When we were putting together our pick of the best festival boat parties, we were confronted with the decision of whether to include festival cruises. In the end, we decided they didn't quite fit the definition of 'boat party' in that sense, but with so many to choose from across the globe we couldn't pass up the opportunity to shine a light on some of the best options out there.
This selection of floating festivals is mightily diverse, from EDM raves in the Gulf of Thailand to Mediterranean rock odysseys, but they are all united by one thing. So if you like the idea of stepping aboard a luxury liner and setting sail for an unforgettable experience, here are a few options to consider.
Lineup (2019): Kaskade, Aly & Fila, Hot Since 82, Markus Schulz, MK, Eli & Fur
Probably the most famous of the lot, the amount of work that goes into Groove Cruise is very impressive. From the sunny shores of Miami, the leviathan ventures out to Mexico's Costa Maya – taking in the white sands, coral reefs, ancient monuments, and high octane adventure parks alike. All the while being soundtracked by a lineup of DJs befitting any top tier dance music festival.
When: 9-13 January 2020
Route: Miami (USA), Costa Maya (Mexico), Miami (USA)
Lineup (2018): CamelPhat, Faithless, Nic Fanciulli, Patrick Topping, Adriatique, Nastia, Tchami
The MSC Orchestra – a brand new ship for 2020 – sets sail from the iconic coastal city of Venice in mid-May, kickstarting summer with a selection of favourites from the world of house and techno as it explores the Italian, Slovenian and Croatian coasts. Not shying away from the biblical, The Ark has its very own ten commandments with calls for respect, care, and companionship among them.
When: 13-16 May 2020
Route: Venice (Italy), Koper (Slovenia), Zadar (Croatia), Venice (Italy)
The Boaty Weekender
Lineup: Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, Yo La Tengo, Django Django, Teenage Fanclub
The archetypal cruise festivals might be characterised by superstar DJs, dance music, and late night raving below deck, but that doesn't have to be the case. With The Boaty Weekender, presented and curated by Belle & Sebastian, the band are recapturing the magic of their Bowlie Weekender festival back in 1999, taking to the Mediterranean to mark the 20 year anniversary with a selection of indie, alternative, and underground favourites.
When: 8-12 August 2019
Route: Barcelona (Spain), Cagliari (Italy)
It’s The Ship
Lineup (2018): Paul van Dyk, Cash Cash, Sander van Doorn, Showtek, Vini Vici, NERVO
Proudly advertising itself as 'Asia's Largest Festival at Sea', It's The Ship applies the tried-and-tested formula of booking bountiful dance music superstars on board their luxury craft, complete with all the mod-cons and leisure facilities that you'd expect. But beyond that, each year they also welcome a guest captain – David Hasselhoff and Big Shaq in recent editions – as well as an array of other curiosities, from Vegas stage shows to pop-up fancy dress parties.
When: 13-15 November 2019
Route: Singapore, Phuket (Thailand), Singapore
Lineup (2019): Zhu, Malaa, Rezz, Skream, Jauz, The Black Madonna, Holy Goof
Another no-nonsense party at sea, Holy Ship manages to straddle the electronic underground and mainstream with its impressively packed lineups each year while not pulling any punches when it comes to production. Such is the popularity of the event, they now do two different sailings back-to-back each year, and have recently launched a new land-dwelling festival at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.
When: January 2020 (Dates TBA)
Route: Florida (USA), Bahamas
Runaway to Paradise
Lineup: Jon Bon Jovi, Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, Grace Potter, Betsie Gold
Further evidence that festival cruises are not exclusively reserved for ravers, this offering welcomes a generation-spanning crowd united in their love of the man behind it all – Jon Bon Jovi – and the classic rock sounds that he assembles on the lineup for every expedition.
When: 26-30 August 2019
Route: Barcelona (Spain), Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Barcelona (Spain)