I recently started using a CPAP, and I am scheduled to go on a cruise in two months. I’ve heard that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the cruise line is required to provide me with distilled water at no charge for the length of my cruise. What is the best way for me to arrange this? Are there any other services they are required to provide me under the law, as a CPAP-user?
Because of a Supreme Court decision, cruise lines that dock at US ports are subject to the ADA. That said, the US Access Board has yet to issue ADAAG (the specific guidelines) for cruise ships. Currently cruise ships are only subject to a very broad non-discrimination clause under the ADA – in other words they can’t charge passengers more for an accessible cabin or deny people passage solely because they are disabled. When the US Access Board issues the ADAAG for cruise ships, they will be based on those regulations already in effect for land-based accommodations; and those regulations do not require hotels to provide distilled water at no charge to CPAP-users.
Think about it for a minute. The ADA is all about equity. You pay for distilled water when you are at home, so why should you not have to pay for it when you travel? It’s like saying that cruise ships have to provide diabetic passengers free insulin or give passengers that are incontinent free diapers.
On the plus side, the cruise lines have a long history of voluntarily making their services as accessible as possible. Your best move would be to contact the special needs department at the cruise line and ask if distilled water can be delivered to your cabin for your CPAP. It’s best to do this as far in advance as possible, so they will have time to process your request. And since you are cruising in two months, I would do it now. The cruise line may charge you for the distilled water – that’s their call – but with advance notice they can certainly make sure that you have it available for your use. You might also ask them if they can provide an extension cord for your CPAP, as outlets are usually in short supply, and hidden behind furniture on most cruise ships. If they can’t provide this, it’s best to travel with a power strip and an extension cord.