Does the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to foreign-flag cruise ships that operate in American waters? That issue went before the U.S. Supreme Court in March, and the outcome could have broad implications for the cruise industry.
The case stems from a class action lawsuit filed in 2000 by Douglas Spector and a group of Norwegian Cruise Line passengers who claim discrimination during their cruises because of their disabilities.
“The industry in general does a good job [on accessibility],” says Laurel Van Horn, a specialist on accessible travel and tourism and a program consultant with the Open Doors Organization in Chicago. “In many cases, cruise ships are doing a better job than hotels.”
However, accessibility for passengers with disabilities has not been implemented consistently in all cruise fleets, says Van Horn.
What effect would an extension of ADA to foreign flag ships have on meeting planners? “The consistency [of accessibility] will help them,” Van Horn says. “It should make it easier for them to find the accommodations they need, and obviously they will have a wider choice.”