I went on my first cruise at 31-years-old and two weeks later I’m still recovering. Probably because it was not an average cruise.
I arrived at the Groove Cruise terminal in Long Beach — where glitter coated the pavement in mirage-like puddles, a DJ dished out house music, and empty bottles of cheap vodka lay strewn about. A few unsolicited thoughts instantly flew to mind: What am I doing here? This is not my scene. These people are already wasted and we haven’t even embarked yet! It’s gonna be a rough weekend.
And finally: Was this a mistake?
In retrospect, I can safely say: No, Groove Cruise was most certainly not a mistake. It was a game-changer.
I began my festival career at the almighty Coachella in 2005 then quickly moved on to underground warehouse parties that would either go all night or end abruptly with police in riot gear. Soon, I started attending large-scale events like the HARD parties, Electric Daisy Carnival (when it was still in L.A.), and anything produced by Insomniac.
I was deep in the scene — where people popped ecstasy like skittles and you could still festoon yourself in glow-sticks without getting lectured about how bad they are for the environment.
Then I went to Lightning in a Bottle in 2010 and everything changed. Over the next few years, I transformed from a bouncy raver kid to a crunchy, hippie woman. Glow-sticks were replaced with crystal pendants and I traded my bedazzled push-up bra for flowy, handmade, fair-trade, cruelty-free, gluten-free, vegan garb. I went from one extreme to another.
Aboard the SS Groove Cruise, I finally found my happy medium.
We boarded around noon. The ship’s décor was awash with garishly psychedelic carpets and reflective surfaces at every turn. An ancient scent of cigarettes lingered in the air, as if it had existed there for decades, like a ghost with unfinished business. As I navigated my way through the labyrinthine corridors, spasmodic C major chords rang from slot machines in typical casino fashion, with the thump of EDM throbbing in the background.
The partying began before we even shoved off, as I met with members of the Desert Hearts crew at one of the ship’s many bars. This motley collective — known for its annual Desert Hearts Festival which takes place in northeastern San Diego every spring — brought their funky, offbeat vibes to this mainstream EDM event in the form of a Desert Hearts stage takeover on Saturday night.