Will Cruise Lines Follow Suit on Pool Access?

As you probably are quite aware, cruise ships are technically covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, however since there are no specific access regulations – known as the ADAAG – it’s still rather a moot point. The ADAAG for cruise ships has been a work in progress by the US Access Board for many, many years; and quite frankly I’m stymied by the delay. But that’s another issue.

So basically we have this hugely gray area as far as access on cruise ships is concerned. Since no ADAAG exists, any physical access they provide is basically on a voluntary basis. Technically they are only bound by the non-discrimination facets of the ADA, which means they can’t charge disabled passengers extra or refuse them passage solely because of their disability.

Which kind of got me to thinking in regards to the recently released Department of Justice regulations on pool and spa access for places of public accommodation. You see, the ADAAG in progress for cruise ships is based on the ADAAG for hotels; so it would follow that if hotels have to have pool and spa access, than so should cruise ships.

Of course, I know some of you are going to say, “But some ships do have pool lifts” Yes, you are right, and occasionally those lifts work.

Very occasionally.

There are several problems with cruise ship pool lifts.

First, you have to find someone who knows what a pool lift is. Then you have to find someone to drag it out of storage and set it up. Then you pretty much have to cross your finger and hope it works. And most times it doesn’t.

In fact, I remember one pool lift incident that occurred on our Emerging Horizons cruise a few years back. We were cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, and several folks wanted to go swimming so we inquired about the pool lift. Well, eventually they found it and set it up, but it just wouldn’t work.

And being who I am, I pushed the matter further, so more inquiries were made. In the end we discovered that more water pressure had to be diverted in order for the lift to operate properly; and because of costs of this operation it was something that the captain didn’t like to do. But of course, they did it for us, after I insisted. I do believe I also took out my notebook, just to move matters forward.

The bottom line is, that we got lift access pretty much because we were a high profile group. The average traveler would have gotten “I’m sorry , our lift doesn’t work” reply, and that would be that.

In any case, now that hotels are required to have fixed lifts that people can operate independently, I’m thinking the same thing should apply to cruise ships, when that ADAAG is finally released. I mean people have just as hard of a time gaining lift access to swimming pools on cruise ships as they do at hotels. IMHO, fixed lifts should be required, and they should be in working condition during pool operation hours. And they shouldn’t require an operator to unlock or hook up or run the lift. In other words, it shouldn’t be a special request thing.

In any case, the implementation of the pool regulations has been pushed back to January 31. 2013; but at least it eventually will happen.

I’m hoping that the same thing will happen for cruise ships; after all people like to swim on their cruises too!

And if you happen to find yourself on a Royal Caribbean ship that has a pool lift that is “broken”; inquire about the increased water pressure thing. It might just be your ticket to a week filled with fun in the water.