All Aboard The 20th Anniversary Groove Cruise: An Inside Look At 96 Hours Of Nonstop House And Techno Madness

MIKALA LUGEN/GROOVE CRUISE/MERLE COOPER/UPROXX

Uproxx doesn’t really do cruises. Full respect to those who do, but the thought of being stuck in the middle of the ocean with thousands of strangers while playing bingo and watching corporate entertainment doesn’t sound that cool. (Then there’s the matter of the cruise industry’s reluctance to meaningfully address sustainability.)

The exception? When there’s world-class music involved.

96 hours of nonstop house and techno music to be exact. Sound insane? Groove Cruise celebrated its 20th anniversary on the high seas two weeks ago with its largest edition to date in a sold-out sailing from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay. Set upon the award-winning Norwegian Encore, 5,000 attendees – or what the brand calls “captains” – saw themselves dancing across 11 stages across 18 floors to a global electronic lineup consisting of Tiësto, John Summit, Diplo, Markus Schulz, LP Giobbi, HALIENE, Joel Corry, Trivecta, Mija, GG Magree, VNSSA, Lilly Palmer, Gene Farris, Max Styler, Biscits, Disco Lines, Speaker Honey, and more.

Despite the sprawling amenities of the cruise ship, it’s the intimate nature of the festival and the very spirit of partying in the middle of the ocean that continues to keep fans coming back to Groove Cruise each year. It was quite the hedonistic bacchanal and Uproxx was right in the thick of it all. Here’s what we loved…

Part I – The Ship

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The ship truly set the backdrop for the ultimate party playground, equipped with spacious balcony rooms overlooking the ocean, 40 bars and restaurants, two multi-story waterslides, a casino, and more. Anyone looking to switch out some dancing with playtime got to experience the largest go-kart racetrack at sea, a 10,000-square-foot open-air laser tag arena, a VR gaming site, and more. There was never a dull moment on the ship; even choosing to appoint yourself in a deck 17 sun chair or in a hot tub was plenty amusing.

Those who wanted extra luxury were roomed at The Haven, located on decks 17 and 18. Hidden at the top of the ship, The Haven offered 24-hour butler service, private sundecks and restaurants, a private sun and pool room, as well as luxurious ensuites and penthouses equipped with walk-in closets and exclusive 270-degree oceanfront views.

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If you were curious enough, you could find secret rooms inside of rooms, like the Social Lounge on deck six that hosted some of the most coveted techno and trance sets of the weekend or Texas Roadhouse serving up juicy club-style and red light sets that made room for some crunchy bass and dubstep throwdowns. Deepfake probably takes the cake for being the most coveted host with his secret “razzle dazzle” room that housed some of the most exclusive b2b and renegade performances for a select few.

Everything you needed was right at the tip of your fingers. After dancing for hours, you could indulge in a full buffet at any hour of the night or day at the Garden Cafe right outside the main pool deck and stage. I probably ate too many soft-serve ice cream cones because of this but… it was fun as sh*t. The luxury of having your own room was also having a private bathroom and shower at all times or just having a quiet space to take “disco naps” throughout the day.

“Groove Cruise is an excellent example of what life is like on many other planets,” featured artist Martian Circus told Uproxx Life. “Everyone is well-fed, well-loved, and encouraged to dance their pants off as we embark on a great journey together to paradise.”

Part II – The Scene: Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat

When did people eat? All the time. Groove Cruise had over 20 spots to eat onboard, so no tummy was left hungry. Garden Cafe was the most popular due to its 24-hour buffet. Sometimes the food looked better than it tasted – like the artfully carved fruit or the perfectly plated desserts – but it was the variety of options around the clock and its location right outside the Main Pool Deck Stage that made it the MVP of the weekend.

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Sleep… sorta wasn’t a thing. At least not in the basic sense of the term. To quote LP Giobbi, the only way to stay on track for success was to take “disco naps” throughout the day to keep your energy levels alive. With many of the high-level sets happening anywhere from 11 pm – 7 am, sleeping during the night hours was seen as taboo. Resting your head for an hour or two during the day, several times a day, alongside taking your choice of preferred party favors was the best concoction to keep you dancing the night away and catching all the best sets.

Whether you found yourself dancing on the Main Pool Deck, sitting down for dinner in the Garden Cafe, or walking through the corridors to the next stage, the people you found yourself next to or met were some of the most vibrant and energetic on the planet. Everyone was infectiously happy, making it nearly impossible to be upset about anything. And on the off chance you were upset about something, you’d look over and a Tiki-themed game of Twister to knock that frown right off your face.

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When it comes to people-watching, well… maybe those were the best shows of all. With the festival announcing both day and night themes, you were thrown into a new scene twice each day, with attendees roaming in wild jungle attire, Nintendo costumes with hundreds of Princess Peaches, racing gear, silver and chrome alien interpretations, and rave disco suits. It’s a place where the freaks came out (in large, confident numbers). You stood out if you weren’t dressed up. It’s was a perfect place to dress any way you’d like, wearing the skimpiest bathing suits and the most gaudy attire without a care in the world.

Oddly, it was the elevators that told the story of the week best. New messages appeared daily and seeing the progression of the mood and messaging told a story in itself:

DAY 1 — “HAPPY GROOVE CRUISE!”
DAY 2 — “Are you having fun?!”
DAY 3 — “So..how is everyone doing?”
DAY 4 — No words. Just chaotic pop-up disco balls and partially deflated balloons.

That’s exactly how I felt on day four, FWIW.

Part III – The Music

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It’s hard to try to explain what 96 hours of nonstop house and techno music looks like. Let’s just be clear on something here: when they say 96 nonstop hours of music, it was. The only place you could find yourself in silence was in your room, and even then, there was the possibility of hearing your neighbors keeping the beat alive. It was a marathon, not a sprint.

With that said, it was impossible to catch everything. That’s part of the joy and beauty in an event like Groove Cruise, though. You’re pulled in various directions, following the most prominent beat that calls out to you at any given moment. These are once-in-a-lifetime curated moments that only the people who attend and the waves they’re carried on will fully understand.

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“Joel [Corry] and I just met this year and we hit it off and decided to do a last-minute b2b set,” featured artist Markus Schulz told Uproxx Life in an interview. “We planned for an hour and went ahead and just did it. Groove Cruise is the perfect environment for DJs where you can just go up and improvise and collaborate with other artists. It’s really a showcase of the artistic level of the artists on the ship…I’ve played Groove Cruise close to 15 times and it’s so great.”

Some music highlights of the weekend include:

Markus Schulz and Joel Corry sending us out at sea for the official “Sail Away” party for sunset on the Main Pool Deck.

Diplo’s first-ever Higher Ground stage takeover at sea in the Theatre with Gene Farris, LP Giobbi, Biscuits, VNSSA, and Casmalia.

The ultimate 11-hour “decades” party in the Casino featuring Lizzie Curious, Doc Brown, Kyliente, Cripsy, and more.
High-money rollers came through to rain stacks of Benjamins on all the DJs that night.

Lilly Palmer curating world-class techno on the main stage with her Spannung party, featuring a surprise techno b2b with Joel Corry and Markus Schulz and a raging two-hour sunrise set by the queen herself from 5 am to 7 am.

Martian Circus sending exploratory attendees into the 5D multiverse with their phantasmagoric, fully improvised performances each night from 10 pm-5 am. It was way too easy to spend hours in their psychedelic den, lost in the sauce. The group’s 4 am sound healing was a beautiful relief and calming scene. Whether you decided to end your night here or start your day was entirely up to you.

The first-ever all-female Main Stage takeover with Femme House featuring imprint founder LP Giobbi, Hai Life, Mija, VNSSA, Casmalia, Max Low, and more. The most badass takeover we’ve ever witnessed, completed with Mija’s rumbling house remix of Sexyy Red’s “SkeeYee.”

Canadian DJ Alley Kay absolutely throwing down the hardest and hottest techno in the Social Lounge — so much so that the speaker blew out. You best bet that world-class production had it back up and running in two minutes.

The most proper and correct “Incorrect Pool Deck” party with Max Styler, deemed one of the best sets of the weekend. The accomplished house music producer truly enthralled everyone with his hypnotic throwdowns and coveted unreleased track IDs.

Saturday’s dream-worthy beach party on Great Stirrup Cay with Tiësto. Seriously, can anything get more iconic than Tiësto on a private island? Attendees were shuffled in boats for a scenic 10-minute ride to the island from the ship, which granted a day full of sun lounging, zip lining over the ocean, swimming with pigs, sipping drinks, and relishing the idyllic scene.

John Summit and Friends closing out the Main Pool Deck with a dazzling array of sounds from San Pacho, VNSSA b2b Max Styler, Joshwa, Biscits b2b Deeper Purpose, and LP Giobbi.

John Summit closing out the Theatre until the ship was docked back in Miami with an exceptional extended set featuring an insane onstage collab with Max Styler, Ranger Trucco, and Kyle Walker.

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“This is my second year and I’ve come to realize that it’s one of the strongest communities ever,” LP Giobbi told Uproxx Life. “It’s magical and absolutely incredible that the decorations, costumes, and programming have gone up 20x for the 20th anniversary…Femme House is my nonprofit that teaches women and gender-expansive individuals how to DJ. We wanted to work within the live space to offer women more opportunities to DJ and see themselves represented out there and on stage — Groove Cruise is actually one of the first promoters to reach out and partner with us for the Undiscovered DJ Contest!”

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Part IV – Groovy Giveback

GROOVE CRUISE/WHET FOUNDATION

Due to its 20-year history, Groove Cruise has established a revered global community that puts meaning and intention into its floating party. Groove Cruise founder Jason Beukema led his nonprofit (501c3) Whet Foundation to benefit the local community in the Bahamas by providing essential items like clothing, food, school supplies, beach and community cleanups, and funding for art programs.

Additionally, the foundation made its annual Destination Donation — this year to the island community of Great Harbour. Located a short boat ride away from Great Stirrup Cay where Groove Cruise docked on Saturday, Whet Travel raised $20,000 for musical equipment for the community as well as building supplies donated to a single mother who lost her home in a fire in April 2023.

By partnering with 4ocean, each of the ship’s Captains received a special handcrafted bracelet made with recycled materials, each removing five pounds of trash from the world’s oceans, rivers, and coastlines.

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Groove Cruise will return in 2025, of course — slated to set sail from Miami, Florida to the private island of Labadee next January. The 37th sailing will be the biggest music cruise of any genre in history, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure Of The Seas, one of the largest ships in the world. Hosting 6,780 passengers, the ship boasts seven neighborhoods, 40 bars, and restaurants, a full-service spa, fitness rooms, aqua parks and a FlowRider surf simulator, gardens with open-air ambiance, zip-lining, ice skating, and more.

You can reserve your spot for the 2025 sailing here. Packages start at around $1500 pp.

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Uproxx was hosted by Groove Cruise but they did not review or approve this editorial. To learn more about our press trip policy, see here.

 


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