All aboard the world’s largest floating dance music festival, Groove Cruise.
Whet Travel’s flagship fest is set to return to the seas for its 35th sail out of Miami to a private Haitian island. It’ll kick off on January 19th on the newly renovated Celebrity Summit cruise ship before docking on the 23rd.
This once-in-a-lifetime festival experience boasts nine stages and will feature 96 hours of nonstop techno and house music from over 50 artists. Groove Cruise is also beloved for fostering an ecosystem of creative self-expression and inclusion for its guests, who will dance under the Caribbean sun to performances from Nora En Pure, Claptone, BIJOU, Giolì & Assia, Matroda, William Black.
FOTOLITERA.com caught up with Groove Cruise’s founder, Jason Beukema, to chat about its unforgettable festival experience, Whet Foundation’s scheduled charitable initiatives and more. For more information and tickets, navigate here.
FOTOLITERA.com: How did the Groove Cruise team decide on Labadee, Haiti as the destination? What will the port stop entail for the attendees or “captains” of the ship?
Jason Beukema: Labadee is an absolute dream destination. I’ve been on 148 cruises and to 74 countries and always find myself wanting to go back to Labadee. It is a stunning location that has everything you could ask for in a destination: pristine beaches, crystal-clear blue waters, and even forested mountains.
Amenities wise, it has the world’s longest zipline over water, an epic rollercoaster that goes down the island’s beautiful mountainside, a 300-foot water slide, private cabanas, boat and island tours, jet skis—I could go on and on! It is paradise on Earth. Add that to our amazing destination event with live performances from some of the world’s best DJs and it’s just something you have to experience yourself.
FOTOLITERA.com: There are several top-tier women booked for the 2023 festival, including Nora En Pure. What goes into the lineup curation for each cruise? What is your opinion on ensuring the representation of inclusive bookings, especially within the electronic music scene?
Jason Beukema: We work with a lot of different labels and brands and have a booking team who are constantly on the lookout for new and exciting talent to bring on Groove Cruise. Each lineup is like a puzzle, fitting the different sonic pieces together to create the most interesting and engaging experience possible.
Inclusive booking is so important to us. One of the main pillars of Groove Cruise is being a fun, safe and inclusive space for everyone to be themselves and that starts with the names on the lineup. Not only is it important to represent different voices and give them a platform to be heard, but it actually helps create a better musical experience for our captains as well. No one wants to listen to the same music from the same people for four or five days. We are truly proud to be an inclusive space both behind and in front of the DJ decks.
FOTOLITERA.com: The Celebrity Summit underwent a $500 million renovation. What can attendees expect in terms of amenities and offerings on the ship?
Jason Beukema: Out of all the cruise ships we’ve chartered over the years, the Celebrity Summit might be my favorite. And this will be the first Groove Cruise on it since the renovations, so I’m pumped!
They overhauled the whole ship, renovating every part of it from the staterooms and suites to the restaurants and bars, casino, spa, and sundecks. The spa is totally tripped out now, it’s an amazing place to start your day and recover from the night before. And the food on the Summit is on another level from your regular cruise ship. I mean, Michelin-starred chefs put the menus together. You literally can’t beat that! I can’t wait to get the GCFam back on board to experience the revolutionized ship.
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FOTOLITERA.com: Groove Cruise also provides a plethora of artist-hosted programming and activities, something a lot of large-scale events don’t do. Why did GC decide to include these?
Jason Beukema: We’re always looking for something unique to offer our captains because the goal of Groove Cruise has always been to create something truly special and out of the ordinary. The great thing about putting a festival on a cruise is that the artists are on the ship with everyone else, so as an attendee you’ll bump into them all over the place and be able to interact with them.
After a few years we realized that a lot of the artists playing Groove Cruise also really enjoyed interacting with fans as much as the fans did, making it a match made in heaven to put these artist-hosted activities together. And ever since we started doing them officially they’ve consistently been one of the favorite parts of Groove Cruise for both artists and fans.
FOTOLITERA.com: The festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2024. How have you seen Groove Cruise’s two decades’ worth of events expand and change over the years? Did you ever imagine it would become the world’s largest floating dance music festival? What do you hope to add and expand in the coming years?
Jason Beukema: I started Groove Cruise in 2004 with 125 friends going on a regular cruise vacation together. I drove a makeshift DJ booth and all the gear down to Miami from Michigan because I couldn’t afford to rent them. I put a business plan together to grow the event and charter my own ship in five years. Seven years later I finally did it. Fast forward to today and over 60,000 people have attended our floating events and we’ve just announced our first 4,000 person capacity sailing on one of the newest, most amenity packed ships in the world, the Norwegian Encore.
Of course, I always hoped Groove Cruise would take off like it has, but seeing it actually happen has been the most amazing experience and has kept me working hard to innovate and offer our captains the most immersive and unique musical adventures possible.
FOTOLITERA.com: Groove Cruise also has been partnering with charities and the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Whet Foundation, since its inception in 2004. What are the festival’s scheduled outreach initiatives while in Haiti?
Jason Beukema: We’re teaming up with an amazing nonprofit called Second Mile Haiti for this upcoming Groove Cruise. They’ve built a live-in malnourishment recovery center and created a family planning program to reduce maternal and infant mortality.
Malnutrition affects a staggering 10% of Haitian kids. Haiti’s unemployment rate is around 80%, and 76% of its population is living on less than $2 a day, which causes families to have to give up their children in order for them to receive proper care. So we’re working with Second Mile Haiti to bring 50 kids and 10 mothers from their community to Labadee, where Groove Cruise volunteers will host activities and provide donated goods (food, school supplies, toiletries, books, toys, etc.) for the kids and mothers.
Whet Foundation is an integral part of Whet Travel and has been since I started the company. Giving back to the communities we visit is so important. Visiting a foreign destination isn’t just about seeing a new location and ticking it off your bucket list, it’s about learning from new places and expanding your understanding of the world, and you can really only do that by interacting with locals and leaving your mark through helping people in need however you can. I’m happy to say the GCFam have really taken to this side of Groove Cruise and the volunteer excursions are getting bigger and bigger on every cruise we put on because more and more people want to get involved.