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What It Takes to Maintain the Largest Floating Music Festival

The electronic dance music event Groove Cruise X marked its 10th anniversary with marathon DJ sets, a beach party, and a superhero theme night.

Performer Crazy Purdy does acrobatics in Playa Mia. 

Photo: veranmiky.com

What began as a close-knit excursion shared by 125 friends in 2004, Groove Cruise is now the largest floating electronic dance music festival in the world and just celebrated its milestone 10th anniversary with a sail from the Port of Miami earlier this month.

The brainchild of Jason Beukema has grown from a small musical escape into a bicoastal phenomenon–it’s the only music charter to sail from both the East and West coasts–and has adapted over the years to keep guests coming back.

“Everything is bigger,” Beukema said, from the length of the trip and the size of the vessel, to the production value and the caliber of artists. “But it isn’t as intimate, which I really miss. I used to know everyone on the ship, and now there is no way that is possible.”

Buekema’s dedication and drive have fueled the event’s success and has also contributed to the growth of Miami Beach-based parent company Whet Travel, which has since spawned three additional music charters (Shiprocked, the Zen Cruise, and Aventura Dance Cruise) and developed relationships with five cruise lines (Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC, and Celebrity). The events also draw an enviable demographic, giving the average annual income of its cruisers as from $65,000 to $95,000, and attracting a an age range of 23 to 40 (Shiprocked is slightly higher at 35 to 50). Guests typically book and plan their excursions more than six months in advance, often before a musical lineup has been announced.

And how has the Groove Cruise, specifically, stayed afloat all these years? By staying on top of trends, including cruise lines, progressive artists, new technology, and customer service. “We’re always listening, changing, growing, taking risks, and planning for every scenario,” Beukema said, noting that more than 75 percent of guests had been on a previous Groove Cruise. “You never know what is going to happen in the travel business—torpedoes and hurricanes can come from anywhere.”

The Groove Cruise also has found the right partners. Since its seventh installment, it has worked with Norwegian Cruise Line, first chartering the Norwegian Sky and then moving onto the larger Norwegian Pearl. “Norwegian has been an integral partner since we switched over to them and has helped build the Groove Cruise into the full-ship, over-the-top experience that it is today,” Beukema said.

For its most recent trip, about 2,700 people boarded the ship January 30 for the sold-out event, which included a sail to Cozumel, Mexico, and three event- and theme-packed days at sea. Groove Cruise X invited guests to dance to a roster of more than 50 DJs for 96 total hours of music from top EDM artists such as Cedric Gervais, Markus Schulz, Michael Woods, George Acosta, Gareth Emery, John Dahlback, Brass Knuckles, and Gabriel and Dresden.

Advanced Concert Productions provided staging and lighting, which included a poolside rig and DJ booth, the transformation of the ship’s Paradise Theatre into a laser-clad nightclub, and the Atrium’s accommodations for the Super Bowl Sunday party, which featured an oversize projection screen for football fans to watch the game.

Groove Cruise highlights included a Pirates of the Caribbean theme party, a superhero bash, a fetish ball, and a fantasy at sea finale. On land in Cozumel, there was a beach party at Playa Mia Grand Beach Park that featured an additional lineup of DJs and an open bar. 

“Our music cruises aren’t exactly like most cruises focused on relaxation and fun,“ Beukeuma said. “They’re about excitement, craziness, music, socializing, adventure, and escaping normalcy by sharing a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience with thousands of new friends.”

The Groove Cruise has already begun selling tickets on its sister charter out of Los Angeles this fall and plans to set sail from Miami in 2015.


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