This was our second cruise following an Ocean Village trip round the Western Med a couple of years ago. We hadn't been too sure about cruising after that but decided that this would be the best way to visit a number of places we had always wanted to see, so signed up at only 6 weeks notice. As a result we had few choices of cabin, but in the end were quite happy with our budget, bottom deck, inside choice. I had read several bad reviews about the Spirit, including reports of a constant vibration, which worried me because I had found it hard to sleep on Ocean Village due to engine vibration, but on Spirit, although I felt it, I had no problems sleeping at all.
We tended to avoid most daytime activities, preferring to find a quiet spot and read. That proved tricky on the day at sea but we did eventually find some free benches beside the sports courts. On all other days we found loungers away from the pool/bar areas with no difficulty. There were a few activities that I intended attending - a tour backstage of the theatre and a flambé demonstration - but as it happened I always forgot and missed them! We did see the ice carving demo and it was impressive although all over in less than 5 minutes!
We had the choice of self-service buffet in the Lido or free-seating waiter service in Compass Rose. We found the food in Compass Rose was significantly better than the Lido - which reminded me of a motorway service station standard. However the waiter service was slower so we often took breakfast or lunch in the Lido and kept the waiter service for the main meal. We also ate in Sirocco's one night (our anniversary) for which we paid a £16.50/head supplement. This was not good value because the food was only slightly better (my Scallops were well overcooked, and the smallest I've ever eaten!) and the seating was so close together (our "table for two" was less than a foot from those on either side) that we felt we might as well have been at a table for 6 in the Compass Rose! This was one area where Ocean Village was better with James Martin's Bistro genuinely reflecting a "fine dining" experience)
The entertainment was very good, both in the theatre and in the individual acts. We went to 5 of the 7 shows and all were acceptable although the Lloyd-Webber night stretched the vocalists a little beyond their capabilities in my opinion... The classical duo (Duo Cantabile) from Hungary were exceptionally good, even if a little disorganised - a lot of time rummaging through sheets of music to find the next piece, but they were very open to requests and had a great sense of humour. I was sufficiently impressed that I bought their CD.
Tim in Raffles played competent Jazz piano, and New Dimensions played competent popular classics in the Horizon's bar. There was a daily summary newspaper, "Britain Today" (more accurately "Britain Yesterday"!) and a daily selection of puzzles, crosswords, etc.
Reception was very helpful with various requests, exchanging money and posting post-cards. Destination Services was closed every time we visited and thus of no use whatsoever! (Except they did faultlessly organise the two excursions we went on after we posted the order sheet in their in-box).
Service by the staff was good in almost all cases, if not always as prompt as I would have liked, especially in the Compass Rose where wine ordered at the start of the meal often didn't arrive until well after the main courses had been served.
Overall we enjoyed our Thomson cruise much more than the previous Ocean Village trip. How much this was because we knew what to expect, and how much because we preferred the Thomson approach I don't know, but since OV no longer operate in Europe it's rather a moot point!