Travel

Groove Cruise delivers a joyous dose of reprieve for a fun-loving crowd that’s down for just about anything

“Follow your inner compass.” This is the mantra adopted by thousands of ravers the moment they step aboard Groove Cruise, a seafaring music festival that’s among the longest running of its kind. After witnessing the strange beauty ourselves, we can attest that these guiding tools point attendees to a few sure things: top-notch performances from electronic artists, larger than life theme parties and a fierce commitment to near-nudity that remains stalwart even on cooler, neon-tinted nights. “We’re never going home!” is a defiant chant that rings through the luxury ship’s sparkling promenade periodically, and for good reason. You’re crazy if you want to leave this unapologetically open gathering.

Members of the close-knit “Groove Cruise Family” are pros, and many of them have been raging on the open waters since the early aughts. Their enthusiasm for its free-spirited and inclusive environment has never waned – in fact it’s only grown stronger as the days roll on. These long-time fans bring newbies along, all lovingly referred to as “virgins.” Metrosource falls into this category, and we’re ready to be born again this weekend.

Set on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, this January’s East Coast sailing (January 20-24, 2022) from the port at Cape Canaveral, Florida is ultra-heightened. There’s a palpable energy as friends link up with cabin mates, friend squads and couples they haven’t seen since before our lives changed back in March 2020. There’s still a tentative air in the world as the covid pandemic enters a new phase propelled by the omicron variant, but those who commit to spend the next four days adrift boast brazen, YOLO-esque attitudes. Is “YOLO” still a thing? Whatever, we’re sticking to it because trust when we say that’s the whole damn mood on this Voyager Class vessel as we head toward a beach destination in the Bahamas. It’s there where we’ll dance in the sand as acts like live duo, SOFI TUKKER drench the crowd in sunny, upbeat melodies.

Image: John Summit by @LAURENMORRELLL
Image: @LAURENMORELLL

“People used to want to go on Groove Cruise, but once you have been it almost becomes a need,” says Founder, Jason Beukema. “We need to feel the love and community and excitement that is missing from our lives.” He speaks from a place of passion as much as a former place of pain. Last year’s sailings were postponed due to COVID-19-related restrictions, striking a heavy blow to Whet Travel, the organization responsible for Groove Cruise that also happens to be the world’s largest independent music cruise company. His optimism is back now that the 2022 event is finally a reality. “​​I trusted my intuition and let my heart and soul guide me and it’s never led me wrong. And the #GCFAM deserves it,” he adds with conviction. It’s full steam ahead, and his loyal brothers and sisters are all in. Champagne bottles pop with abandon on the pool deck as we chat, and he’s got a good point – we all crave this release after a collective period defined by gloom and doom.

Strict vaccine protocols and test requirements brought Beukema’s dreams back to life, as well as those of his favorite artists. Modern masters like Anthony Attalla and Marcus Schulz are back with their legendary GC marathon sets, which often last upwards of six-hours or more – a rare find for an average club night, let alone a floating festival. This winter’s voyage also boasts a fierce mix of rising stars and scene stalwarts like tech house darling, John Summit, and Dirtybird label boss, Claude VonStroke. There’s a list of queer visionaries in the mix, too, among them names like Chicago’s own J.Worra, rap disruptor Wreckno and the ever-ethereal CloZee, whose unique brand of world bass sends listeners on a sonic adventure to faraway lands. Tee So, a DJ who hosts the beloved No Boys in The Booth party, is another friendly face who never fails to rally the LGBTQ+ community together for onboard social activities like an AM Bloody Mary meetup (because it’s always the right time to sip vodka cocktails on this judgment-free getaway).

“It’s definitely a weirdo party at its core,” says Brandon Wisniski, who bass music and hip-hop fans know as the aforementioned Wreckno. His slot in Studio B – a tricked-out, laser-equipped theater space – is singular for this ship. He spits fierce rhymes over heavy vibrations, and he’s dressed to the nines in a stylish beret and plaid skirt. “I’m a very gender fluid person so when I was getting the lay of the land, I was very happy to see that in the crowd here as well,” he explains of an event he walked into with zero expectations.

WRECKNO Photo Courtesy of @MCM PRODUCTIONS

At a gathering revered for its trance and house-leaning lineups, he’s among an unusual breed of bass artists booked to play GC. That said, the tides must be turning. We hear heavy drops and resonant wubs most nights as they blast from state-of-the-art speakers during stage takeovers led by labels like Odyzey Music and Born Records. Though Wisniski admits he was nervous before his set for this reason, he’s positively beaming on the other side. Originals like his 2020 Pride anthem, “Meduza” (which he created with follow queer EDM star, GRiZ) and a high-energy reimagining of Gillette’s “Short Dick Man” quite literally sent the crowd into an ass throwing frenzy – a reaction that’s become synonymous with his salacious, one-man act. “When that song came in, I saw the crowd get lit,” he says smiling. “I don’t regret anything.”

Even the performers walk away with a new perspective on their livelihood after Groove Cruise and Wisniski is a testament to that fact. “It was just awesome for me to see other facets of electronic music and the culture behind these events that are thrown,” he continues. “It was a nice peek behind the curtain at other things that I normally wouldn’t get to experience.”

And in the end, that’s what Groove Cruise is really all about – embracing the novel and pleasantly unanticipated. For some attendees that experience takes shape when they watch the sunrise crest over blue waters while their musical heroes provide an epic soundtrack IRL. For others, it happens when they solve an escape room with a trailblazing female producer like LP Giobbi or embark on a ship-wide pub crawl with melodic dubstep icon MitiS. And for the rest, it occurs when they enter the main dining room wearing only pasties, harnesses, alien costumes or something equally risqué that would never fly as proper attire in the real world. For us it was all of these things, paired with a kindness among strangers that, after the past two years, we thought may have been gone for good. As it turns out, it’s still very much alive here on Groove Cruise – just follow your inner compass, and you’ll find it.

  • Ready to join the #GCFam? Check out Groove Cruise Cabo 2022 sailing from Los Angeles, CA to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (October 19th – 24th). To book your cabin visit groovecruise.com/cabo
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Megan Venzin

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