Electronic dance music on the high seas – it’s like an Ultra to go.
More than 50 DJs across nine stages will do that. Travel guru Jason Beukema started The Groove Cruise with a group of 125 people in 2004. Now, a decade later, more than 5,000 cruisers set sail annually on two full-ship Groove Cruise charters, one from Miami and one from Los Angeles.
“The dream was always to charter a cruise ship,” Beukema said.
Groove Cruise X sailed Thursday from PortMiami aboard the Norwegian Pearl. The cruise will travel to Cozumel, Mexico before heading back to Miami Monday morning. Here's what happened Sunday night, the last night on the cruise…
5. ‘Housed’ commercial breaks
While all cruisers were still able to watch the Super Bowl throughout the ship, the international television feed meant no U.S. commercials. However, DJ Kato K filled in those gaps. He played momentary house records during commercial breaks and went on a six-hour set that ended at midnight.
4. Super Bowl
Speaking of the Super Bowl, the last digit of each team’s score at the end of each quarter meant that some people won cash prizes and electronics including V-Moda headphones (another benefit of being on international waters). Cruisers either had to pay $20 a square for the casino version of the game, or buy a bucket of beer for The Grove Cruise version.
3. High on water
Considering all the alcohol consumed throughout the weekend, we will consider the water gulped down in recovery fashion Sunday as a highlight. From pitchers to water bottles, most were preparing for the haul back to PortMiami. However, that did not slow down the non-stop house music.
2. Lights, lights, lights
Sunday night’s Fantasea theme left nothing to be desired. Light up bras, wizard hats and even light performers complimented some house DJ sets. There were even some costumes we have not figured out yet, much less describe!
1. Running a marathon
Markus Schulz referenced any potential bathroom trouble on his marathon sets, which last more than five hours during the artist Q&A Friday. He sweats off the water he drinks. Still, the six-hour, middle of R.E.M. sleep 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. set he did in the ship’s theater is quite a feat. However, it does not beat his 13-hour marathon set at Belgian festival Tomorrowland.
Here’s what happened Saturday night…
5. Sunrise mix
No, not the morning drink special, but an actual DJ set above the pool deck at 6 a.m. that went beyond the sunrise. We were surprised at how many people were up so early (or late). Marco Bailey did not seem to mind. And, neither did his girlfriend, who handed out t-shirts behind the turntables to energetic dancers, like the woman in the Superman costume to the left.
4. Lost and…
The beach party in Cozumel featured Doc Brown, Kalendr, Sultan, Ned Shepard and John Dahlback. But the consequences of the fun showed. Besides this bag full of unclaimed shoes and slippers collected at the beach, two cruisers had their names called on the PA system a couple times before the ship left. We think they missed the boat, literally.
3. Mr. Sandstorm
Yes, Darude, the DJ behind the 2006 mainstream hit “Sandstorm” took the late night stage. He played a special Groove Cruise remix of his new track “Feel The Beat” and also handed out USB drives with three of his newest songs. He did finally weave in his hit song about an hour through the set, also incorporating some trance and old school content from ATB.
2. A little philanthropy
Whet Travel, the company behind The Groove Cruise, collected clothes and toiletries to give to children at the Ciudad de Angeles orphanage in Cozumel Saturday. Some cruisers carried backpacks with donated items and received a tour of the orphanage. They also met and played with several of the 40 children that Ciudad de Angeles houses, feeds and educates.
1. Star power
Cedric Gervais’ 2 a.m. set was an easy choice at number one. How often do you get to see a DJ (and Miami Beach resident) fresh off a Grammy win? Gervais won a Grammy last week for remixing Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness.” He had the ship’s theater rocking with beats that paired nicely with a few dancing robots. Gervais flew in to Cozumel just for the gig on the cruise, greeting some fans in the atrium, suitcase and all, upon his morning arrival.
And on Friday night...
5. Electric jellyfish lounge
We did not think we could put those words together either! The Groove Cruise transformed what is normally a teen area into a chill spot with soft, transient music and an inflatable electric jellyfish in the center. This proved to be a recovery area for tired partygoers, with refreshments including water, candy and gum. Some people even crawled underneath the jellyfish, while others sat in dim lighting (no flashing LED lights here).
4. Confession booth
The ship’s wedding chapel became a confession booth for naughty activity. A Norwegian Cruise Line employee asked cruisers, “What do you want to confess?” Then, answers were recorded on video. However, we are not sure if Groove Cruisers had their sins forgiven…or exploited.
3. Artist Q&A
Markus Schulz (pictured), Funkagenda, EDX, Sydney Blu and Kalendr took a barrage of questions from the audience, but Schulz answered the most. Many came from amateur DJs who asked him about trance and EDM’s growing mainstream popularity. Schulz said playing house music is an “art,” and it is more than “a few guys on stage playing a pre-recorded set.” Another interesting nugget involved how Schulz is able to power through 13-hour sets: “I don’t drink any alcohol.” He also said Space is one of his favorite places to play.
2. Photo sessions
After the Q&A, Funkagenda (pictured) and Sydney Blu were among the artists that did photo sessions with cruisers. Many had some sort of Groove Cruise memorabilia they wanted signed. So, it became a photo and autograph session in one.
1. Hip-hop drop
Beyond the beat, sometimes those vocals are needed. DJ Cato K had his assigned lounge bumping from 10 p.m. to midnight with all the old school hip-hop tracks. He threw in instrumentals like 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” and even had people dancing on chairs mouthing lyrics, rather than the fist pumping and head thumping associated with house music.
And here's what happened Thursday night…
5. Unintentional door decorating
With all the decorated cabin doors onboard, one would think there would be a door decorating contest. But, nope, it was just a friendly competition. Neon lights, sign-in sheets, condoms and animal masks lined the outside of certain doors. But, these folks took it a step further, extending their decorating beyond the outside of their door.
4. Silent disco
Even Norwegian Cruise Line employees got involved, it was that quiet. Using volume-adjustable light-up headphones, cruisers danced at their own pace as Christian J did his thing, quietly. This proved to be a nice change of pace from the almost overwhelming decibel levels in certain venues.
3. Pirate costumes
We will skip the booty jokes, but there was no shortage of pirate costumes for The Groove Cruise’s Pirates of the Caribbean themed night. The pool deck featured a throng of rubber parrots, eye patches and sailor uniforms. The latter left certain cruisers with wandering eyes and/or the need to take their picture with a sailor.
2. Body paint
All the monitors on the ship made it clear: no nudity. But, there was an exception – body paint. As if The Groove Cruise crowd needed another reason to wear less clothing. Skin artists painted cruisers, fitting the pirates theme, up on the pool deck until about 10 p.m. And, like number three, picture requests were aplenty.
1. Rain and gain
The pool deck was the center of activity yesterday. But, it drizzled. And rained. And rained some more. Still, that did not stop cruisers, who partied from the moment they got on the ship in the late afternoon to the wee hours of the morning. Surprisingly, everyone kept their balance, too, with wet floors, despite high heels, slippers and the like.
Photo: Anthony Cave