May 6, 2011
(6:31 p.m. EDT) -- A happy ending? The disabled passenger who was debarked from a charter cruise in February after declining to hire a nurse has been issued a full refund by Celebrity Cruises' parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.
Background: Disabled Passenger Booted Off Charter Cruise
WXYZ, an ABC Michigan affiliate, broke the news Thursday evening that James Keskeny, a 66-year-old from Pinckney, Michigan, would be refunded his cruise fare as well as the out-of-pocket travel expenses he incurred to get home from Guadeloupe, where he was debarked on February 18. Celebrity said that the debarkation was necessary because Keskeny, who has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair, needed help getting into and out of bed and using the bathroom (where he suffered a fall) -- "special assistance above and beyond what is provided to our disabled or wheelchair-bound guests." When given the option of hiring a private duty nurse or debarking the ship, he chose to debark.
Keskeny previously said that he spent around $4,000 for an accessible Sky Suite on Celebrity Century during a Bare Necessities Tour & Travel nude charter sailing to the Southern Caribbean.
Keskeny's attorney, Richard Bernstein, told the Detroit-area news outlet the Royal Oak Daily Tribune that the refund amounted to $5,636.26. Celebrity spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez, however, told Cruise Critic the "exact amount of the refund is still being verified since Keskeny paid his cruise fare directly to the charter company." Although in a phone conversation with Cruise Critic, Bernstein could not verify the exact amount, he told us that the cruise line had refunded his client for the cruise fare, airfare and some travel-related incidentals, and that as far as he was concerned, the refund was what he was looking for and that part of the case is closed.
In addition to the recompense, Martinez reported that Celebrity has agreed to a one-time meeting with Keskeny, his lawyer and his ADA consultant to let Keskeny explain his concerns directly to company personnel. The effort is "being undertaken to determine whether improvements are possible to any of our previously existing processes to provide assistance to special needs guests," she said. Martinez noted in mid-April that Keskeny's suite was fully ADA compliant, as advertised. Bernstein disputed the claim, telling Cruise Critic that a site inspection will be necessary.
Martinez added that Celebrity is not admitting any fault regarding Keskeny. "We are satisfied this matter is resolved and we remain committed to providing an accessible cruise vacation to our guests with special needs."
Bernstein stresses that his team is going into the meeting with a positive attitude, hoping to work together with the cruise line in good faith to make sure that the total cruise experience is ADA compliant so that future disabled passengers can cruise with ease. However, if Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. demonstrates that its ships are not compliant and refuses to work toward making them compliant, Bernstein does reserve the right to file a lawsuit over fleetwide compliance issues. The goal of such a suit would be to force the cruise line to adhere to the ADA's legal requirements, rather than to award his client more financial gains.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor