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It’s a highlight of almost every Azamara cruise where guests enjoy an up-close look at a country’s culture in full regalia.

The Wellington Opera House is one of the settings for Azamara’s showcase event in New Zealand.

What does a Balinese temple, a conference centre in Abu Dhabi, the Adelaide Oval and Wellington’s Opera House have in common?

They are all venues for Azamara’s signature AzAmazing Evenings extravaganza.

As much as cruising with the premium line is about enjoying the splendours onboard, it is equally about reaching out and touching the ports, cities and towns you visit. Really getting to know a destination, even for just one day if that’s all the time you have.

The AzAmazing Evening takes this up a few notches, treating guests to a spectacular example of a destination’s culture – its history, traditions, customs and the impact it aims to leave on you as an indelible memory you’ll cherish forever.

Life onboard Azamara is relaxed and care-free.

Whether that’s enjoying a private performance of the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, a circus performance in Monaco or Celtic dancing in Dublin, the AzAmazing Evening is hotly anticipated on every voyage.

Azamara builds its itineraries around these occasions, and as such, every sailing features at least one, apart from trans-Atlantic crossings or cruises under seven days. While in most cases, an iconic venue onshore will be found for these, sometimes they may even take place on the ship.

But best of all, there’s no whopping surcharge levied on those wishing to attend. They’re included in your fare.

The Maori Choir singers are blessed with talent.

Azamara Quest Cruise Director, David Bradshaw, says the best way cruisers can embrace a destination is to let it come to them.

“I always say to guests ‘enjoy the experience of getting dressed up and going out to another venue and being pampered by the same wonderful ship staff’”

AzAmazing Evenings experiences are sourced, assessed and hand-picked by Azamara’s head office at least two years in advance. The budget is set and first class event planners in the various ports are contacted and put to work crafting an iconic experience for guests to enjoy.

During a recent sailing around Wellington, I was fortunate to experience a visit to the Wellington Opera House as the AzAmazing Evening on my itinerary.

AzAmazing Evenings often begin with a reception in anticipation of the main event.

Azamara’s signature onshore experience fits in with the holiday vibe, with no requirement for suits, boots, top hats, tails or ball gowns. Smart yet comfortable is the order of the day, but guests still knew how to ‘dress to impress’.

The evening began with guests being escorted from the ship to the venue, with the air of excitement truly palpable. With its stunning architecture, the Opera House is a remarkable performance space that oozes antique charm and drama.

Guests were treated to the most spine-tingling performance by the Wellington Symphony Orchestra and Signature Samoan Choir, who together tore the house down with one magnificent operatic rendition after another. Some we knew, some we wish we knew, but the end of each came too soon.

It was truly a magical display of New Zealand in all its splendour.

It was a wonderful evening that I know will be one of the most treasured memories of the cruise.

Azamara has long emphasised its focus on destinations, through its longer stays in port (sometimes overnight) and the ability to get closer to the heart of destinations thanks to their smaller size. This is enhanced further with a ‘cruise global, connect local’ philosophy, with imaginative and intimate shore excursions which highlight the destinations visited.

The Wellington Opera House left us all with a lasting imprint of New Zealand, not to mention unearthing some amazingly talented performers who may one day find a brighter spotlight.

Images: Tim Faircloth Cruising