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"We're not getting suites with a view," adds Mason, who is 24. "We make these things as affordable as possible. We have a lot of friends who invest in clothes and cars and other material things, but for us, none of that stuff is as important as having the memories."
Whether attendees are saving money all year for the trip, borrowing cash from their parents, or just pulling out the credit card, "people find a way to cobble the money together," Bentley says, "because it's just that important for them to be there."
Music fans coming from smaller markets also recognize the value in seeing a lineup of artists who wouldn't normally play their town. "Justice and Bloody Beetroots rarely come to Dallas," says Dallas-based Holy Ship attendee Hoang Bo. "I'm really looking forward to those shows."'
Cruise organizers also create appeal by promising onboard activities like DJ lessons with A-Trak and wine tastings with James Murphy. Sometimes, there's spontaneous inspiration. "Last year some dude on the boat, an attendee, went into the cafeteria, started playing a set and got a full-on party going," Richards recalls. "People were dancing on counters, throwing food; the chefs got into it. To me, those moments are more important than making an extra $100,000."
Ticket sales for the S.S. Coachella are sluggish, says an insider who didn't want to be quoted due to his connections to the fest. (A Goldenvoice representative declined to be interviewed for this story.) But others aren't having that problem. The EDM-centric Groove Cruise, which has brought fans to the Bahamas since 2005, is at capacity for 2013, as is the next Holy Ship.
"I've got big-name DJs who aren't on the lineup who are coming," Richards adds. "I can't pay them; they just want to be a part of it."