Norwegian Cruise Line Ordered to Improve Services for Disabled Travelers

Norwegian Cruise Line has agreed to pay nine passengers $100,000 and a civil fine of $40,000 to resolve a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The consent decree, filed by the Justice Department in federal court in Miami, settles complaints that NCL did not provide adequate services for five deaf or hard of hearing passengers and four passengers in wheelchairs who took cruises in the Hawaiian islands.

NCL also agreed to "ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing get the auxiliary aids and services they need, such as a sign language interpreter or a written transcript of the emergency drill, to fully participate in the activities on the ship and in the shore excursions," the Justice Department says in a statement.

In addition, "NCL will also ensure that individuals who use wheelchairs get accessible bus transportation between the airport, cruise ship and hotels, and on shore excursions," the Justice Department says.

"People with disabilities who need sign language interpreters or accessible ground transportation should be able to go on vacation and enjoy the activities of a cruise like everyone else," says Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. "It is essential that NCL and the cruise industry comply with the ADA's requirements for auxiliary aids and services and accessible transportation."

"The ADA applies to cruise ships, just as it does to hotels and other entities that offer services to the public," adds Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "Discrimination against people with disabilities, on land or at sea, will not be tolerated."

The Justice Department says it did an "extensive investigation," in response to the passengers' complaints, and found that the deaf passengers "did not receive interpreters and other auxiliary aids, or a closed caption TV, and thus were unable to enjoy the activities on board the ship or the shore excursions because they could not understand what was going on and communicate effectively."

Four passengers in wheelchairs "did not get accessible buses between the airport, ship and hotel, and on shore excursions; had to wait hours for an accessible bus at times; were unable to go on shore excursions because of the lack of an accessible bus; were charged extra for accessible transportation; and/or were not allowed to get on and off the bus during a shore excursion even though the bus was accessible," the Justice Department says.

NCL agrees in the consent decree to make all sorts of changes including having a pre-cruise access help desk and adding access officers on cruises to handle requests from guests with disabilities.

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