Initially, Melissa Etheridge admits she was lukewarm to the idea of hosting a cruise. “I said no for years to a cruise,” she recalls. “In the late ’90s management and folks started talking to me about cruises. And I said 'No, no, no way! Trapped on a boat with my fans?'”
Etheridge had cause to be nervous. In the 1990s, the lesbian singer-songwriter was topping charts and racking up awards. Her first Grammy came in 1992. The following year, her fourth album, Yes I Am featured the megahits “I'm the Only One” and “Come to My Window” (which brought Etheridge her second Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Performance). In 1995, Etheridge issued her highest charting album, Your Little Secret, featuring the hit single, “I Want to Come Over,” which earned her a Songwriter of the Year honor at the ASCAP Pop Awards in 1996. In those days, the fans were fervent.
I recall a friend having women's panties delivered to venues where Etheridge performing.
“Yes, they were definitely like that back in the ’80s and ’90s!” Ethridge laughs. “Nowadays we’ve all slowed down a little bit. They don’t throw the panties much anymore – the bras, I get one once, twice a year maybe. It’s rock and roll and it’s all in good fun. I don’t think anyone would ever want to hurt me.”
And, as time passed, Etheridge started to warm to the idea of hosting a cruise for her fans. So, in 2016 she took the plunge. And the singer was surprised by what she got out of it. “It was actually more of an experience for me — I think my fans had a great time — but just being there, realizing that there’s actually 3,500 people that really want to spend a week with you on a boat. And how freeing it was just to do all the songs I wanted. I could just do anything I wanted.” That gave Etheridge an opportunity to have unique interactions with her fans that she wouldn’t have when performing predetermined sets at a stadium concert. And it’s what’s brought her back for what will be her 4th cruise.
"I can’t believe we've been cruising for four years now” Etheridge shared in a statement to the press earlier this week. “Every year it gets better and better....the music, the roundtables, the food, the excursions, and especially the fans! I'm so excited about the incredible line up of musicians and speakers we have this year. I can't wait to set sail!
“The thing that really flows through everyone is this sense of kindness, love of music, these great artists,” Etheridge muses. “Knowing that they’re expecting kindness, so knowing that that’s the expectation that this is a kind, joyful boat.”
Ethridge says one aspect of that is the cruise’s inclusivity. Although she acknowledges, “Yes the majority is lesbians and they are the majority of the women,” Etheridge makes it clear, “There are men on the boat — not a whole lot of them — but there are husbands, there are boyfriends and brothers…and kids. There are some [trans] men and some gay men. It’s beautiful!”
Etheridge tells Out Traveler, “My favorite thing is that I get to go on a boat and know that every show I do I can do completely different because these fans know so much of my catalog. They’re there to hear the music. And I really love connecting with the fans so much. Probably my favorite thing is connecting with the other artists. When the day is done and we’re all hanging out, that might be my favorite, just really getting to know these great artists.”
It’s the music that draws and connects those who sign up for the Etheridge cruise, which is produced by Sixthman and this time sails aboard the Norwegian Jewel November 12-18, 2021 traveling from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios, and Nassau.
Guests will be able to partake in various activities, including two exclusive performances by Etheridge, a photo op with the star, and concerts from a supporting cast of musicians that includes Dorothy, Shawn Colvin, Lucy Spraggan, Wendy Moten, Sonia Leigh, and Antigone Rising. This year passengers will get even more music, with the just-announced addition of four-time Grammy Award Nominee and multi-platinum selling singer-songwriter Jewel to the lineup.
Even more special, the two megastars will perform on stage together. “Some artists don’t like to duet, I’ll sing with anybody,” says Etheridge. “I’ve sung with her before so I know she’ll duet with me. If nothing else, we’ll recreate the VH1 Duets of ’95 where we sang ‘You Can Sleep While I Drive.’ Jewel is just perfect. We’re both from that’90s era. We both rode that wave of female singer-songwriters in the ’90s. She’s down to earth, knows how to play, so she’s perfect. And my fans love her music.”
Etheridge remains bullish on cruises, and she has reason to be optimistic. In the past month alone, she says, “we’ve sold 90 cabins so this cruise has such an impact on people that they will buy tickets even in a pandemic. They know we’re going to be beyond careful and safe. And Norwegian cruise line is keeping us updated every month.”
“I don’t think it will be the death of cruising because people like it,” Etheridge adds, thinking about the industry at large after the crushing impact this year has had. “It’s a beautiful way to get around and travel and not have to worry about so many things — flying or driving and stuff like that. I think it’s fabulous.”
Looking to the future, she reveals, “We will be getting involved in more destination vacations too not just cruising. We really want to spread out. For those that cruising is not there thing after this cruise we’re going to look into land choices.”
For now, fans can reserve their place on the November 2021 cruise, with various early bird discounts available. Double occupancy rooms on The Melissa Etheridge Cruise IV begin at $1,270 per person, plus taxes and fees. Reserve your space now.
And in the meantime those stuck at home can tune in to Etheridge TV, an independent channel built on the Maestro platform. Launched in June 2020, the streaming platform enables the star to offer her fans live content five days a week, an especially timely option.