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As a festival veteran, I understand that the adjustment period between paradise and reality can be lengthy in duration and always an arduous task. But, life after the Groove Cruise experience has been drastically different compared to the aftermath of other music festivals. The folks at Whet Travel did such a phenomenal job at creating a completely immersive world that anything before that weekend has been forever lost to the currents of time and everything after will be overcome by the anticipatory wait for the next Groove Cruise adventure.

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This is What It Feels Like… To Be a Groove Cruiser
If your Groove Cruise cherry is still intact then there are a few things that will be lost on you when surrounded by those who have already willfully surrendered their virginities. You’ll have to excuse our tardiness as we readjust to normalcy because the “Bling Blong! Hello Groove Cruisers!” wake up call from Groove Cruise Captain Jason served as everyone’s alarm clock and verbalized itinerary every morning. And, forgive the disappointed look on our faces because Groove Cruise Radio isn’t filling the hallways with music as it did over the PA system throughout the entire boat. Spare us your confused stares when we yell “Washy Washy, Happy Happy” right before a meal. And, leave us be if we go tunneling into a nostalgic fit when we find a receipt for 4 Zico coconut waters at the bottom of our purse or tell you for the 5th time about when we danced with Toothpaste Man, and he gave us toothpaste earrings. These are all “you had to be there” and “sucks to be you if you weren’t” anecdotes which serve as instant points of connection for all Miami Groove Cruisers.

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Setting the Stage
Every possible space on the Norwegian Pearl was transformed into a stage and dance floor, each purveying a different atmosphere. The Pool area was outfitted with massive LED panels and a booming sound system that permeated the entire area so you could dance front and center of the stage or relax in the pool/hot tub area in the back. With sets scheduled from the early afternoon to late evening, you could watch the sunset to your favorite DJs every single night.

Spinnaker was a dark, smoky lounge with minimal luminary distractions so you could just close your eyes and get lost for hours on the dance floor. Whether you were in a gambling mood or not, the casino had a DJ going all night long so you could get down with the handful in front of the DJ booth or dance with the dealers at the tables. The Theater boasted a spectacular setup with LED walls, high powered lasers, and a perfectly crisp sound system. Although the theater seating made dancing difficult at times, there was something magical about viewing the madness of the crowd from up top.

The wide open area of the Atrium housed a towering projection screen which played double duty for bass filled evenings and the gathering on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the big game. You could turn it down a couple notches at the Silent Disco in the Starbar or get intimate in Bar City. The Incorrect Afterhours on the Sundeck was so appropriately correct for those who couldn’t care less about sleep. Watching the sunrise and grooving to deep house was the perfect way to wind down and prepare you for the next day.

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Groovin’ While Cruisin’
The music was just as diverse and unique as the stage set ups. Ranging from superstars to legit up and comers, hard electro to the deepest of trance, the lineup offered beats for everyone to enjoy and discover. To kick off the weekend, Rebecca and Fiona battled heavy wind and light rain on the pool deck with their energy packed set. Gabriel and Dresden took us down an emotional road with revamped classics in the Theater with mash-ups like “Don’t You Want Me Allein” Human League Vs. Pryda. And, Stacy Pullen got your body working in the afterhours with throttling techno.

The weekend continued with the sounds of Garuda spilling out of the Theater corridors for six hours and drawing in anyone passing by. Luke Bond pulled out a surprise for the hardcore trance lovers when he dropped his mash-up of “Safe vs. The Great Escape” by Velvetine and Rank1 & Jochen Miller. Garuda leader, Gareth Emery, cut deep in to the core with “Concrete Angel” and “Metropolis On A Good Day”. After spending the day on the beach, we were treated to Firebeatz dropping the perfect track on the boat as the sun was setting. “I feel like I wanna be inside of you as the sun goes down” from “The Sound of Violence” by Cassius was ceremoniously played as we watched the sun start to dip below the horizon of the ocean.

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Afterwards, Tritonal showered us with gifts of new music and remixes throughout their entire set giving us the first exclusive listen. Track premieres continued during Enmass Presents as legend Darude gave us a taste of upcoming releases. He mixed it up with true classics and new spins in Spinnaker. And, yes, he played “Sandstorm”. The theater was nothing short of explosive during Cedric Gervais, and he ended it beautifully with the a capella to “Summertime Sadness”. The night was capped off by going von deepah on the Sundeck with Anthony Attalla and Marco Lys. The beginning of the final day was bitter sweet as we were nearing the end. The Pool was stacked with Pierce Fulton, Hook N Sling, Michael Woods, and an Adrian Lux playing a genre defying set. Football fans watched the (possibly worst) Superbowl in the Atrium, and Cato K dropped the latest and greatest during every commercial break.

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Finally, the moment I had been waiting for: the infamous and much sought after journey down the rabbit hole with birthday boy, Markus Schulz. Starting out with light hearted tech trance, he slowly teased that anticipation into a hot bubbling mess. As the Theater began to fill with fairies, unicorns, and mermaids, the door to Wonderland flew open, and all sensations became psychedelic even on a sober plane of reality. Playing everything from “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities, triple mash-up of Spektre vs. Jochen Miller vs. Faithless, and ending it with Dubfire’s remix of “Grindhouse” by Radioslave, Markus’s set was a 6 hour outer body experience of which I can still feel the galloping bass occasionally tremble in the back of my throat.

DSK CHK closed out the weekend on the Pool Deck with his baby grand piano set up and a sea of Guy Fawkes Masks bobbing up and down. The Groove Cruise crowd, Port of Miami, and any passing cruise ships got an entertaining show as DSK CHK expended every last ounce of his energy to pump up the crowd one last time before the inevitable end. He spun an electrifying set and ended the weekend with unforgettable style.

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Life’s a Beach
Playa del Mia in Cozumel, Mexico was turned into an adult playground complete with open bar, pristine beach, water slides, and of course, speaker stacks blaring beats. The sounds of Doc Brown, Kalendr, Sultan & Ned Shepard, and John Dahlback reached every corner of the water park. And, after some not so ideal weather on the way to Mexico, the sun was much welcomed company for the beach party. Even with the beach party, Whet Travel and Groove Cruisers got up early to deliver donated clothes, supplies, and backpacks to a local orphanage showing that there’s always time for kindness and good will.

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As promised, here’s a report back on the water funderland in the middle of the ocean. It was the aquatic bouncy castle version of the gauntlet in American Gladiators. From far away, it looked innocent enough. Up, close, and personal it was a slippery obstacle course that was exhaustive and hilariously entertaining.

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Music Sounds Better With You
Apart from the top notch music, production, and setting, it was the people and crowd vibe that made this floating festival stand out from the rest. With wide spanning diversity in ethnicity and age, the characters on board truly made this one of the most special experiences in my festival career. The amount of dedication put into costumes was unbelievable, and that effort came from all age groups. The full embrace of the silly and weird slapped a perma-smile on my face all weekend and left me with memories I will recall on again and again. Where else will you see someone bust out a slip and slide on the dance floor? What I appreciated most was the fact that people were DANCING. Instead of just standing on the floor with arms in the air and camera in hand, people were moving to the music and grooving with each other. That’s something we need more of at every festival and show.

Perhaps, it was the intimate group size and the fact that we were all on this boat together with nowhere else to go. Maybe, it was the swaying of the boat that had us dancing even if we were standing still. Or, it could’ve been that we were all there to have the weekend of all weekends and nothing else mattered. Whatever it was, the 10th anniversary of Groove Cruise was absolutely surreal and an experience that should be on EVERYONE’s bucket list. Come washy washy and get happy happy with us on the next sail. Groove Cruise Los Angeles is next so check out groovecruise.com for more information on how you can get into the Groove Cruise Life.