New for 2013 on Azamara Cruiselines is a series of inimitable special events called “AzAmazing Evenings” – 51 of these spectacular experiences, created by Emilio Freeman, Director, Brand Operations and Destination Delivery, form the initial lineup. The first one occurred this week, and incidentally, came off with a bang. The inaugural AzAmazing Evening materialized during Azamara’s “Semana Santa” (Holy Week) cruise originating in Seville, Spain. The itinerary included ports of call fringing the Iberian Peninsula, the second of which was the British overseas territory Gibraltar.
The territory’s foremost landmark, the Rock of Gibraltar, ensconces a magnificent cavern which serves as a unique auditorium for grand performances. Called St. Michael’s Cathedral Cave, this enormous grotto is named after a holy site in Apulia, Italy, where St. Michael the Archangel is said to have appeared. I was fortunate to be among the 688 guests who attended the inaugural AzAmazing Evening – a concert by the Royal Gibraltar Regiment performed from the floor of this magical amphitheater, a formation created not by man, but by the hand of The Great Almighty. St. Michaels’ acoustics rival the quality found in the most famous concert venues.
Concert patrons were greeted at the entrance to the cave by an assemblage of brilliantly clad ceremonial representatives wearing the traditional military tartan of the Scottish Black Watch. The concertmaster, Kneller Hall from the Royal Military School of Music, directed the musicians, who also represent Gibraltar in ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace and at special events, including the Queen’s Birthday Parade.
The evening’s program featured Alford’s Colonel Bogey (a.k.a. the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai), Texidor’s Amparita Roco, Jarre’s Lawrence of Arabia, and selections from Les Miserables. During the leisurely intermission, guests were treated to fine wines served in glass stemware and an array of hors-d’oeuvres served by impeccably-dressed waitstaff. The second half of the program was particularly impressive, most notably a performance of the Highland Cathedral featuring a trio of bagpipe musicians accompanied by the full band, followed by a Dame Shirley Bassey Showcase featuring vocal soloist Andrea Simpson, who earned a postgraduate diploma in performance at the Birmingham Conservatoire (England) and won honors at the Bristol Festival Of Music, Speech, and Drama. We chanced upon some passengers who hail from Scotland, who remarked the Highland Pipers moved them to tears.
Our gala evening burst forth into full glory as a magnificent fireworks display lit Gibraltar Harbor, directly positioned beyond the bow of Azamara Quest. What a wonderful treat – and moreover, every AzAmazing Evening is free, albeit with one caveat: woe betide the poor soul who registers for the excursion but doesn’t attend – there is a $150 fine for being a no-show. For me, that wasn’t a real issue, because wild horses couldn’t hold me back from attending this AzAmazing Evening – it was too good to miss!