Cruise ship industry fights extension of disabilities act

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 28, 2005 at 9:35 p.m.
WASHINGTON - The cruise ship industry tried on Monday to fend off efforts to make its vessels more accessible to disabled vacationers, telling the Supreme Court that imposing requirements would hurt the billion-dollar tourist business.
The real question is discrimination, countered a lawyer for three disabled U.S. passengers, two of them in wheelchairs, who sued the Norwegian Cruise Line. They want the Americans With Disabilities Act extended to foreign vessels that call on U.S. ports.
"Millions of people spending billions of dollars of commerce are affected by this statute," and it should apply to foreign-flagged vessels that stop at U.S. cities, said Thomas Goldstein, the lawyer for the disabled passengers.
They say they paid premiums to the Norwegian Cruise Line for handicapped-accessible cabins and the assistance of crew but the cruise line failed to configure restaurants, swimming pools, elevators and public bathrooms.
The case has huge implications for cruise lines, which could be forced to pay for retrofitting ships. The worldwide industry estimates two-thirds of its passengers are Americans.

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