Fest 411: Groove Cruise Gives Back With Good Times

Groovin’ & Cruisin’: John Summit (left) and Dombresky. The 35th sailing of Groove Cruise from Miami to Labadee, Haiti, takes place from Jan. 19 to Jan. 23 aboard the Celebrity Summit cruise ship. Photo Courtesy of Groove Cruise & Whet Foundation

The idea for what would become Jason Beukema’s Groove Cruise started in 2004 when he convinced 125 friends to join him on a cruise. He had no connections to the music or cruise line industries but dreamed of taking to the seas with as many friends as he could. Seven years after that first trip, Beukema chartered his first cruise ship. Nineteen years later, Beukema’s company Whet Travel and their Groove Cruise are gearing up to set out on another adventure for their 35th sailing, this time to Haiti, on Jan. 19-23. Their cruises have seen the likes of John Summit, Claude Von Stroke, CloZee, Sofi Tukker, Gorgon City and more.

Beukema was working for Georgia Pacific when he sent out email invitations to 375 people to get a good deal on a cruise. He and his friends had long been talking about taking a trip together, but were having a hard time organizing it. They suggested to Beukema that if he organized it, they would go. A cruise seemed perfect with all the provided amenities. When he realized how much money the cruise line made off of him, he started thinking of going into business on his own. 

As the organization evolved, Beukema began to interweave philanthropy into his cruises with the Destination Donation program, and passengers are given the opportunity to help local communities they travel to by building schools and houses, bringing in food and more. 

“Since 2005-06, I’ve always had a charitable component to the Groove Cruise,” Beukema tells Pollstar. “I’ve always given a percentage of every dollar that we collect to charities. […] I decided to start up my own 501(c)3 because I wanted to know every dollar that was raised is going to benefit the kids. We don’t give money to other organizations; we buy them things, say if they need a new roof, gym, or air conditioner. We’re still working on this, but we may be building a house for a single mother in Cabo.”

Until a few months ago, Whet Travel continued to feel the ramifications of the pandemic. Now, with the world reopened and faith in cruises restored, 2023 promises a return to normalcy. The cruise industry faced harder restrictions and more mandates than most, and they were slower to return. Despite the setbacks, Groove Cruise set sail last fall with a few hiccups. In fact, while inflation impacted both the concert and travel industries, cruise lines are managing to stay relatively affordable.

“Travel industry pricing has gone up 25% to 30% this year alone,” Beukema says. “That’s hotels, airfare, resorts, etc., while the cruise industry stayed pretty flat in terms of pricing. We work very hard to create good value for people, and that’s very important to us.”

Fans wanting to hop on a cruise can enjoy a variety of genres through Whet Travel. Past sailings have highlighted rock, heavy metal, country and salsa. The Miami cruise will see sets from Jauz, Nora En Pure, Claptone, Markus Schulz, Cloonee, Habstrakt, Kaivon, William Black and more. The artists are encouraged to take full advantage of the atmosphere, enjoying the cruise with friends and throwing renegade sets and surprise back-to-backs.

Managing Director John Perrata seeks out emerging talent to come on board.

“We’re not trying to book the massive marquee lineup; we listen to our captains and build that experience not only for our guests, but the artists as well,” Perrata says. “They want to treat this like a vacation, too.”

Their upcoming Miami cruise is set to be one of their biggest yet, and will dock at Royal Caribbean’s private island in Haiti.