Carnival reaches settlement in federal ADA probe of cruise ships

Miami-based Carnival is the world’s largest cruise provider.

Miami-based Carnival Corp., which operates the Fantasy cruise ship that sails from the Port of Charleston, has entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The agreement addresses accessibility on all of Carnival’s 62 ships, including the Fantasy, on the company’s Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises brands. The agreement implements accessibility standards and policies to provide greater access on cruises that embark and disembark from U.S. waters.

Carnival will pay a civil penalty of $55,000 to the United States and $350,000 to individuals who were harmed by past discrimination on the company’s ships.

This is the first time the Department of Justice has required a cruise company to provide a minimum number of accessible cabins, to conduct a survey of its ships and to develop a remediation plan to comply with the ADA.

“This landmark ADA agreement will enable individuals with disabilities the opportunity to equally enjoy a full range of cabins and services that previously were unavailable while vacationing on cruise ships,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer of Florida’s Southern District said in a statement.

The settlement is the result of an investigation of complaints by the Justice Department. Carnival officials cooperated with the department throughout the process. Among the complaints were allegations that the company failed to properly provide and reserve accessible cabins for individuals with mobility disabilities; afford individuals with disabilities the same opportunities to participate in programs and services, including embarkation and disembarkation; and provide effective communication during muster and emergency drills.

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A spokesman for the company told The Associated Press in a statement that Carnival has historically met the needs of all its guests and “will continue to do so with even more enhancements in staff training, accessibility policies and communications, as well as additional shipboard accessibility features.”

Under the agreement, 42 existing ships, and seven ships in various stages of design and construction, will be surveyed and remediated to comply with ADA regulations. Accessible cabins will be dispersed among the various classes of accommodations and will provide a range of accessible features, including features for guests with hearing impairments. The remaining 13 ships will be subject to possible remediation if they continue to be in service in U.S. ports four years after the agreement is entered.

“Cruise ships are floating cities and provide a wide range of facilities and activities subject to the requirements of the ADA, such as lodging, dining, entertainment, recreation, and medical facilities,” Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said in a statement. “People with disabilities who travel must be able to count on getting the accessible cabin they reserve, and the cruise lines must provide equal access to the choice of amenities and attractions that passengers expect from a major cruise company like Carnival.”

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_