It does seem odd that Royal Caribbean -- which Cruise Critic and others have lauded as one of the industry's most gay-friendly cruise lines (it's even hosting a charter next month billed as "The Largest Gay Cruise in History II") -- is finding itself under fire.
But indeed it is.
As we learned from a story in the New York Blade, a gay couple who traveled recently on Enchantment of the Seas was dismayed to find there'd be no posting in the ship's Compass for a meeting of Friends of Dorothy (want to know more about FOD? Read our At Your Service: Friends of Dorothy).
The passengers' onboard request to include an announcement of the get-together, a concept that's fairly common across most fleets in the cruise industry, was denied. According to the report, the onboard director of guest relations told them that a new company policy allows only cruise-oriented events to be mentioned (with one exception: Friends of Bill W., part of Alcoholics Anonymous).
Cruise Critic contacted Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Leslie Katz, who was well aware of the situation and who confirmed the company's rationale. "Our company policy says that we don't put announcements for outside groups other than Friends of Bill W. in the Cruise Compass," she said, "We only feature ship- and company-sponsored announcements ranging from singles clubs to bridge clubs."
For the record, most other cruise lines have no problem featuring an announcement for Friends of Dorothy in ships' daily newsletters. Among those who responded to Cruise Critic's request for details are:
"We have held FOD meetings on some of our ships. If passengers want to hold a meeting during a cruise, they usually have to contact the cruise director to schedule it. They'll have to see what rooms and times are available on each voyage and, as with other groups who want to schedule meetings on a Carnival cruise, we'll try to accommodate their meeting requests during a sailing."
"Friends of Dorothy meetings are held on each QM2 voyage and listed in the Daily Programme on each ship -- and on QE2 as well."
"Basically, it's up to the Cruise Director. Either he hears from us that we have a large group of gays and then he'll post a Friends of Dorothy meeting announcement in the daily program or those on board will request it."
"Celebrity holds Friends of Dorothy meetings upon request -- and similarly, will include mention of them (date/time/location) in the Celebrity Today
newsletter if guests request."
"[It is] at the cruise director's discretion. Really just depends on the day. Some days are packed with events and there's only so much space in program. We have a policy to do our best to assist and put in program if space."
Norwegian Cruise Line
"We do this every week onboard all our ships and advise in the Freestyle Daily."
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
"We have no written policy regarding FOD meetings. Basically, these are on a request basis and/or if the cruise director feels there is a need/demand for one."
"Friends of Dorothy meetings are not really an issue on the Seabourn yachts. With just 208 guests maximum, and in the sociable atmosphere aboard our ships, any gay guests traveling on the ships quickly meet each other if they wish to."
"We publicize meetings upon request -- but it doesn't come up that often. Passengers should approach the cruise director once they get onboard."
Cruise lines that didn't respond to Cruise Critic's query about Friends of Dorothy policies include Princess.
On its part, Royal Caribbean seems embarrassed about the attention the issue is generation. Katz hastens to say that "we've got no issues about Friends of Dorothy," noting it's more of a logistical issue than a statement pertaining to lifestyle. "Think about how many guests are on every cruise -- how many family groups, for instance -- who might want announcements about meetings. That would be so time consuming for our staff that the Cruise Compass would never get out!"
However, Katz does add that the company is re-evaluating the policy. We'll keep you posted.
Royal Caribbean Mired in "Friends of Dorothy" Controversy
December 21, 2005