Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 306 out of 500
Accommodation: 127 out of 200
Food: 240 out of 400
Service: 249 out of 400
Entertainment: 62 out of 100
Cruise: 254 out of 400
Overall Score: 1238 out of 2000
Thomson Spirit Statistics
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: Thomson Cruises
Former Names: Nieuw Amsterdam, Patriot, Nieuw Amsterdam
IMO Number: 8024014
Builder: Chantiers de l’Atlantique (France)
Original Cost: $150 million
Entered Service: Jul 1983/May 2002
Length (ft/m): 704.2/214.6
Beam (ft/m): 89.4/27.2
Draft (ft/m): 25.9/7.9
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel (21,600kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 10
Total Crew: 520
Passengers (lower beds): 1,254
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 27.0
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.4
Cabins (total): 627
Size Range (sq ft/m): 140.0-430.0/13.0-40.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 0
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 4
Wheelchair accessibility: Fair
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 2
Hot Tubs (on deck): 1
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: Yes/230
Onboard currency: UK£
This is a family-friendly mid-size ship with decent food and service
Overview. Thomson Spirit is best suited to adult couples and singles taking their first or second cruise, and families with children of all ages, all seeking a modern, non-glitzy ship with a decent array of public lounges and bars, and a middle-of-the-road lifestyle, with food and entertainment that is acceptable rather than fancy.
The Ship. Thomson Spirit, originally built for Holland America Line (HAL), has a nicely raked bow and a contemporary transom stern, but overall the ship’s angular exterior superstructure design makes it look squat and quite boxy. The exterior has an all-white hull and superstructure. There’s a good amount of open teakwood deck space, particularly at the aft section of the ship, and the traditional outdoors teakwood decks include a walk-around promenade deck. Unfortunately, the ship has always suffered from poor build quality and excessive vibration, particularly at the stern.
HAL sold the ship to the publicly funded United States Lines in 2000, but that company sank in a sea of debt the following year. Carnival Corporation, which owns HAL, bought back the ship and chartered it to Louis Cruises, which in turn has sub-chartered it to Thomson Cruises. Thomson Spirit has a sister ship in the slightly newer, 1984-built Thomson Celebration (formerly HAL’s Noordam).
Thomson first operated cruises in the 1970s, but abandoned them, only to start cruise operations again in the mid-1990s using chartered, rather than wholly owned ships. It has been a highly successful venture, offering extremely good value for money, particularly for adult couples, and occasionally families with children.
Thomson Spirit has quite a spacious interior design and layout, with little crowding and almost no points of congestion, and most public rooms are on a single deck. The color combinations do not jar the senses - most are pretty nondescript, though there are many splashes of color - and the decor was greatly changed and brightened by its new owners. There is much polished teakwood and rosewood paneling throughout the interiors. The Horizon Lounge, atop the ship, is an observation lounge by day and popular disco/nightclub by night.
It’s good to see a tour operator like Thomson Cruises charter and operate this vessel, especially since competition in the cruise industry is increasing. This ship is quite acceptable for passengers wanting pleasant surroundings and an all-British ambience. However, many newer ships have more space, better facilities, and more options, and that means this ship loses a few points by comparison. Perhaps the best part of cruising aboard Thomson Spirit lies in the destinations and not the ship - although it is quite comfortable.
Hotel add-ons can extend a cruise vacation, and Thomson has a fine collection, depending on your needs, budget, and whether you are traveling with children or grandchildren. Because the ship is exclusive to Thomson Cruises, your fellow passengers are likely to be British, with typically about 80 percent of them over 45.
Thomson owns its own airline, Thomson Airways, and has much experience in operating fly-cruises to the Mediterranean - the company offers airlift from almost a score of UK airports. With Thomson, you pay only for what you want. You can pre-book a window seat or a premium seat with more space than standard seats for an extra fee.
Families. Children have their own play areas at the aft of Bridge Deck. There are several children’s clubs: Tots is for 3-5-year-olds, Team is for 6-8s, while Tribe is for 9-12s. The clubs operate five days a week (not on embarkation or disembarkation days) and are supervised by qualified ‘children’s hosts.’
Accommodation. There are four accommodation grades: suite-grade, deluxe, outside, and interior (no view). There are four large cabins, with fine forward-facing views, for the disabled. You can pre-book your preference for an extra per-cabin fee (and avoid any cabins with obstructed views).
Most of the cabins are quite small - below the industry standard of 170 sq ft (16 sq m). However, they are reasonably well appointed and practically laid out. Some have wood furniture, fittings, or accenting, good counter and storage space but little drawer space, a large dressing mirror, and private bathrooms that are adequate, but no more. Some cabins have full-size bathtubs while others have showers. Several cabins have king- or queen-size beds, although most have twin beds. Some cabins also have additional berths for a third/fourth person (good for families with small children). Room service is provided 24 hours a day (but costs extra). All cabin TVs carry live news channels, when available. The cabin insulation is poor, and bathroom towels are small.
The largest accommodation is in the Presidential Suite. Small by comparison to suites aboard many other ships, it measures 430 sq ft (40 sq m) and is on the uppermost accommodation deck. There is a king-size bed, walk-in closet, wet bar, study and dining areas, TV set, DVD player, and stereo system. The bathroom includes a whirlpool tub, double sink unit, and a powder room.
Dining. The Compass Rose Restaurant is reasonably large and attractive, with warm decor and ample space. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (6-10.30pm) are served in an open-seating arrangement, so you may get a different table and different waiters for each meal. Although there are a few tables for two, most are for four, six, or eight. Dinners typically include a choice of four entrées; a vegetarian entrée is also available daily. Children have their own menu, with ‘home from home’ dishes and small portions.
Other dining options. Dessert and pastry items will typically be of good quality, and made specifically for British tastes, although there is much use of canned fruits and jellies.
Sirocco’s à-la-carte restaurant is the ship’s specialty dining venue; reservations are required and a cover charge applies. It seats only 45 and has superior food and service and a quieter, more refined atmosphere. It is adjacent to the Compass Rose Restaurant, but is best entered from the aft stairway.
For casual meals, the Lido Restaurant, is open 24/7, with open seating. Tables are set with crisp linens, flatware, and stemware for dinner, when the set menu includes a choice of four entrées. Each week a themed buffet - Chinese, Indian, or Mexican, depending on the cruise itinerary - may be offered for dinner. On Lido Deck, the outdoor Terrace Grill provides fast-food grilled items and pizza during the day.
Entertainment. The 600-seat Broadway Showlounge is two decks high (main and balcony levels) and is the venue for production shows and cabaret entertainment. Although Thomson is not generally known for high-quality shows, they are, in fact, good fun, and are professionally produced, while cabaret acts provide entertainment on evenings when there is no production show.
A second entertainment venue, High Spirits, is a multi-functional room for quizzes, dancing, and as a late-night discotheque. A number of bands and musical units provide live music for dancing and listening in several lounges and bars.
Spa/Fitness. Oceans Health Club is atop the ship at the aft end. It has good ocean views, and overlooks the aft pool and hot tub, on Bridge Deck. Facilities include an aerobics exercise room, a decent-size gymnasium with plenty of treadmills, exercycles, and other body-toning equipment, a male and female sauna, but no steam room, and several treatment rooms.
You can have massages, aromatherapy facials, body wraps, manicures, pedicures, and other body-pampering treatments. The beauty salon is located close to the reception desk on the port side, in a completely different area from the health club.