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 News 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