A Pinckney man plans to sue Celebrity Cruises and its parent company after staff forced him to disembark in Guadeloupe and return home when they allegedly could not accommodate his special needs.
Celebrity Cruises said James Keskeny, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, required “special assistance above and beyond” what it offers “to our guests with disabilities” during his February cruise. It claims Keskeny required help with feeding and personal hygiene, “which is beyond the scope of what our butler service provides.”
In a statement, the cruise line, which is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., added that it offered Keskeny the chance to hire a private nurse before forcing him off the 10-day cruise to the Caribbean, but he declined.
“While we provide extensive assistance to our disabled guests, such as boarding and departure assistance, and lifts for pools and whirlpools, we do not provide help with feeding, personal hygiene or using the lavatory,” the statement said.
Keskeny, 66, said the private nurse was too expensive and he has no problem taking care of himself. The problem, he said, is his stateroom that was listed as handicapped accessible did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s architectural guidelines.
The guidelines require toilets to be 19 inches high, but Keskeny said his toilet was only 15 inches high and that caused him to slip. He said it also did not have bars that would have provided him assistance.
A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line, requires that all vessels that enter or leave a U.S. port be in compliance with the ADA.
“I served as the U.S. representative to the Multiple Sclerosis Federation for eight years; I’ve traveled to 25 foreign countries, half by myself. I’ve proven my independence,” Keskeny said. “For the cruise line to imply I needed 24-hour care is a little bovine excrement.
“If they thought I was a danger to myself and to others, and if they felt I needed 24-hour care, how could they put me on a plane, in someone else’s care? It was a whole series of insults,” he added.
Keskeny said the cruise line’s offer of a nurse — at his expense — was forcing him “into a limousine” when all “I needed was a Ford Escort.”
In its statement, Celebrity Cruises says it “was unaware of (Keskeny’s) additional needs until he was onboard the ship.”
Keskeny said he told cruise officials that he was in a wheelchair and that his wife would not accompany him as initially planned. He asked if his cabin was handicapped accessible, and said he was told yes.
Keskeny noted he was not turned away when he boarded the ship in his wheelchair.
However, on the third day of the 10-day trip, Keskeny said he slipped and fell off the commode because it was not handicapped accessible. He said cruise personnel took him to the ship’s doctor, who informed him that he was a safety hazard to himself and the personnel — and Keskeny would, therefore, have to disembark.
Keskeny said he was ordered to disembark in Guadeloupe, where the cruise line had arranged for his flight home. Guadeloupe is a small group of islands in the Caribbean. It is governed by France and about 300 miles southeast of Puerto Rico.
“The salt in the wound,” he said, “is after that flight, we stopped in Haiti for 30 to 60 minutes and everyone, including me, was forced to disembark from the plane. You’re supposed to have vaccinations before visiting Haiti.”
The cruise line said it requires all passengers booking a handicapped-accessible cabin to complete a special-needs guest form.
Keskeny said he was not told about any such form.
Keskeny said he gave up his right to sue for personal damages when he signed the ticket contract. However, he would like to be reimbursed for the cost of the trip and the flight home from Guadeloupe.
Originally Posted at: www.livingstondaily.com