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What is Friends of Bill W. on a cruise?

17 Aug 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

Who is Bill W. and… why does he have so many friends?

Conference room on Anthem of the Seas

When browsing the Cruise Compass onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise, you’ll likely come across a daily-scheduled event called Friends of Bill W.

If you’ve never heard of Friends of Bill W. before, you’ll probably be confused. No, Bill W. is not a passenger on your cruise ship, but he has plenty of “friends” onboard.

What is Friends of Bill W.?

Friends of Bill W. is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting found onboard a cruise that is named after William Wilson (Bill W.), one of the founders of the organization. Alcoholics Anonymous was founded to help members achieve and maintain sobriety throughout their lives.

Cruises can be a tough environment for those passengers in recovery, so cruise lines offer Friends of Bill W. onboard as a non-judgemental, helpful support group. At Friends of Bill W., passengers can meet fellow guests in recovery and form a support network once onboard.

The name “Friends of Bill W.” gives a subtle way for guests to know there is a support group onboard while maintaining privacy and anonymity.

When and where are Friends of Bill W. meetings located?

You will generally find Friends of Bill W. meetings every day on a Royal Caribbean cruise. The time may change based on ship and itinerary, with some meetings held in the morning and others around 4PM.

Friends of Bill W. meetings are held in quiet, less crowded areas of the ship, are complimentary, and are open to any passengers. The meetings are often located in places like the Library, offering a more secluded spot where guests can feel comfortable.

Passengers in recovery as well as family members may find the meetings helpful. You do not have to sign up for the meetings in advance. The meetings are self-led, so there are no Royal Caribbean staff members present.

Why is Friends of Bill W. on a cruise ship?

Friends of Bill W. is found not only on Royal Caribbean cruises but also on many other cruise lines. Cruise ships tend to have a significant drinking culture onboard, with many guests enjoying cocktails, beer, wine, and spirits throughout the day.

While relaxing with an alcoholic beverage in hand is common for many passengers, it can be a challenging environment for those recovery. 

Friends of Bill W. meetings help passengers in recovery avoid the temptation of drinking by having regularly scheduled meetings. Having a support system on a cruise is huge, as many passengers will find themselves without the support network they have built at home, such as local AA meetings and online forums.

What is Friends of Dorothy on a cruise ship?

Royal Caribbean cruises also used to have a meetup called “Friends of Dorothy” onboard, which was for those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Similar to how Friends of Bill W. is used as a more abstract name for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Friends of Dorothy was used as a name for the LGBTQ+ meetups on a cruise ship.

In recent years, though, Royal Caribbean has stopped using the name Friends of Dorothy. There are still LGBTQ+ meetups on all Royal Caribbean cruise ships, but they are listed as "LGBTQ+ Meet (self led)" in the Cruise Planner. Like Friends of Bill W. meetings, these meetups also tend to occur nearly every day of the cruise.

Jenna DeLaurentis enjoys exploring new ports of call around the world on a cruise ship, learning about new cultures, discovering beautiful landscapes, and trying diverse cuisine. She loves to get active while at port, whether cycling through mountains in the Caribbean or scuba diving under the sea.

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