The Business of Meetings – Episode 162 – The Groove Cruise with Jason Beukema
Today, we are excited to speak with Jason Beukema, the founder of the Groove Cruise!
Jason started the Groove Cruise almost twenty years ago. He joins us on the show today to tell the fascinating origin story of the Groove Cruise and to share his experiences and insights.
I own a couple of travel companies focused on creating unforgettable experiences that connect communities to their passions in unique & exciting ways. Under the Whet Travel umbrella, we specialize in chartering cruise ships for large-scale music and themed experiences (2000-4000 people) on major cruise lines such as Norwegian, Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, MSC & Celebrity.
Whet Travel received the prestigious charter partner of the year award from Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival has been on the Inc 500 list twice and has been featured in media such as USA Today, NY Times, Travel Channel, MTV, NBC, WSJ, Billboard, and Forbes.
Groove Cruise is the World’s Premiere Electronic Music Cruise & the only music charter that sails yearly from both coasts. Salsa Cruise is A Ship Full of Pura Salsa. MotorBoat, the Loudest Boat in the World, Inception Cruise, the World’s first Spring Break Charter, & Zen Cruise is a Transformational Journey at Sea focused on yoga, health, and wellness. Cruise Event GPS specializes in corporate events & incentives on cruise ships.
Whet Foundation is a 501c3 that offers exciting experiences & programs to deserving children in South FL & the Caribbean through our Community Captains & Destination Donation programs.
I’m the youngest person to single-handedly charter a cruise ship, we have executed 27 full ships to date & send up to 15,000 people on cruises each year.
I coined the concept of ‘Celebration Marketing’. I have been a featured speaker at several events, such as SXSW, Canadian Music Week & Cruise360. I created the Mentorship program for the Entrepreneur Organization as well as the Tourism + Hospitality & Emerging Leadership Councils at the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.
I currently live in Miami and have lived across the US, Australia, Bali, and Ecuador. I am from and went to college in MI (CMU Fire up Chips). I’ve also been to 50 states, 68 countries, and have sailed on 149 cruises.
After graduating pre-med at Central Michigan University, Jason realized he did not want to join the medical industry. He decided to become an entrepreneur instead, to make enough money to help others. Unfortunately, his business failed, and he got into debt. So he found a job as a sales manager at Georgia Pacific, a big Fortune 100 company, and sold timeshares for Radisson Vacation Villas in his spare time to settle his debt.
When his boss offered to pay for school, Jason declined and asked if he could hire a FranklinCovey personal coach instead. His boss agreed and during the coaching process, Jason was told to look for something he loved doing and find a way to get paid for doing it.
The travel industry
He loved going on vacations, so he signed up for a two-and-a-half-week course at the International Tour Management Institute in San Francisco. Following that, he was hired by a couple of tour companies and started doing motor coach tours throughout North America.
How the Groove Cruise began
Jason’s friends asked him to put a tour together for them. So in 2004, he joined a seven-day Royal Caribbean cruise ship tour, found 125 people join him on board, and called it the Groove Cruise. After the cruise, Jason saw how life-changing the experience had been for everyone! Even though he had no money and knew nobody in the cruise industry when he started the Groove Cruise, he created a business plan to charter a cruise ship within the next five years. It took seven years to charter his first cruise ship, and since then, they have done 28 full ships and have become Norwegian’s and Carnival’s Charter Partner of the Year!
Jason offers experiences other than the Groove Cruise. They have had salsa, rock, heavy metal, country music, and yoga cruises. They even have a board game and a dental continuing education cruise coming up!
A huge jump
Since the Groove Cruise started twenty years ago, they have jumped from having 125 people on board to having 4000 people on each cruise!
Many people have shared feedback to say that they found Groove Cruises transformational. New personal and business relationships have formed on the cruises, and marriages have been saved. After the Orphanage Cruise experience, many were inspired to volunteer once they returned home.
The pandemic was beyond a nightmare for the cruise industry and the live events space! The cruise industry was the first industry to get shut down, and it stayed that way for the next two years. It was a depressing and very mentally challenging time for Jason. Fortunately, he had his young nieces around to distract him from his problems. The Groove Cruise returned in full force after the pandemic.
Online live cruise sailing events
Journaling and thinking of those less fortunate than him helped Jason get out of himself, overcome his depression, and start thinking of ways to help others. He came up with the idea to utilize all his contacts and do online live cruise sailing events called Virtual Sailaways. Doing those events, he raised around $50,000 for people experiencing hardships in his community.
Accommodation for events is challenging
Accommodation is always a big challenge for events because the organizers do not want to take on too much risk and do not want to get tied into a contract where they cannot fulfill all the accommodation requirements.
No other place offers the kind of relationship-building that happens when people are on a cruise with others from the same company, with a similar lifestyle, or with the same taste in music. You cannot go anywhere on a cruise ship, so forced or serendipitous relationships tend to form, and that’s where all the magic happens!
Connect with Eric
Connect with Jason Beukema
On his websites: