My husband and I are experienced cruisers, but this was our first experience with Azamara Club, a highly rated cruise line that sells itself as "luxury class." We therefore came on-board with great expectations, which were quickly dashed. In short, the Azamara Journey is a dated, mediocre ship, in need a major overhaul. It's going in to dry dock for a total of eight days. There is no way to fix its many problems in so short a time. In terms of its management, there is an overall impression of confusion and a definite lack of information, which is such an important aspect of a good cruise experience.
On to some specifics. The embarkation process was a disaster. We boarded in Mumbai. Yes, India can get confusing, but that should not be a surprise to a major cruise line. Getting into the port to board the ship bordered on the chaotic, with next to no guidance from Azamara representatives. My husband is Indian, speaks Hindi, and even he had a terrible time trying to find out how to get through. I later spoke to someone who paid for an Azamara transfer to the ship, and it was a worse experience: they were stuck on a bus for two hours, with luggage blocking the aisle. Not a great start.
Our cabin was a Veranda class with a balcony. It was clean, but the decor and furniture are dated. The bed was hard and uncomfortable. Our cabin attendant (who was very efficient and pleasant) added a comforter to help, but to little avail. The plumbing is sub-par. For example, one had to struggle to flush the toilet: you push the button multiple times, and then it responded weakly. The shower was okay, but not great. The television was nice, but the viewing choices were few, and way below those in quality and quantity of our last voyage, which was on a Princess ship of the same size. However, the worst part was the air conditioning. We were sailing in the Indian Ocean, but that is no excuse for the very poor air conditioning situation during the daytime (at night it was adequate). One's "luxury cabin" should not be a sauna in any given climate.
One of their selling points is a free self-laundry. However, there is one for a ship of over 600 passengers. Get ready to really scramble to use the machines. I washed our clothes by hand in the cabin, and only used one of the two (very tired) irons.
As for the public areas, the ship is kept clean, but the decor is dated and worn. The public rest rooms were usually clean (there were exceptions), but are falling apart. One young woman was "attacked" in a stall by a falling panel. The air conditioning ranged from very weak to very chilly, reflecting the dated nature of the system.
As for the spa and fitness center, I didn't use the spa -- just the fitness center, which is small but OK. They provide free fitness classes, including cycling, which was a very nice service.
As for the food, it is good to mediocre, depending on where and when. Soft drinks are free (including in the cabins), and the "house" wines are free with lunch and dinner (and usually very good). The staff is always nice and helpful, but a bit confused at times. Getting a good cup of coffee at breakfast was next to impossible, no matter how much they tried. One of the nicest aspects of the ship is the Mosaic Cafe. They make a nice cup of coffee or tea and provide a nice selection of treats. There are two specialty restaurants, which provide a nice dinner alternative to the buffet and main dining room ($25 each for those in non-suite cabins).
On to the excursions and ports. Overall, the excursions were mediocre (like the ship), but priced OK if you purchase them a head of time (one-half price). However, I do not feel the staff was well prepared for unusual nature of most of our ports. For example, they seemed surprised by the customs process in Goa, where there was very little help provided to the passengers as we wound our way through a confusing disembarking process. As for Male in the Maldives, they did not have any preparation, what so ever, for this port. In general, they give a lot less information and guidance regarding the ports then I have seen on most other ships, including lower-end ones such as Carnival. At times, they seemed very confused. We were on an early tender into Galle, Sri Lanka. The tender's pilot had no idea where to go. We cruised around the harbor for about a half-hour until he finally figured it out. On a positive note, they often design longer port-stays then other lines, which gives you more time to explore the destinations with less pressure.
Entertainment. Overall, mediocre, but in line of what one expects on a smaller ship. The enrichment series were OK, and included lectures by an Apollo astronaut. The piano player was very talented, as was the on-board band. The Jazz Brunch was fun and the jazz band was excellent. The evening shows are pretty boring, with a very notable exception -- the three production shows, performed by the on-board staff. They were excellent, as were the young, enthusiastic and talented cast. Two of the cast members are competitive ballroom dancers, who also teach the fun sea-day dance classes. Bingo is a rip-off (but no one forces you to play), and the casino is small but adequate.
To sum it all up, the staff is nice, there's a general sense of disorganization and a definite lack of information, particularly on the ports and how to navigate customs. The ship is rundown (although clean), with many systems working poorly. Many promises made are not kept, or not kept well (e.g., close to the heart of the ports, shuttles to the ports). It is clearly not a luxury experience, no matter what the hype.