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The Ark Festival really is something special. Taking place on one giant cruise ship, it boasts seven different arenas, 4000 guests and hundreds of DJs and live acts across four days. Billing itself as ‘the world’s most epic electronic event at sea’ sure is bold, but on the performance of this year, it is not too bold.

First things first: getting aboard in Barcelona is easy and straight forward. There is no queuing when we arrive and to help get you in the mood, Ark dancers and performers are milling about to put on a show to keep you entertained. We make friends immediately with a couple from Spain who are excited about what is in store, and why shouldn’t they be?

The crowd generally is a mix of super tanned, vest wearing reality TV types and also those who are more down to earth and here for a fine selection of music. But everyone is friendly, and so are the staff, crew and performers who mean you always feel looked after and like they care about you, not just taking your money.

The accommodation is, of course, a cabin, and they are all clean with a big bag of Ark merchandise waiting for you when you arrive. There are all sorts of goodies and vanity bags packed with essential that help add to the feeling that Ark really cares about you. To be honest, we aren’t in the room much after this as there is so much going on you’d be mad to waste your time in here.

Even rain and wind couldn’t dampen down the first day. Luckily it parted before the music started so nothing was missed out. Stage hosts include the likes of Elrow, FACT and Versus and underground house and tech is their order of the day. The decor and production is magical too, with the top deck Oasis Elrow stage completely decked out in leafy green plants and tropical vibes.

The music matches with Patrick Topping, Richy Ahmed and Dennis Ferrer all going wild and sending us just as wild before we all head inside to the dark and intimate Reef Stage, where we were lucky enough to catch a classic techno set from the king of techno himself Sven Väth. The rest of the day is a blur, to be honest, and we start the next day with a lounge morning on the sun beds by the pool as we arrive in Marseille.

The food on board is all you could want and more, with every type of cuisine from high and low taste catered to. Of course, there are also guided tours around Marseille on seaways, biking trips and more on offer during the day. Musically, highlights on the second day include the ice rink stage which comes alive with masters of house Roger Sanchez and Felix Da Housecat, who pump out a real lesson, while The Reef Stage, a more intimate thing with a low ceiling, finds loopy minimal from Matador getting us in a trance.

Before we arrive in Ibiza there is still time on day three for Masters at Work on the Deep Stage playing a set of classics the crowd all know and love, whilst Martin Solveig completely stole the show on the top deck outside on the Oasis stage where everybody seemed to have assembled from the ship. It made for a magical memory and one that will last a long time, or at least until next year when we will certainly be back.

Photo credit: Nachtschaduw

Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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