we didn't let it spoil our great time.