The last two years have been rough. Not just in the realm of dance music, but for the world as a whole. This can easily be seen by the heightened tensions and rising stress levels globally. This past weekend some 3,000+ ‘Captains’ had a chance at a return to normalcy. If you can call a floating festival with 96-hours of non-stop dance music normal that is– and it’s all thanks to Groove Cruise.
Mariner of the Seas
Starting on January 20, and running until the 24‘th, those sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s ‘Mariner of the Seas‘ were blessed by some of dance music’s finest. 2022 marked Groove Cruise’s 33rd voyage in just 18 years, continuing what initially started as an intimate gathering of 125 people, to what is now the world’s largest onboard music festival. Throughout the cruises’ 18 years of existence, over 23,000 captains have taken part. So far this year the GC Fam has grown by 3K+. Soon, another 3K or so will join later this year for GC Cabo. For those of you who attended, I’m sure you can attest to how amazing of an experience this was. To those who haven’t continue reading, to find out what it’s all about.
Groove Cruise Orlando 2022 took place aboard the Mariner of the Seas. This ship in particular is one of five Voyager-class cruise ships of Royal Caribbean International. It can accommodate up to 4,252 passengers. Despite this, there were only around 3,500 captains aboard. 20% of the ship’s staterooms were also out of commission due to Covid regulations. With that being said, it is easy to see that not only was there more than enough wiggle room, but also plenty of dancing room. The ship took off from Port Canaveral‘s Space Coast located just outside of Orlando, Florida. From here, it sailed to Pirate’s Cove in Freeport, Bahamas.
Along the way, those of us on board were treated to an around-the-clock buffet of various foods & dishes. I personally loaded up on fresh fruit multiple times throughout the cruise. While onboard you had the option of paying for extra spa services such as massages & pedicures which I personally opted out of. I did find my way to the ships Ben & Jerry‘s though which I hit up on multiple occasions. It was located on Deck 5, just outside of the Promenade stage. With that said, it made for the perfect opportunity to snack while I got up close & personal with the DJs.
In addition to this, there were multiple restaurants onboard that you could dine in for an additional fee. Of these, I had Izumi, which was Hibachi & Sushi. There was also a Starbucks onboard which I kept forgetting to hit up, “Rave to the grave” as they say. The ship also featured some extreme sports, which I also opted out of. It was an easy choice to make as I was in the middle of a 96-hour marathon dance party. I had never been on a cruise prior to sailing on the Groove Cruise. If this had been a ‘normal’ cruise, I might have been more inclined to partake in the activities. Since it wasn’t, they were merely an afterthought. The ship featured numerous stages spread all through the ship. With that being said, it was fairly easy to get to know The Mariner after the first day or so.
After setting sail & crawling towards our destination, 48 hours later we made it to the Pirate’s Cove. I personally had never been to The Bahamas, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. What I did know, however, was that one of the ship’s main headliners was waiting for us there. That being Sofi Tukker. While the music on board was nothing short of spectacular I spoke with various captains onboard & there seemed to be a consensus amongst us all. We wanted to see Sofi Tukker. While a set onboard the ship would have been great, them only playing on the island gave us something to look forward to. In typical Sofi Tukker fashion, they did not disappoint.
Prior to disembarking there were some fears that a storm was going to hit, luckily that storm ended up being nothing but a small drizzle. I am positive that few if anyone on board dressed for the rain. The theme at that time was ‘Team Up‘ so it was neat to see all the captains dressed up together and dancing the day away. While the time on the island was amazing, I know there were some small issues.
For one, with the change of location, many of the captains were upset that their unlimited drink packages were no longer ‘unlimited’ as advertised. Instead, they were given a scheduled open bar on the island. I personally didn’t purchase the onboard drink package, so I ate ( or drank) the $18/ drink charges. Vacation, right? The lines for the bar were pretty bad as well. Another aspect that was a bit unfortunate, was that all of the vendors on the island were cash only. I for one did not carry cash. For what it’s worth, there was a notice put out on the Royal Caribbean app from the GC team in advance. This notice advised us to pull out cash prior to leaving the ship.
Apart from these few hiccups, the whole island experience was pretty great. I must warn you though if you ever make this same trip, I highly suggest taking the shuttle versus the taxis. My group opted for the taxi on the way to the island and got stuck in a windowless passenger van with a faulty air conditioner. I personally was the furthest from a working vent/door/window, so I naturally complained the loudest. On the ride back, we opted for the air-conditioned shuttle, and I was never happier.
Oh man, where do I even begin. When I decided to join the Groove Cruise the first thing I did was check the lineup. After checking it out I immediately let my friends know that I was in. In anticipation of the event, I wrote an article highlighting the ‘5 Stand-Out Artists You Need To See At Groove Cruise Orlando 2022‘. Of these, I made sure to see each and every one. John Summit killed it alone, as was expected. He even threw down a b2b set of epic proportions with the one & only Dombresky, which I unfortunately missed. Ferry Corsten played a Deep Sunset Set which I caught the closing minutes of. Gorgon City brought that deep house magic to the pool deck, & LP Giobbi did her thing on the basketball courts. Felix Cartal worked his magic & as always Jeffrey Sutorius supplied the feel-good vibes.
Those in attendance can attest to the literal heat that Claude VonStroke brought to casino as he crashed the DISKOPRETTY stage for a surprise set. Walker & Royce tore up Studio B as they are known to do to dancefloors across the globe & the New World Punx showed us just why they are a force to be reckoned with. The first night we were blessed with a special open-to-close Markus Schulz set which honestly left me in disbelief as I’ve always really known him as a trance guy. Amazing. Over the course of the cruise, I caught Gene Farris what felt like a handful of times & was reminded why he is a true house legend. In addition to this, I was shown firsthand why Anthony Atalla is a DJ of Groove Crusie lore — if you ever get the chance to catch one of his marathon sets, DO NOT MISS IT.
I finally was able to see both Clozee & Mitis for the first time. Similarily, I was finally able to figure out who that Barclay Crenshaw fellow was, wild. I’ll keep that one a secret for you to figure out on your own. While I’m not the biggest fan of bass music it was nice to get a change of pace every now & then. Hearing Trivecta on the pool deck was something I was happy to of experienced, as was hearing HALIENE live. One of my favorite memories of the weekend was dragging my friends to go see PAX at the promenade with about 4 other people in attendance. I later saw them smash the pool deck (mainstage) for hundreds. I also found it funny to hear another friend group raving about this same duo who was ‘killing it’, despite not knowing who they were. When ya know, ya know.
While the bigger names were fun, I often found myself having the time of my life at random stages when looking to get my boogie on. I finally learned just what DEEP HOUSE BRUNCH is all about thanks to Scotty Boy. At the same time, I learned to truly enjoy the music & not worry about who’s behind the decks. This is thanks to the mysterious Deep Fake duo. Thanks to Groove Cruise I’m now acquainted with numerous fellow DJs in what seems like an endless amount of cities. These are all artists who I would go out of my way just to see play again. Rizzo + Vassalo, Doc Brown, Scooter & Lavelle, Adam Scott, Evan Mark, & Jetpack are just a few who come to mind. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the ship featured 8 different stages. I guess you can say I got my steps in.
The vibes, were immaculate as they would say. So much so, that numerous people I know joined what they call the “Blind Faith Mafia”. While I personally didn’t, I 100% will be attending Groove Cruise Cabo later this year. If it works out Groove Cruise Miami 2023 too. When you hit up your local club or festival, people aren’t always so inviting. Typically opting instead to stay with their group & mean mug outsiders or those who they might not know. Over the course of Groove Cruise Orlando, I experienced none of this. Random strangers even gave me hugs & wanted to be friends.
It was such a beautiful experience to feel this way once again, as this is a feeling I haven’t experienced since before Covid. Even now as I’m writing this I can’t help but feel a bit choked up reminiscing on how good of a time I had. For 96+ hours I felt as if I were home again, surrounded by people who felt & believed in the same things as me. Some people would call it PLUR, the people on board, simply refer to it, and themselves as the GC FAM. I for one am happy to of taken the chance to get to know the GC Fam, they aren’t kidding when they said this would be a life-changing experience. For what it’s worth, it was also nice not having to wear a mask most of the time.
The GC FAM
I’ve attended an endless amount of shows & festivals, and there are few places I’ve managed to get up close & personal with artists like this, the way I was able to at Groove Cruise. In addition to this, there are few events, if any that really give attendees a sense of community & belonging. I don’t foresee this coming back anytime soon as far as major events go. With that said, there is something special to be had with the Groove Cruise Family that I think everyone should experience. Having said that, I proudly hand over my groove cruise virgin card to the GC Fam. I for one, can’t wait to come back & bring more of my friends with me. If this is something you’ve been thinking about doing, I highly recommend you check it out, until next time GC FAM.