It was much like the line at Coyo Taco during Art Basel. About 2,500 neon-clad Groove Cruise passengers eagerly waited at Terminal D in PortMiami last week. An ocean of spandex, leopard print, and odd costumes was ready to flood the Carnival Victory, aimed for Turks and Caicos. Because 96 hours of dance music isn’t enough, some blasted beats from wireless speakers and held portable club lighting as they waited.
Shortly after boarding came the first DJ set. A small party quickly formed. Raul Diaz from Los Angeles brought lasers, a disco ball, turntables, a mixer, and speakers. He played 138 BPM trance as if it were early morning. It was 5 p.m., and the ship hadn’t left port.
From Monday afternoon till Friday morning, trance, house, and techno parties happened nonstop at six locations on the ship. Markus Schulz spurred the madness with an eight-hour set the first evening in the theater. Next, there was techno with Umek, Chus + Ceballos, and Boris till noon Tuesday. Welcome aboard.
“You can be someone you’re not here. It’s a different experience you’ll never have anywhere else in the world,” Shannon Gaide, a day spa owner in Coral Springs, says. “The Cocodrills set on Tuesday morning was amazing. I cried.”
Though I didn’t cry, I did get to catch quality up-and-coming artists such as Brooklyn’s Espinal & Nova. Danny Espinal and Joe Canova played early Tuesday morning in the casino near rows of one-armed bandits. They began playing as a duo six months ago. Their mesh of house, techno, and tribal appears to be going well.
“I played Groove Cruise last year as a solo artist, and this year we brought the Espinal & Nova duo," Canova says. "And we’ve always looked up to Roger Sanchez and caught his set on Tuesday. Right when we walked up, he dropped our track 'H.A.M.M.E.R.'"
Microbikinis became pasties, and pasties vanished as the Groove Cruise steamed through the Caribbean. On day three, the 2,500 passengers invaded the sugar-sand beach in Turks and Caicos for a trap/rap/big-room set from Borgeous.
“I’m not even into electronic music, and I love Groove Cruise," passenger Nia Hayes says. "Yes, I’m looking forward to some Justin Timberlake and Korn when I get back to Las Vegas, but today I’m loving the beach and this cruise.”
“We’re never going home,” was the battle cry as Thursday arrived. The bond between cruisers and the ship would soon be broken, and you could have cut the separation anxiety with a knife. EDX, Nora En Pure, Grube & Hovsepian, Nifra, and Markus Schulz filled the day slate. At 11 p.m., Jax Jones opened the theater for the “last set ever” by Dzeko & Torres.
At 2 a.m., Kristina Sky and George Acosta's throwback trance set ripped the roof off the casino. At 4 a.m., Roger Sanchez played the final records of Groove Cruise Miami 2017. His classic closing set on the stern of the ship with views of Miami were worth the price of admission. And as expected and appreciated, around 8 a.m., Sanchez played “Another Chance,” and it was over.
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In a shocking turn of events, Groove Cruise activities would continue when we were invited to join the Groove Cruise’s charity team, AKA Destination Donation, at Jungle Island. Fifteen volunteers took a bus to the park to spend the day with seventh-graders from Fienberg-Fisher K-8 School in Miami Beach. We got to know Isaiah; he knew as much about the animals as the zookeepers and wants to be a doctor. Kai found and adopted a lizard in the park; we named him Pablo. Jeremy has good taste in music; he’s a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. Whet Travel, Groove Cruise’s parent company, footed the bill for the 60 kids to spend the day there. A civilized and philanthropic ending to such a chaotic week was the best final chapter ever written.
There was a wedding, an engagement, an inflatable Tyrannosaurus roaming the ship, robots everywhere, and Cocodrills playing a sunrise set for 12 people in the hot tub Wednesday morning. The Groove Cruise will continue to thrive because the sense of community is alive and well.
Isn’t that why we got into the scene in the first place?