Groove Cruise Miami 2018: The Original Rave Ship Retains Its Appeal

Miguel Lizarraga
       

The nautical dance affair clings tight to its #GCFam legacy while adding an uncharted party location & enhanced artist lineup.

As serotonin levels attempt to balance out, post-cruise blues gradually dwindle and Jason Bukema's "Good morning, Groove Cruise!" intercom voice echoes less and less in our memory, it's hard to imagine that just over a week ago we waved goodbye to the Miami skyline to set sail on the 72-hour seaside rave known as Groove Cruise Miami. But let's hop back onboard, shall we?

At the historical Fort Charlotte in Nassau, Bahamas -- a British-colonial fortress constructed in the late 1700s to defend against invading Spaniards -- present-day rave crusaders stormed the stone-gray structure's moats and underground dungeons for a three-stage dance battle with sounds provided by the likes of house music captains Hot Creations boss Jamie Jones and Thomas Jack.

Revelers adorned in superhero and comic costumes seeking musical treasure were on their final voyage of the 14th installment of dance music's longest-running party boat, Groove Cruise Miami, ironically docked next to a Disney family cruise. Nonstop partygoers glistened in the Bahamian sun as they sweat out their all-you-can-drink packages, priming their bodies (and dignity) for the remaining 12 hours aboard the rhythmic vessel. Spotted in the crowd facing Jones' bouncing silhouette was a backward snapback that best summarized the long weekend's high-octane experience: "We're never going home."

Just 48 hours prior, staple DJs Adam Scott and Kristina Sky kicked off the sail-away party on the pool deck as inflatable beach balls bounced atop flailing arms on the dance floor and patrons followed commands to "put your f---ing hands up!"

Not only did this year's edition provide attendees with a new cruise line and ship, but also a noticeable addition of major talent bookings, with the likes of Shiba San, Dirtybird's Kill Frenzy, Camelphat, Detlef -- "Swagon" may have been the most played track on the cruise -- Gryffin, R3hab and the return of unicorn slayer and GC favorite, Markus Schulz, who threw down yet another six-hour marathon set in the theater. 

R3hab's I Need R3hab-themed stage brought the nostalgic vibes with Norwegian prodigy Frank Walker on supporting duties, spinning a stellar progressive house set that incited glossy-eyed audience members to extend their arms, Armin van Buuren-style, as if reaching back for 2012. 

Known for incorporating more underground tunes than other rave ships, Groove Cruise added prominent dance radio station Revolution 93.5's curated stage with a mixture of Miami fixtures like Descend Records' ALX and Carabetta & Doons as well as SiriusXM's own Liquid Todd, who later performed on top of the fort in Bahamas just before Felix Cartal where he was seemingly gifted a bottle of alcohol from an admiring fan. While the rough seas may have caused the ship to sway at nauseating levels that night, the tidal wave of local Miami talent prove why Vice City just unexplainably does things better.

Other new installments in 2018 came courtesy of sporadic silent discos and a test trial of private VIP parties with guests treated to surprise sets by acts such as Cosmic Gate alongside Emma Hewitt, Dean Mason, Markus Schulz and even former reality star Brody Jenner. Jenner was seen roaming the ship, hanging with fellow DJs Thomas Jack and SNBRN, who also led first-ever themed bar crawl nights.

And who could forget Mark Knight's vinyl classics sunrise set as boisterous party patrons offered the final remnants of their hoarse-voiced corpses on the pool deck for what has become the cruise's signature closing set? Apparently, Knight had a good morning himself as the ship concierge called for his presence in that "come to the principal's office" tone on the intercom system just moments before passengers disembarked. One raver shouted in response, "F--- yeah, Mark! Run!" 

Just like most movie sequels and TV reboots, Groove Cruise Miami is floating proof in a monsoon market of spinoff rave boats that nothing ever quite lives up to the original. 

2019 marks the 15th anniversary of Groove Cruise Miami and the founder himself, Jason Bukema, promises a new cruise line, ship and never-before-attended port of call in honor of its legacy. Ticket packages for Groove Cruise Cabo, which sets sail out of San Diego on October 10-14, can be found here.