Celebrity Cruises and Disabled Passenger Exchange Threats - Are Celebrity's Cruise Ships ADA Compliant?

After kicking disabled cruise passenger Jim Keskeny off in a Caribbean island alone, Celebrity Cruises responded to Mr. Keskeny's request for reimbursement of his cruise fare and travel expenses home with a "bombastic and bullying" letter threatening him with legal fees and costs, according to his Mr. Keskeny's Michigan lawyer Richard Bernstein.

The cruise line threats follow Mr. Keskeny's decision to go to the press about his mistreatment aboard the Century cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises. The Daily Tribune in Michigan first published an article explaining that Celebrity Cruises left Mr. Keskeny, who is wheelchair bound due to MS, alone on the island of Guadeloupe. Cruise Law Lawyer Richard Bernstein - Jim Keskeny - ADA - Celebrity Cruises - DisabilityNews followed up on this article the same day with Celebrity Cruises Abandons Disabled Passenger in Guadeloupe.

Celebrity Cruises refused to respond to requests for information by our blog and the newspaper in Michigan.

Instead, Celebrity eventually decided to release a statement only to the online cruise fan community, Cruise Critic, claiming that the cruise line has a strict policy that passengers with special needs must be self-sufficient and, if need be, travel with a companion to provide assistance with eating, dressing, toileting or lifting.

In fact, there is no such policy explained in the cruise passenger ticket at all. There is only an answer to the question "Can I Travel Alone?" in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of the cruise line's web site which casually mentions this language.  It is of no legal significance.

Celebrity Cruises responded to the unwanted publicity by pointing out that Mr. Keskeny was on a nude cruise (although he never undressed) offered by "Bare Necessities Tour and Travel Company," a company which specializes in nudist vacations.  Was Celebrity Cruises trying to embarrass Mr. Keskeny by releasing such information?  Probably, but who cares?  If cruising nude is on someone's bucket list, more power to them especially if they have a debilitating neurological disease and they are in a wheelchair with perhaps a diminished life expectancy.  And consider that Celebrity and its parent company Royal Caribbean offer the greatest selection of alternative lifestyle cruising with nudist cruises, swinger cruises, cougar cruises, and gay rave / Atlantis drug cruises.

Mr. Keskeny and his lawyer Richard Bernstein seem not to be intimidated by Celebrity Cruises' threats.  Mr. Bernstein, who himself is a disabled (blind) lawyer, indicates that Celebrity is trying to intimidate Mr. Keskeny because the cruise ship is not compliance with the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). 

In particular, Mr. Bernstein claims that the bathroom toilets are not ADA compliant, they are too low, and this was the problem in the first place.  Mr. Bernstein is responding to Celebrity Cruises heavy handed threats with his own threat - an investigation to determine whether the Celebrity cruise fleet is in fact ADA compliant.  

Whatever the outcome of this dispute, one thing is certain.  The issue of the cruise lines' attitude toward disabled passengers is once again front and center.  Cruise lines historically have not been a friend of the disabled community.  Celebrity Cruises and the cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), spent millions and fought vigorously to avoid complying with the ADA. 

The cruise industry argued that because cruise lines are not incorporated in the U.S. and fly foreign flags from countries in Africa and Central America, the ADA does not apply.  The cruise industry appealed this issue all of the way to the US Supreme Court before they lost.  Only then did the cruise lines begrudgingly begin reading the ADA's design requirements for disabled passengers. 

It is a rather amazing spectacle to see a $15,000,000,000 non-tax paying foreign corporation in a shit kicking contest with a disabled U.S. passenger, with the hard core Cruise Critic fans ready to lynch the disabled passenger and his blind lawyer from the nearest tree.  

The story is now garnering international press - read the U.K.'s Mail Online "Nudist with Multiple Sclerosis Booted Off Naked Cruise."  And don't miss the video below from the local ABC news station in Michigan: 

     

 

Photo and video credit:   WXYZ ABC-7 Farmington Michigan

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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
clearvoice - April 18, 2011 8:24 AM

If in fact this passenger required assistance and traveled alone, the cruise line is not obligated to be a babysitter or care-taker. If there are other issues, they certainly haven't been mentioned.. But that is no surprise either by the plaintiff or the money hungry lawyers looking for their 10 minutes of fame in front of a camera. I have a disabled aunt who cruises all the time. She requires a stateroom that conforms to her needs. These are called disability staterooms. She also travels with an attended who takes care of matters she cannot. She has an electric scooter which the cruise lines require certain specifications and where it must be stored overnight. Funny! She has never been thrown off a cruise because she was to cheap to take an attended. That's the real story here. Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!
Then Sue! Sue! Sue! Lawyers step up... You have to pay for your Mercedes.

Jim Walker - April 18, 2011 9:08 AM

"Clearvoice" - thanks for your comment. Glad to see that you could pry yourself free from FOX News for a few minutes to use your computer.

Mr. Keskeny's lawyer needs to file an ADA claim to pay for his Mercedes? He is blind you idiot.

Joseph - April 18, 2011 11:28 AM

How much millions cruise lines collect every year from
US market and how much tax's they have paid ?

Look's like they can buy now US law, look's like they
can stop tv's and lawyer's ... simple amazing.

Before the embarcation the money and after the policy
He have requested someone onboard to take care and
4,000.00 is a lot money...we and i can cruise for
400 and less for a full week.

Not happy with US law and lawyers but they love to collect tax free million's from tax payers in US market and also screw-up the crew from foreign countries.

We are UNITED STATES OF AMERICA because of our justice !!

God bless

Jenna Behr - April 18, 2011 2:13 PM

I believe the mention of the nude cruise is because they had chartered the entire ship. Mr. Keskeny would have had to have booked his trip through the chartering company, and not directly with Celebrity. Therefore, the chartering company should at the very least be a party to any action, since they potentially owed a duty to him as a passenger that they either breached or did not meet.

I believe there is enough 'blame' to go around on all sides. Mr. Keskeny knew he was not self-sufficient enough to travel, since he admitted that he relied on other passengers and/or the staff to assist him.

I have seen nothing to indicate that he requested a riser for the toilet - but even with a riser, would he have been able to take care of himself, or would he have still required assistance? He he requires assistance, why did he assume that the cruise line would provide it? When he takes a land-based trip, do hotel bellboys or clerks assist him in toileting & getting in & out of bed? Does he expect that they will?

There are plenty of unanswered questions regarding ADA compliance. What height were the toilets at, since he is confident that they were not high enough? Did he ask for a riser at any time, and was he refused? Since he knows his abilities far better than anyone else, did he make the chartering company or the line aware of any potential issues - or did he simply assume that there would be help from the ship's staff at request?

I'm sure more information will be forthcoming, but I don't think the 'big bad cruise line' is as big and bad as all that, nor do I think Mr. Keskeny is as innocent and naive as all that.

I would love to know why the chartering company which holds his primary contract is not a party to any of this.

Jim Walker - April 18, 2011 2:34 PM

Jenna:

Good points. Great questions.

Sorry I don't have answers to your insightful inquiries.

Regards,

Jim Walker

Vic Doucette - April 18, 2011 6:03 PM

Richard Bernstein is one of the most prominent attorneys in the state of Michigan. As a previous poster has mentioned, he is also blind. Richard has run about 13 marathons and has also competed in several triathlons, including the Ironman triathlon. Don't underestimate his tenacity or his skill.

Because of the success of his law firm -- his father owns it and a couple siblings also work there -- Richard donates 50 percent of his time to pro bono work. I have no inside knowledge of this case, but I have known Richard for several years. I wouldn't be the least bit shocked if this were another pro bono case for him.

clcorwin - February 19, 2014 7:37 PM

Compared to HAL, celebrity is easier to maneuver. I had a walker on the Millennium a few years back and had a great time. However, I would never travel on it by myself.

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