“Gooooood Mooooorning Groove Cruise!” That’s the morning announcement from Jason of Whet Travel every day on the Groove Cruise – a signal to you and your fellow Captains that the beats of the morning are starting, and dawn has broken on another day in paradise. Take us back!
Alright, well, reality has once again sunk in. The alarm clocks have been turned back on, the coffee is flowing, and we Rabbits are back to the daily grind, just over a week removed from our bi-annual trip down the rabbit hole with the crew at Whet Travel. Groove Cruise Miami, the flagship cruise for Whet Travel, is in its 12th year on the high seas of the Caribbean, and hasn’t lost a beat. Cutting through the rain and the wind, the NCL Pearl navigated its crew of Captains from Miami to Ochos Rios, Jamaica and safely back. However, if you would have checked the navigation deck, I’m pretty sure we were heading straight for the second star to the right the entire time (Peter Pan folks).
This year’s adventure was headlined by the one and only (and Rabbits Black favorite) Markus Schulz, who played an epic open-to-close set…on the first night! We can’t think of a better way to get your sea legs. Yes, it is true that a torrential downpour shut down the pool deck for the first day. Yes, it is true that the passengers were a bit water-logged after a prolonged boarding process. But that didn’t dampen anybody’s spirits. In fact, I’m pretty sure it provided a little extra incentive for fans of the Unicorn Slayer to shed those wet vestments and embrace the theme of the night: “A.B.C. – Anything But Clothes.” The photos will back us up on that one.
Of course, that was only the beginning. The following review will take you through the highlights of the entire GCMIA 2016 experience, from Autograf’s selfless omnipresence, to TIMO’s David Bowie Tribute Set, to the happy violence of Dada Life’s peacefully hostile takeover of the ship. If you were there, let’s re-live it. If you weren’t, here’s what you missed, and we’ll see you next time!
Sets That Impressed
Chocolate Puma (Main Pool)
This might have been our favorite set of the weekend. The energy was absolutely unreal and the Dutch duo set the tone for the entire trip with this special performance. They started off the set with a remix of TLC’s No Scrubs and proceeded to bump out the deep/tech/progressive and even jungle house vibes that kept the party bouncing the entire time. The truly unique aspect of the set was that it was tailored perfectly to the costume theme: welcome to the jungle! We lost count of how many choruses/hooks featured jungle words and sounds. They truly dedicated themselves to making this set one of a kind and it was the perfect Amazonian backdrop to a party that featured so many amazing costumes.
Michael Woods (Main Pool)
It wouldn’t be a Groove Cruise pool party without an appearance from Michael Woods! The British DJ/producer always brings an amazing energy to the Groove Cruise pool bashes and this year was no different. His progressive beats were felt pulsing through the entire pool deck and brought the crowd back to life on the final day on the cruise. He would take quick little breaks to throw out shirts to the crowd, spray champagne, and even take a massive group pic. He also brought up Stefan from Dada Life (who was partying in the crowd) to come onstage and join the champagne antics. About midway through his set he got back to his roots and dropped his very own remix to Deadmau5’s “Strobe” laced with a Florence + The Machine vocal that was magnificent. Unfortunately blue skies were a bit of a rarity on the trip, but the sun broke through an abundance of clouds for about 15 minutes right in the middle of his set and it was a truly beautiful site to see. Overall his set was full of life and set the tone for the pool deck for the final day.
Autograf (Main Pool & Great Outdoors)
One of the best additions to this year’s Groove Cruise were Chicago natives Autograf. Their first set on the back deck (Great Outdoors) showcased that group member Louis is a pro on the decks. Dealing with high winds and a side speaker that wanted to take a nose dive off the table, he threw down a beautiful set that allowed attendees to say Bon Voyage to Miami. Their second set was a prime slot at the pool deck on Saturday where Autograf turned up the heat from the night before and brought the energy. While they weren’t able to showcase their full array of talents without their awesome live productions, both DJ sets were amazing! We had the pleasure of meeting Autograf (as did the majority of the boat because they were everywhere!) and can tell they’re absolutely dedicated to their music and we look forward to what the future holds for them.
Scooter (Classics Set, Atrium)
One of our favorite aspects of the cruise is that the beat never stops. BPMS on the pool deck, BPMS on the beach, BPMS in the bathroom because…never stop the f*cking rave! But for many, veering outside of the House music genre can be a breath of fresh air, especially on the last day of the cruise. Scooter replenished the hearts of Hip-Hop fans with a gust of funky fresh beats that blew through the Atrium on Monday night from 8pm to 2am. Scooter took us on a journey through four decades of classic Rap and Hip-Hop. We dropped it low, shook that ass, and rode that Pony hard for three hours. We didn’t know we needed a Hip-Hop break, but we’re so glad it happened and it was one of our favorite moments from the Atrium area all trip!
Dada Life (Theater Takeover)
While all of the nautical revelers were partying on the beaches in Jamaica, the Norwegian Pearl was boarded by Dada pirates who took over the ship! The hard working crew onboard transformed the theater into the world of Dada and they had plenty of surprises awaiting the costumed cruisers upon their return to the boat. Flyers were placed outside every cabin on the ship, warning of the takeover, and all bananas had mysteriously vanished from the cafeteria. That mystery would soon be solved.
Dada’s theater-worthy stage performance began with a classic countdown, as anticipation built in the back of the boat. Every seat and aisle were packed with fans, many dressed from head to toe as bananas. Human people and Banana people mingled and hugged, united by the music and excitement of the event. And then the waves of Dada Life’s heavy sound hit the theater and the whole place went bananas. The two hour set was full of hit tracks and party anthems: “Kick out the Epic Motherf**ker”, “Born to Rage”, “So Young So High”, and so many more. The Swedish duo sprayed the crowd with champagne and flooded the crowd with inflatable (and real) bananas, including a 30-foot behemoth mega-banana. And of course, the culmination of their amped up performance was a massive “Happy Violence” pillow fight that left the theater covered in fluff (doused in champagne and banana peels) and huge smiles on the faces of every person in the room. It was a truly epic event on the cruise. We knew Dada was built for the Groove Cruise – this is their kind of party atmosphere – and they delivered in true Dada fashion. We can envision the partnership between Dada and Groove Cruise lasting for many years to come.
Moments We Will Never Forget
Markus Schulz Album Listening Event
It’s no secret that Markus Schulz is a superstar on the Groove Cruise. He’s one of the most popular and approachable artists on the voyage. He started this year’s cruise with his signature open-to-close set, and added in a main pool deck set that put us back on course home from Jamaica. But the best Markus moment from this year’s Groove Cruise was one that was so unique and special that it didn’t even involve him behind the decks. For an hour on Monday afternoon, Markus played host to 50 die-hard fans as he lead them through a listening event of his new upcoming artist album. Tim Grube, from Coldharbour Records, played DJ as Markus sat on a stool in front of the small stage and recited a personal story behind the creation of each song. It was a very raw and emotional experience, with Markus admitting a few times that he was quite nervous to play these tracks for the first time to fans. The tracks were all written as songs first, with just guitar and vocals, and then Markus gave them his production touch to turn them into the songs we will hear on the album and in the clubs very soon. The fans in attendance gave Markus all of the confirmation that he needed to know that this new exploration of his art was right on point. Some fans started to get up and dance to the tracks, as if Markus was performing them live, and others melted into their seats at the first listen to some of their new favorite songs. Just wait until you hear what Markus has in store for the world this Spring!
Sydney Blu Rained Out Pool Deck Set
We had 6:00 to 8:30PM on the second day of the cruise circled as one of our must see sets. Sydney Blu would be following Roger Sanchez on the pool deck for what was sure to be an amazing show. The two put on one of our favorite parties last year in the Bliss Ultralounge, so we knew what to expect this year. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. The hardest rain of the whole trip poured down without mercy as Sydney tried to continue to play for the hundreds of fans in front of the stage. While Sydney literally had stage hands holding up shirts to try and block the rain from ending her set, the fans had no protection whatsoever from the elements…and that was the best part. Imagine dancing in the warm tropical rain as your cruise ship bounces through a storm, with Sydney Blu laying down one of her classic soul-touching sets, and looking around and only seeing smiles and dancing friends around you. We could have kept going, and Sydney would have loved to as well. Unfortunately, the set had to be cut short because the weather became dangerous — but for thirty minutes, it was one of our favorite moments on the cruise. Where else can you dance in the rain in the middle of the ocean with Sydney Blu spinning?
Anne (From the Midwest)
We met Anne at Bingo Beach in Jamaica. She was waiting in line with the rest of us as we boarded the shuttles back to our floating oasis. She had purple and pink extensions in her hair, sparkly sunglasses, and an alcoholic coconut drink in her hand. Anne had one of those smiles on her face where you could tell she was enjoying and soaking in every moment. Anne is a huge Dash Berlin fan, and she couldn’t stop raving about his set the night before in the Theater. She ran into Dash on the first night of the cruise and got the chance to talk with her favorite DJ. How cool is that?! She even had the picture on her camera to prove it. This was her first Groove Cruise, and she heard about it on Dash Berlin’s radio show when he announced months before that he was going to be playing the Groove Cruise for the first time. Dash sounded so excited about it that Anne immediately looked it up and circled it on her calendar. She waited to the very last second, telling us that she has decided to come solo and made the purchase only moments before the cruise was sold out. Even though she had come on the cruise by herself, Anne was having the time of her life. Anne is from the Midwest and in her 60s. Here’s to you Anne! We look forward to seeing you again!
TIMO’s David Bowie Tribute Set
David Bowie was smiling down on the Groove Cruise, that’s for sure. For two hours in the Casino, everyone from attendees to the Norwegian staff was getting down to the sounds of DJ TIMO and his space age David Bowie tribute set. While Bowie songs are classic, mixing in the likes of “Space Oddity”, “Let’s Dance”, “Rebel Rebel” and “The Man Who Sold The World” is no easy feat. TIMO was up for the challenge, putting on a two hour dance party that could have had the pool stage rocking just as hard. This was one of those Groove Cruise parties that makes you stop and appreciate everything around you. There was a contingent of fans (Rabbits) with the iconic David Bowie lightning bolt face-paint who were channeling their inner rock star. But the best part was seeing the crowd grow as the foot traffic through the Casino picked up. An hour into the set and the space in front of the booth was packed with passersby that couldn’t escape the infectious deep house set that TIMO was laying down. Just like David Bowie, TIMO is aiming for the stars and his first Groove Cruise performance showed that he’s ready for the spotlight.
Darude & Dean Mason
Some artists just get what it means to be a part of the Groove Cruise family. Darude and Dean Mason are two of them, and they represent why the Groove Cruise is so special. It’s not your usual club date on the yearly tour schedule. The Groove Cruise is where you go to have fun, play your heart out, and open yourself up to experience something unique. If you are willing to reach across the decks to embrace your Groove Cruise fam on the other side, it’s one of the best gigs of the year. Darude and Dean get that. They support each other throughout the year, but the two friends and colleagues really take it to the next level on the cruise. Whether that’s Darude debuting Dean’s newest track, “What U Think”, during his pool deck set, or Dean being on stage and in the crowd with his Officially Addicted crew for every single Darude performance. This is what the Groove Cruise fam is all about. It’s inspiring to see two artists who really care and support each other having the time of their lives on the cruise as well. There was a particularly special moment when Darude’s brother Miko Virtanen came to the stage to perform the vocals for Darude’s single “Moments” in the theater. This was the first time that the two ever performed together. Only on the Groove Cruise.
Roger Sanchez Classic Closing Party
We’ve closed out our fair share of Groove Cruises on the main pool deck, coming into many different ports. This was our favorite closing party yet, and it had everything to do with the tunes and the vibe. Last year Roger Sanchez laid down an amazing classic set in the Bliss Ultralounge (which was sadly not used as a stage this year) that was one of our favorite parties of the cruise. This year his classics set was brought to the main pool deck for the final performance of the 96 hours of Groove Cruising. It was perfect. Coming into dock with some of the most recognizable tracks from the history of dance music was the right way to end it. We’re hoping for a few more classic sunrises on the Groove Cruise.
The Great Outdoors Stage
Whether it was EDX or Autograf, the Great Outdoors stage lent itself to some of the best sets of the cruise. We were stoked to see this underutilized part of the ship put to good use this year. If you spent time back there, you were probably part of a few great parties that happened on the ship. The vibe was always on point and the views were amazing. Everything from the moon to the sea was beautiful and calm and still back there. Great venue, great views, and great parties all around at the Great Outdoors.
Early in the morning, when most of the cruisers were winding down a late night or resting for the huge Jamaican beach party, a large group of altruistic guests and crew took time off from the non-stop party to give back to those in need. Destination Donation, a program developed by the Whet Foundation, the charity arm of Whet Travel, provides targeted low-income schools and orphanages with supplies at destination cities on the Groove Cruise. For Groove Cruise Miami 2016 they chose the Salvation Army School in Ocho Rios. 50 volunteers, the most ever on the Groove Cruise, disembarked with backpacks full of school supplies and classroom necessities to help the local students. They delivered 75 backpacks in total, and even the Whet Foundation custom backpacks used for the delivery were donated.
The spirit of the Groove Cruise is very much one of community and respect for one another. That is why once you’ve gone on your first cruise you’re considered a part of the Groove Cruise “family”. That sense of civic pride extends beyond the walls of the ship, and the optimism and generosity of those on-board can be harnessed for more than just an otherworldly party. That attitude is why Destination Donation has continued, and will continue, to grow in size and impact. The group of volunteers began with only 8 people three years ago, and it has now grown to 50. We can announce that there are some new exciting elements in the works before Groove Cruise LA, including a line of Destination Donation merchandise! All of the proceeds will be used to donate larger and more impactful items to the schools and orphanages that the Whet Foundation supports.
Until Groove Cruise LA
Now that we are all back on solid ground, and that ground has finally stopped swaying, we can reflect on the magnitude of the Groove Cruise experience. If the non-stop social media blitz this week is any indication, Groove Cruise has made an impact on a lot of lives, and that impact is deeper than just a massive party. But let’s not forget, it is also one hell of a party! Watch the Dada Life video above as a reminder how bananas this cruise really was.
We’ve spoken to countless Groove Cruisers after their Miami 2016 voyage and the overwhelming sentiment is that once they leave the friendly confines of the cruise ship they still feel a part of something special. That feeling can be the new friends or “fam”, the ridiculous stories, the unbelievable photos that are immediately tagged with the “restricted from work colleagues” label on Facebook, or just the thrill of traveling overseas. For the GC virgins this is an awakening and the next cruise is likely already circled on your calendar. For the veterans, the most exciting part is that each cruise continues to get better. The Whet Travel team continues to push the boundaries and find new ways to surprise and amaze. Specifically, the Dada Life takeover on Groove Cruise Miami 2016 was a new evolution in artist branding that was both comprehensive and immersive, with those Swedish maniacs involved in almost every aspect of the cruise.
One more legendary cruise in the books, but many more to come. I know it seems like a dream, but don’t worry, ALL of that actually happened.
Pre-sale tickets are available to reserve your spot on the Groove Cruise LA projected to embark in September, 2016. Making a presale booking requires just a single deposit of $200, which will be applied towards the final cost of your cabin. Use the discount code rabbits black save some money for champagne on-board.
Thank you to the amazing Groove Cruise photographers who supplied photos. You can check them out at the links below: