Speaking from a conglomerate perspective via an array of points-of-view, it is safe to posit that The Groove Cruise is an unparalleled experience on an unfathomable amount of levels. Attempting to prepare first-time Groove Cruisers with all the nuances and rationale for the suppositions of this statement was quite a daunting task. Now that everyone is back on land, and has had time to decompress…I’d say the result was a resounding success.
“We understand now,” was the general consensus. Some had already experienced Holy Ship and events like Tomorrowland. But never GC, until now…and according to one of them, “Groove Cruise for at least the next 5 years.”
The goal here is to relay to you, those who might be on the fence about attending…the reasons why you absolutely need to take the plunge at least once and get the charge, amazement and astonishment that the roughly 2,800 of us get each year. These are some of the most unique, yet par-for-the-course, experiences that I have had the pleasure of witnessing aboard “the world’s largest floating dance music festival”:
1. Picking up where you left off (even if you don’t remember exactly where you left off…):
As the party began to ramp up during the inaugural kickoff day of Groove Cruise Miami Xi, faces in the crowd didn’t seem so strange this time around. Inside a typical festival environment, complete with the massive influx of tens of thousands of dance music revelers, individual faces tend to….blend altogether – especially from year to year.
Taking Groove Cruise’s fixed population into account (roughly 3,000 actually present on the voyage), and the significantly large population of repeat attendees from year-to-year, looking around the pool deck during the first couple sets yielded a sense of remembrance. It wasn’t sheerly the normal throngs of ravers, but a sense of connectedness began to formulate instantaneously yet again as I flashed back to my first Groove Cruise Miami adventure last year.
As the night rolled on, the main event changed venues into the Stardust Theatre (as it typically does for peak time). As Erick Morillo kicked off his extended set, in the midst of my attempts at shuffling around the front of the theatre, I was recognized by another Captain that I met last year at the same spot. Details like my name, residence, and music preferences were recalled. I was floored. We were able to further build on the foundation that was set the year prior. That simple exchange instantaneously reminded me of why the Groove Cruise crowd refers to themselves as “family”.
2. Pure Openness (No Acronyms Needed)
Many proclaim that PLUR is dead, especially in a post-EDM world. However, you just need to know where to look for its most basic underlying principle. The unparalleled openness and respect that people bring with them once they step on board is humbling. To illustrate this supposition, and what inspired the inclusion of this point among this list, was a really simple happening.
Sometimes on board the ship, schedules with your friends don’t completely link up…so you do things like eat on the fly. I planned on quickly grabbing some food and eating alone in the cafe, and then continuing my night from there. Simple enough, right?
As I walked through looking for an empty table, the aforementioned openness of the #GCfam presented itself yet again in the form of another lone eater giving a casual “Hey man, how’s it going?” as I walked by his table (followed by a fist bump, obviously) – this one I did not recall from prior excursions, however. In those few seconds that I was stopped for this exchange of good vibes, I said to myself “Eh, what the hell…” and sat down across the table from him. We proceeded to fluidly chat throughout the whole meal about a variety of topics – including the absence of both of our crews, our lives, past experiences aboard GC and more. There are very few other situations where this exchange would be as easy-going and positive as it was.
3. Generosity rivaling Burning Man
This is another point that exists within the rave during typical events as well, but yet again…GC takes it to the next level. At normal festivals, you probably will be able to score a sip of water from the group in front of you if needed, or maybe receive a random piece of gum or whatnot, but that is just the beginning for the GC crowd. Bottle service is one of the most preferred methods of alcohol consumption aboard the ship, followed by buckets of beer. It can get pretty pricey if you are consuming mass amounts of alcohol (food and juices in the cafeteria are free, so the main things that have to be purchased are items like alcohol, Red Bull, bottles of water, and the like).
I knew that generosity had run rampant the whole trip, but I didn’t realize until that fateful final morning when we walked back into our rooms with our bills present on the floor…just how much so it had. Throughout the entire 4 days, the only other item on top of the required service charge each day, was a Red Bull that I bought during our beach party excursion to the private island of Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas…
“How is that even possible?” you may be wondering. Well, every single set spent dancing with your brand new friends around you is filled with generous offers of either: swigs from bottles of Grey Goose, bottles of beer from their own purchased buckets of beer, or “hey, we are going to grab some waters…do you want us to grab you one??” These offers are not lip service, but purely genuine actions worthy of the most top-notch families. This coupled with a few Groove Cruise veterans tricks (which will be a forthcoming article), can lead to some nice surprises on that last day. Which is greatly appreciated… because those final minutes are a fairly despondent time, believe me.
4. Stumbling Across Your Favorite DJ’s, Literally.
This happened 3 times during the 4-day trip for me. The first encounter was upon our arrival to the beach in the Bahamas, geared up for New World Punx & Darude to throw down on that sunny day in January. As we walked up to the stage area as George Acosta was wrapping up his set, the Punx themselves Ferry Corsten and Groove Cruise staple Markus Schulz were just hanging out underneath an umbrella just chatting with eager fans as they approached the pair to take pictures and chat.
Later, as I was doing a frantic search through the casino for a few crew members, I noticed 2 girls flanking the man himself, ATB at the Casino Bar. Non-apologetically I kind of wedged myself in between the girls and Andre to congratulate him on an awesome set and a brain-tingling new track that has yet to be released. I made sure to urge him, “please release this ASAP…I need it in my life.” He chuckled. I left him to get his mack back on.
Lastly, as we were depressingly disembarking from the ship, my roommate and I realized we forgot our customs declarations cards. Turning back to the guy behind us in line, he instructed us (in an Australian accent) that we basically spaced on them in multiple places throughout the ship. I didn’t fully realize it was Will Sparks until after the fact…in which I ran back up to him and congratulated him on one of the most stylistically insane sets I heard all weekend on the cruise. Will appeared genuinely flattered and stoked about his experience on board.
5. DJ’s “Respecting” and “Trusting” You as a Member of the Crowd
A few sets really stick out in my mind in regards to genre and track selection. First and foremost was Will Sparks, who I just mentioned.
His set on the final day was smattered with the expected sounds of melbourne bounce and thumping house, however there were deft interjections of purely progressive beauty and heady ass psy-trance…and my O-face was in full force. Given, many were unsure of how to dance to this sudden drop of beats in the 140+ BPM range, when I mentioned to Will how “refreshing it was to have felt trusted as a member of the crowd to experiment like that,” Will responded almost relieved: “It felt so good to be able to explore with my selection like that! I had so much more to come, too.” Here’s looking forward to the next voyage and what Will comes up with for that!
Then there was Darude. Holy ____. Also a GC staple, the man who wrote ‘Sandstorm’ when he was a teenager landed a few prime time locations for his sets…and he blew minds. During both of his sets at the beach and during his night-ending set at the Theatre, he recorded the crowd chanting “We Are Groove Cruise” and live mixed it into an edit of ‘Sandstorm’ as his closing track. I have so many faces on the bottoms of my shoes because Darude lit the entire Theatre on fire with his exhibitionism of production mastery. It’s no wonder why he hosted the “How To DJ” classes that were held on the ship this year. Oh yeah, and he dropped Robert Miles – ‘Children.’ Face, gone.
6. Unparalleled Set Variance & Ability for Audiences to Affect Sets
Since most of the performing artists stay on the ship the entire trip, many of them perform multiple sets throughout the 4 day extravaganza. Personally most notable and prominent in my recollection was Feenixpawl. The first set I saw them at was during peak time at night in the Atrium…which is the venue smack dab in the main lobby area of the ship, complemented with the trippiest LED color-changing icicle stalactites I’ve ever seen – guarantee normal cruisers don’t fully appreciate that design aspect. The set was some of the purest progressive house cuts I’ve heard in a live setting for a long time, woven together beautifully for a transcendent experience. The next day they played earlier on in the afternoon at the pool deck, and put out a perfectly-fitting deeper and funkier house vibe to get the day started off on just the right note. No carbon copy sets here, folks.
Then there was ATB’s set. Overall it was killer, IMO. But there were personally awkward moments too. Andre started off beautifully, with massive remixes of ‘Ecstacy’ and teases of ‘9PM’. But then he strayed into big room land, which a large proportion of the crowd responded to – however some longtime fans felt betrayed. We were near the front of the theater in eye and earshot of the legend, and were able to get our displeasure with the direction of the set across to him, ultimately receiving a thumbs-up from stage – assumedly asking if his return to the beauty of the melodic was the direction we were urging him to go in. The remainder of the set was as beautiful as it started…even more so when he came onto the mic live and serenaded everyone in the Theatre with “Face To Face.” One of the best moments of the entire cruise. Thank you, Andre.
7. Forced Full-On Presence in the Moment
Given this is not completely exclusive to GC, but music festival cruises in general: the simple aspect of not having the option for cell phone signal throughout the entire ship (for the most part) is a HUGE contribution to the atmosphere of the event. We are free of our typical hypnotic flickering screens. Everyone knows going in that they are going to be fully disconnected from their lives. This leads to a sense of openness developing in every person boarding the ship. This singular aspect forces everyone to exist fully in the now. Fully focused, and increasingly open to making new personal connections.
Meeting people among the crowd at EDC may be pretty easy as well, but the completely removed nature of a makeshift society aboard a confined space like a cruise ship (with zero cell phone service) causes people to be completely present in the moment…and fosters a refreshing sense of extreme comradery and good will towards each other, that has been personally unparalleled throughout my life experience to this point.
8. Ship-Wide Wake-Up Calls
Some will agree with me on this, some will not. But at some point every morning, Cruise Director and Event Founder Jason Beukema will jump on the P.A. system on board the ship with a wake-up call tagline of “Gooooooodddddd Morning GROOVE CRUISERSSSSS!!!” He then breaks down the forthcoming activities and timelines for the day, relays any news we may need to know to make the day a complete success, and of any updates to schedules that need to be announced.
It’s nice to not have to worry about setting an alarm when crashing out in those early hours in the morning. Many will posit it keeps them from sleeping…but as one is often reminded “there is no sleeping on The Groove Cruise!” (Just maybe some naps here and there).
9. The Allure of Celebrating Acts of Love a la Marriages and Engagements On Board
There is something about the air on board the Norwegian Pearl during the Groove Cruise every year; one that sparks an increasing amount of participants choosing to celebrate the happiest days of their lives with their #gcfam. Ranging from proclamations of love and proposals of marriage in mid DJ set, relayed by the performer themselves, to full-on ceremonies on the top level sun deck…complete with marriage party, cake, bouquets and all…to Honeymoon escapes in celebration of a future rave life together.
The fact that an event draws that urge of sharing a quintessential experience in their lives during the GC speaks volumes about the caliber of people present at this event, and is quite a large feather in WHET Travel’s cap.
10. Organizers Actually Listen to You After the Event for Future Cruises
Yes, one of the best aspects of the event is the importance that is placed on the Attendee’s Survey that is sent out following every sailing. With topics ranging from rating overall experience, return attendance, experience with cruise and event staff, operations experience, to ordering likes, asking for ways to improve, and most importantly…asking who we liked performance wise and who we would like to see in the future.
Additionally…they listen! They take pride in this. Being valued as an attendee like that is extremely gratifying. It makes you feel like you have helped shape the event for the future…because, you have!
A bonus mention in the vein of this was the inclusion of a classics night this year! I heard some dance and house tracks from the 2000’s and 90’s that I never thought I would have the opportunity to hear live again. As a dance music fan in the U.S., I have often lamented the fact that we so rarely get the opportunity to witness classics sets! That is usually territory reserved for our European counterparts. But witness we did, and oh how sweet it was. It’s the details like this that truly distinguish this event from the rest of the pack…and sets an amazing standard for event production in general. Hopefully, other event organizers begin to take pages out of The Groove Cruise’s organizers’ handbooks…
Groove Cruise is seriously one of the most insane experiences I have ever had the opportunity to attend, and I will always be thankful for its introduction into my life. Stunningly, it continues to expound upon itself and gets exponentially better each time. I can only urge all of you interested parties to take the voyage someday as well. Many virgins this year have claimed to become veterans. Words can only take you so far. Are you next?
Kudos to the whole team: Jason, Rafi, Ryan, Dana, Kathy and so many others.
The next Groove Cruise sails from Los Angeles for a special first-time Halloween-themed extravaganza October 23-26, 2015. Booking begins on February 11th. Save some $$ using promo code “EDMTunes” at booking!
Until next time: remember to washy, washy…and be happy, happy.
…and in the mean time, check out the after movie teaser below, and stay tuned for the full length version coming soon.