Groove Cruise Miami 2015 Review

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Groove Cruise always delivers when it comes to providing a premier music festival experience. Groove Cruise Miami 2015 was no exception, and this year marked the event’s 11th sailing out of Miami. With GCLA 2015 recently going on sale, and GCMIA 2016 coming up as well, I thought now would be a good time to share my experience aboard the world’s largest floating music festival.

TL;DR – GCMIA 2015 was incredible and you’re missing out on life if you haven’t sailed yourself! Plan accordingly for Groove Cruise Miami 2016 – you definitely will not want to miss it!

*Warning, this post is long (like 2500+ words). Even if you don’t read the whole post, be sure to check out the photos below as well as my aftermovie for Groove Cruise Miami 2015! If you’re looking for a review that places more emphasis on the experience rather than the artists, check out my GCMIA 2014 review.

Nothing can really prepare you for Groove Cruise – even if you’ve been before. This is a perfect example of where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Rave + Cruise Ship + 4 days= Something that is completely incomprehensible until it’s experienced!

Wednesday – Day 1

Everyone got the memo this year and showed up early for boarding which meant my impeccable planning didn’t pay off in the form of breezing onto the ship. No worries – the day theme for Wednesday was Represent, so it was fun to see everyone dressed accordingly and seeing just how diverse the crowd is. Members of the GCFAM travelled across the country and across the world just to be on this ship.

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Pro-tip: A large portion of the staff was Filipino, so if you’re Filipino or can speak Tagalog, you may benefit from even greater hospitality (it’s great nonetheless).

Doc Brown and Cato K opened the main pool stage (while Shannon Williams played for boarding guests in the Atrium) until the muster drill, where we learned the safety procedures anxiously, and not so quietly, waited to get back to the fun.

Following the muster drill, Drums of the Sun, the duo consisting of Miami’s Louis Dee and Chicago’s Bam Bam Buddha, took to the pool stage with their unique performance combining a traditional DJ set with live percussion instruments. It was awesome to watch and hear, and I can appreciate the element of live music being incorporated into the EDM scene.

As we sail off, a helicopter flies above to take photos of the crowd. It’s great to see everyone representing where they’re from as we embark on this festival at sea as one family – the GCFAM.

After eating (alot…because it’s all included!), we were ready to tackle the evening.

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Deep/future house producer Oliver Heldens – recently recognized in Beatport’s Top 20 list – kept everyone moving into the evening as we sailed away from Miami (in relatively rough seas). The 19-year old DJ from the Netherlands played an incredible 2-hour set that lead up to a surprise set from Ferry Corsten and a closing set from George Acosta.

The party continued in the theater with Keith Christopher, Dean Mason, and an epic 4-hour set from the Godfather of House himself, Erick Morillo.

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The evening theme was Shine the F**k Up, so you know there was an huge presence of glitter, LED lights, and all things shiny. This theme was brought back by special request due to popular demand.

Some of my best memories from Groove Cruise come from the afterhours parties. Incorrect hosted the afterhours parties and the first night featured Sharam (also known from his contribution to the Deep Dish duo) leading up to Prok & Fitch. Needless to say, the hours flew by until the sun came up over the horizon to show us we had arrived at our private island party spot.


Last order of the night – eat breakfast and get some rest. There’s a beach party tomorrow.

Other artist who performed on day 1 include: Louie Corrales, Patrick M, Sydney Blue, Ivano Bellini, Lujan, and Lavelle Dupree.

Thursday – Day 2

If you don’t know already, Groove Cruise programs parties AROUND THE CLOCK. When we woke up, the pool deck was still going hard as if we never left – except the sun was fully up by this point.

Eager members of the GCFAM lined up to take the tender to the island as Mix Masterson and George Acosta opened the private island party. Great Stirrup Cay served as an excellent to relax as we prepared to go all out for the next artist combo.

There were beach chairs for everyone, a sand volleyball court, and a games like corn hole and 2×4 Jenga which could be found at the Bacardi bar.

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There was also food (again, all included) being served on the island so you didn’t have to return to the ship to eat.

The sky was clear, the water blue, and the weather was just beautiful all around. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

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Then it happened, New World Punx took the beach stage and treated us to an unforgettable set that featured sand under our toes, Caribbean water all around us, and a view of the Norwegian Pearl parked just off to the side.

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The duo consisting of Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten took us on a trance journey that included Markus pouring champagne for front stage fans and a marriage proposal (she said “yes”) among the GCFAM!

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We also took a short break to sing Happy Birthday to Markus Schulz as it was just a few days later. Later, we were provided with an exclusive debut of Schulz’s yet-to-be-released track, Memories, and I can’t think of a more appropriate song to play in relation to Groove Cruise.

The man who created Sandstorm himself, Darude, closed the beach as attendees took the party back to the ship for the Sunset Pool Party. The party continued with sets from Keith Christopher, Dean Mason, Michael Woods, and, known for his V for Vendetta mask, DSK CHK.

The theme for the day is Around the World, and I chose to don an Egyptian headdress for the evening (I’m not Egyptian, by the way). Little did I know I would run into an Egyptian guy. An encounter that I initially thought occurred from me offending him resulted him treating me to a shot…just for wearing a hat that made me look like a pharaoh. This is what the GCFAM is about. Thanks Egyptian guy!

Cato K and Bynon opened for Sidney Samson in the theater – a set that went hard from beginning to end with tracks that were heavier and dirtier than expected…in a good great way. Personally, I tend to like some heavier bass in my music, and Sidney Samson satisfied that as well as introduced some more variety to the lineup.

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Starting at 2am, the Incorrect Music afterhours party treated the most dedicated sleepless of attendees to an Anthony Attalla tech-house/techno set for 5 hours….5hours. On top of that, the back-by-popular-demand Cocodrills played for another 4 hours taking us well into the following morning.

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Other sets performed on day 2 include Scotty Boy in the theater, Lavelle Dupree, Fyasko, and Doc Brown in the atrium, and Keith Christopher, Mix Masterson, and Ruben Prince in the casino.

Friday – Day 3

Day 3 was a planned day at sea where the Norwegian Pearl would leisurely cruise around the Caribbean while the GCFAM enjoyed a day aboard the ship filled with back to back sets, 6 venues, and special events like a “How to DJ Workshop” with Darude and Scooter, Meditation at Sea with Lady Casa and Kyle Head, an Old School Hip-Hop party with Scooter, Sidney Samson, and Bynon, and a Q&A session with the staff.

The theme for the day was Acceptable in the 80’s, so everyone was in neo-clad clothing and accessories, costumes from popular 80’s movies, and more.

The main pool stage party, at this point, has been going on since 2am with acts scheduled to perform continuously until 10pm on day 4! Friday’s lineup included Lavelle Dupree, Louis Dee, Roger Sanchez, Funkagenda, a surprise set by Markus Schulz, Louis Corrales, and Saeed Younan.

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The energy level was high in the atrium as 4 acts performed – Scotty Boy, Dean Mason, Feenixpawl, and Louis Dee & Bam Bam Buddha (Drums of the Sun) – while Doc Brown and Shannon Williams headlined the casino party.

We took this evening to explore the Electric Jellyfish lounge. Touted as a way to take a short break from the craziness that is Groove Cruise, the Electric Jellyfish lounge featured a dark environment with calm blue lighting, fans, candy, and ambient music. The really cool feature though was that this was placed under a massive jellyfish prop that had soft seating areas underneath. Just check out the picture – it was a nice venue to have and retreat to in between sets.

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The theater was the place to be Friday night with George Acosta opening for two massive sets from Aly & Fila and ATB.

Taking us into the later hours of the night was Boris followed by Carlo Lio B2B Nathan Barato.

Saturday – Day 4

Day 4 is a special day. In the past, Groove Cruise Miami was a 3-day event. Whet Travel granted the GCFAM’s wish – a fourth day – beginning on GCX, Groove Cruise Miami’s 10th sailing. For the 2015 sailing, Groove Cruise was once again a 4-day event! After 3 days, one may think this would be a more relaxed day as everyone winds down…nope.

In my experience at the last 2 events, day 4 is like the green light that tells everyone to go even harder. The GCFAM asked for a 4th day, and everyone is on-board (no pun intended) when it comes to taking advantage of it.

The day theme was Pump It Up (think: inflatables), and the party was all on ship due to high seas, so the pool deck was absolutely swarming with inflatable props. Dolphins, whales, spiral snakes, and more. The main pool stage crowd was like an inflatable play pit, and given the programming, EVERYONE was at this party.

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Shannon Williams and Feenixpawl opened for headliner Thomas Gold…where it happened – the Slip ‘n’ Slide came out. It was nuts, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Thomas Gold’s set really picked up the energy and set the tone for the rest of the pool stage acts as Scooter & Lavelle, Will Sparks, and Scotty Boy kept the party going until 10pm where the other venues on the ship would takeover.

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I want to take a moment to comment on Will Sparks and Scotty Boy‘s sets.

In case you’re unfamiliar Will Sparks is an electro house producer/DJ from Australia whose latest tracks could be filed under the Melbourne Bounce sub-genre. His set was high-energy, eclectic (including tracks with international instrument samples), and even experimental. I can recall at least 2 times where the BPMs increased and hardstyle influences made themselves present. As a fan of hardstyle myself, I could appreciate not only the tracks themselves but the risk taken to play those tracks to a crowd who may not be as familiar/comfortable with the sound.

For me, however, these transitions simply triggered a jump response that allowed me to take advantage of sound not too often heard on US shores.

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Scotty Boy followed up with another hard hitting, high energy set. I first learned of Scotty Boy from his set in the atrium last GCMIA, and he was back with a better-than-ever set at the main pool stage. Scotty Boy‘s set featured big builds, heavy drops, and a few dabbles into a genre unheard of on Groove Cruise – trap. For myself, this was a pleasant surprise. I’m a fan of the genre, and with a bit of trap played by Sidney Samson, as well, it was nice to enjoy the sounds in addition the rest of the variety aboard.

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There was a special classics party in the Bliss Lounge where Lavelle Dupree, Sydney Blu, Funkagenda, and Cato K, spun classic fan favorites.

The night theme was Whet Circus, and true to Groove Cruise nature, people went all out. Clowns of all kinds, ring leaders, animals – you name it…it was there.

In the theater, Lujan and Louis Dee opened for another massive headliner, Arty! After his set, fans stuck around to see who the next special guest was. Naturally, it was Markus Schulz himself! If you don’t know, Markus loves Groove Cruise and playing for the GCFAM.

Continuing the birthday celebration from the private island party, there was even cake that passed out from the stage if you wanted some (not in Steve Aoki fashion, but as in actually-eating-birthday-cake fashion)! Markus Schulz’s closing set took us down the rabbit hole where we’d eventually emerge 2 hours later to find the Incorrect Music afterhours party still in full swing.

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Opened by Patrick M, and closed by house-music-heavyweights Chus + Ceballos, the afterhours party was packed with members of the GCFAM taking advantage of every last minute we had. One of my favorite parts of Groove Cruise is sailing back into port at some super early hour in the morning blasting music and lights at the other ships and into the city. It’s obnoxious in all the right ways.

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The afterhours party took us all the way to disembarkation where we told the ship we’d play one more song…at which point, I’m confident the longest song in their library was played (but I’m not complaining!). It was really funny to see the difference between the people who’ve been up all night and those who went to bed and got up early for that last bit of partying.

It’s at this time where we grab breakfast for the last time before we disembark, and the GCFAM disburses until next event where we reunite and do it all over again.

Other artists who performed on day 4 include Cato K, Louis Corrales, Saeed Younan, and Ivano Bellini in the atrium, and Mix Masterson, Ruben Prince, and Keith Christopher in the Casino

Final Words

Groove Cruise Miami 2015 raised the bar (again!) in production, artist programming, and experience. Parties on the pool deck until sunrise, massive sets on a private island oasis, 2200+ members of the Groove Cruise family, and you…this is what makes GCMIA the premiere floating festival and an unforgettable experience!

Check out the Groove Cruise Miami 2016 event page for details on the upcoming sailing.

When you’re ready to get your tickets, use my discount code, GrooveCruiseChris (How do I use this code?), for $50 off/person (up to $200 off/cabin)!

Hope to see you on the ship!