Groove Cruise Miami 2016 stole our hearts [Review]
In its 12th voyage to the Caribbean, Groove Cruise Miami — the unparalleled rave ship that birthed a now crowded market of nautical dance adventures — proved why it sails in an echelon all its own.
Groove Cruise and its nearly 3,000 patrons, known affectionately on social media as #GCFam, maintain a symbiotic relationship. The ship offers 96 hours straight of thumping house, techno and trance as revelers unmask their true hedonistic selves in the form of pasties, inflatable T-Rex suits, and toothpaste costumes. Both veteran and virgin Groove Cruisers alike develop an immediate bond at the inaugural pulsation of bass inside the Norwegian Pearl’s atrium, firing off a weekend’s worth of heightened serotonin levels.
View of downtown Miami from the port
Sunset over the ship’s pool deck stage
For 2016, the artist lineup consisted of a core group of regulars requested back by fans each year like Michael Woods, Darude, EDX, Markus Schulz and after-hours staples Anthony Attalla, Chus & Ceballos and Cocodrills among others — a stark reflection of the tight-knit community of repeat attendees forged over the past decade. Standout sets from Autograf, Croatia Squad, Nora En Pure, Sydney Blu and Stefano Noferini further embellished house music’s reigning influence over the Groove Cruise audience, validated by the various shuffling circles on the dance floors at each of the ship’s eight stages.
Photo Credit: Poselski Brothers
Markus Schulz performing a 6-hour marathon set
This year marked a milestone moment for GC Miami, embarking for its first time to the lush cliff-lined shores of Jamaica — a much welcomed departure from past tourist hotspots like Cozumel and The Bahamas. The citizens of Jamaica stood proud at the island’s port welcoming GC attendees with smiles that instantly induced ease and tranquility. Bob Marley records blared from shuttle buses transporting passengers to the island beach party, but it was the seductive sounds of Le Youth, Doc Brown and Vanjee that united both cruisers and locals alike. The only parties potentially bigger than Jamaica were the ones on the shuttle buses and ship elevators.
Beyond the cruise’s endless menagerie of amenities and activities, the main attraction always has been and always will be the Groove Cruisers themselves. A blend of more mature ravers and open-minded twenty-somethings merge to envelop a vibe and chemistry as if destiny brought them together. A first-timer best expressed the feeling of solidarity with this teary-eyed statement: “I’ve never experienced as much love as I have on this ship. I can’t even believe I’m here. And all this, from total strangers.”
Le Youth performs at Bamboo Beach Club in Jamaica
Inflatable bananas in the crowd during Dada Life’s performance in the ship’s theater
Another major element to the overall Groove Cruise Miami experience is the professionalism, flexibility and hospitable manner in which the staffs of both Whet Travel and Norwegian Cruise Line treat and interact with the party patrons. Unlike most major electronic festivals, particularly by land, there is no judgement or divisive line between either. Instead, they seamlessly coalesce and often engage with cruisers (if you’re lucky they’ll even dance with you) while always placing your comfortability and satisfaction as their priority. One cabin steward exclaimed her excitement in working the Groove Cruise saying that there is typically a waiting list about a year out for Norwegian employees wanting to work the company’s most entertaining trip of the year.
Photo Credit: Poselski Brothers
A guest hanging out in the electric jellyfish lounge
All debaucheries aside, Groove Cruise Miami is more than an annual sea rave with friends — it’s a transcendent experience of love and acceptance that is manifested on board and transitioned into daily life after disembarking.
The music came to a close and the sun pierced through the grey clouds upon arrival in Miami. Clenched hugs, locked lips and everlasting memories filled the sharp silence as the phenomenon known as Groove Cruise Miami yet again transformed the hearts and souls of its voyagers.