The Groove Cruise is the original floating dance music festival that began in 2004 and will celebrate it’s 15th year when it sets sail in January 2019 off the East Coast in Miami, but first, Groove Cruise Cabo, October 10-14! I’m a nine-timer in the hectic ten-day home stretch before the West Coast sailing out of San Diego. My first sailing was January of 2014 after following it online and receiving emails for a year of contemplation.
I’m a lifelong fan of dance music from the first time I heard Depeche Mode on the radio to that time period in the 2000s where less-savvy types referred to all electronic music simply as “techno.” Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I might as well have lived under a rock. News of things like EDC and Ultra weren’t anything I was set to stumble upon by accident. I had thousands of files from Napster and the P2P days of infamy that I enjoyed at home, feeling born too late to have caught the Roxbury era when La Bouche and Real McCoy ran the clubs.
When word of these big fancy music events finally reached me around 2008, I dismissed them as money grabs capitalizing on the surging popularity of music I can play at home. I saw no value in what I called “Ozzfest without instruments–Guys flailing behind laptops—at an outrageous price!” The Groove Cruise appealed to me with a packed schedule and a stop in Mexico ON A BOAT! It had enough bells and whistles to lure me into my first EDM festival and the rest is history. If you’ve ever been curious about or were looking to try a Groove Cruise, read on for the details and culture that keep us booking again and again to the festival that’s earned a reputation for being “addicting” by its loyal fans:
Get involved early: You might have been on cruises before, you might have gone to festivals before, you might have gone to a cruise festival before…the good news is, all of this knowledge will be useful! However, much of the need-to-know info is communicated and explained in the Facebook group made exclusively for attendees of each sailing, who are referred to as “Captains.” This isn’t a spectator sport, so you must have a reservation to get in. Here you can get to know the people who will be joining you on this adventure, ask questions, and get tips from experienced GCFAM who want to help others experience the magic they know. Just as the title suggests, Captains steer the details of future sailings by providing feedback and input in these groups.
No roommate? No problem! Don’t miss out on locking in a price before it hikes or missing out entirely because you couldn’t round up people who will commit. The Groove Cruise is the ONLY cruise (among charters and regular sailings) that offers “solo booking.” You select your desired cabin occupancy and pay only for your share. I have so much love for this unique option that illustrates Whet Travel’s commitment to “excite your life” because they understand that it’s tough to line up schedules and resources, or even just find someone that shares your idea of fun. They know how many lives changed by putting control back into the hands of those ready for excitement so they can stop waiting on others! If your friends book, or you vibe with someone in the Facebook group made for matching, you can be placed together or leave it to the Captain Support Experts at Whet Travel to assign you. You might just meet your new best friend!
You will get separated from your friends: Whether this refers to people you booked with or just met, separation is inevitable because the marathon-nature of GC will have everyone’s body calling for rest, food, costume-changes, and anything else at different times. Embrace distractions. Go on solo missions. Ask random people to sit with you in the buffet…this is not real life, so it will be well-received, I promise. Don’t let a lack of a thunder buddy hold you back from hitting up one of the activities or sit-down dining options. You will make new friends and groups might even have to argue over who gets to adopt you as the guest of honor at the table!
It’s an intimate, immersive experience beyond reality: trapped on a boat in the middle of the ocean with seasoned partiers and your favorite artists. If you did the dorm thing in college, it’s like that but way cooler because these people were all drawn to this for the same reasons you were. When I’m in my cabin getting ready, I usually have the door propped open to welcome drop-in visits from friends and anyone else who just wants to say hello. My journeys from place to place have totally mirrored The Wizard of Oz, linking up with others I find along the yellow brick road because we’re LITERALLY not in Kansas. It’s not unusual to spot the talent alongside you in a crowd enjoying a set or having a meal, either. I coined the term “free-range DJs” to describe this harmonious coexistence between talent and fans only made possible by the maturity of the GCFAM. This isn’t our first rodeo, and there’s way too much going on in any given moment to even process a starstruck thought. For these days, this is the only world we know…right down to private island and resort parties with included transportation.
Yes, the party REALLY goes 24 hours from the time it sets sail to the time it docks back into reality. While some restaurants and other facilities onboard observe their normal schedules, the important things like beats, bars, and buffets will always be there for you. You’ll hear the phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” countless times and it might take you years to figure out a pacing regimen that works for you if you ever do! It’s an intense whirlwind of excitement, madness, sensory overload, and sleep deprivation fueled by the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). The key to survival is listening to your body when it expresses need. Channel Forrest Gump’s strategy for success when he went for that really long jog, don’t overthink your game plan. Throw it to the primal part of your brain and you got this if you just listen to your body.
Get in the gym. This has nothing to do with abs and bikini bodies! Those are great personal goals, but this is about endurance. You will be awake for more hours than you are used to and constantly in motion. The adrenaline, excitement, and alcohol will feel amazing as they sneakily mask all the stuff your body is trying to signal you about! Training will help you get through this because unlike real life, there’s no time to “rest” for a few days after. As sail-away day approaches, gradually build up endurance by taking long walks and conquering the stairmaster if your knees are good for it to simulate the impact of the dancing and distance you will cover. Everyone, even those who have been (I think our brains try to forget to protect us), underestimate the walking factor on these. The ship is longer than you think or remember, impatience can prevail over the wait for the elevator, and all of those hikes of “just 1-2 floors” will add up. Be ready, but also check out what’s going on in the elevators because those are an experience in themselves straight from the Twilight Zone. The door might open to a singalong, a dance party, or a game of Twister.
Accept spontaneity: With distractions and amusement everywhere you turn, the experienced GCFAM know that no plan can be the best plan. It’s cool to make your fantasy schedule, but better to pick only a handful of sets and activities you prioritize to MANDATORY status—the things you will fight hard to get to even if there’s a white rabbit to chase, pink elephants on parade, and cats trying to send you on side quests. The rest is up to fate, but here’s my tips:
- DON’T be too hard on yourself if you napped through something. You needed it. Gold Star for self-care!
- DO check out a set in every venue. If you find yourself in the same places, commit to exploring. Each venue offers a different experience spatially, and will serve as its own part of the whole experience and memories.
- DO check out “after-hours” and watch the sun rise to a set.
- DON’T miss the hip-hop party. This drastically contrasting set is a 1-shot deal per sailing in a category of it’s own. With a track list curated to incite nostalgia from all decades in the genre, it’s easy to see why this is a much-anticipated FAM-Favorite.
Costumes are taken seriously: There will be a theme for each day and each night. 4 days = 8 themes. Trying to keep up will give you a newfound respect for Cher. While not required, the percentage of participation for each theme is outstanding and more intense than I’ve seen anywhere. Choose to participate in as many as you want as intensely as you want but apply the same logic as your set schedule…prioritize the ones you packed the coolest stuff for and forgive yourself for skipping/forgetting/napping through others. I suggest bringing all the props, accessories, and insane shoes your heart desires because you can ditch them back in your cabin at any time. Treat it like your test kitchen or an art exhibition. The groups are very helpful in figuring out what to wear and bring, but the truth is that anything goes! Packing for GC is a lengthy and detailed process involving many details and deliveries from Amazon. With so many themes and tight quarters onboard, organization is essential. Each theme gets a labeled Ziploc bag complete with costume and accessories so you just have to assemble yourself. Game Changer! I’ve called GC “the Pro Bowl of costumes” because it’s a concentration of so many people with a passion and appreciation for everything that goes into crafting and creating costumes. Pictures of my costumes over the past 5 years detail a visible evolution that reflects how much I’ve learned and grown since connecting with so many other creative souls. We encourage and inspire each other. I had found my tribe, my version of “bee people” like the little girl in the Blind Melon video. Halloween is not enough for us. Sixteen themes across two GC’s in a year is not enough for us. We will call themes for our meetups on land throughout the year.
It’s an all year sport: The party and connections you made don’t stop when the cruise is over. With so much in common, you’ll find yourself interacting and becoming closer with your new friends. An expansive network that seems to constantly be on the move reuniting at land festivals, showing up in numbers to support GC artists, or teaming up for world travel.
No one is connected, but everyone’s connecting: Embrace the rare and beautiful opportunity to disconnect. Your phone is no longer a distraction or crutch. Take a moment to process and appreciate how special this all is, and how special you are to be a part of it. Strike up conversations with everyone as your surroundings provide an endless list of topics. Try your hand at setting meeting points and honoring time like it’s 1999.
The GCFAM is a self-regulating community that rarely to never requires interference from group moderators to onboard security. The online groups are fun, informative places where people know not to bring personal feuds or harassment. On the boat, despite free-flowing booze, you will not see fights. There’s usually one rookie every sailing that tries to start, but it doesn’t make it very far before it’s broken up by attendees, often before the ship staff get to it. If someone isn’t respecting boundaries and making you uncomfortable, you can turn to the nearest group or individual and they will have your back no questions asked. When organizing with other GCFAM for meetups and other events, the common links of past cruises and mutual friends serves as a vetting process for trust regarding shared expenses. The knowledge that you won’t be welcome back if you behave in any way that causes harm to others keeps people in line. You can certainly book the cruise again, but a good reputation and trust are sacred, so lose those and you’re going to have a bad time.
What happens on Groove Cruise…. isn’t for everybody, so always get consent before you tag. One of the things that makes GC great is the union all the different styles, personalities, walks of life, and professions represented by attendees. While the minimum age is 21 and ranges to folks 50+ who can dance half the boat under the table, the majority of captains bring 30-45 years of life experience to this party. They kicked off their partying careers before technology’s ability to capture and share every shenanigan with unlimited audiences for eternity. The contained environment and smaller capacity than most music events offer a private space to abandon inhibitions and decorum demanded in their daily lives among their own kind. GC is our sacred space to wear things we wouldn’t anywhere else. Nothing is too wild or sexy, hateful comments and harassment aren’t tolerated, and consent is key—groping will guarantee you a bad time. This is why we refer to Groove Cruise as our Utopia. We return to reality from what felt like a glitter-infused dream to family, careers, and coworkers that won’t understand or appreciate what we do for fun. So if you even remembered to take pictures in the madness, be mindful if posting images of others and get their consent to be tagged and seen by external audiences. What one person views as “PG-13” could be potentially compromising to another. In summary, if Susan from your office understood, she would be out here passing around plates of bacon as the sun rises and the beats drop with us—-but she doesn’t, so it’s not her business.
Tickets are still available for Groove Cruise Cabo and Miami here.