TAMPA, Fla. (AP/WFLA) – Norwegian Cruise Lines is threatening to skip Florida ports because of the governor’s order banning businesses from requiring customers be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio says the executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R-Florida) banning what he called ‘vaccine passports’ conflicts with federal guidelines that would let cruise ships sail in U.S. waters if passengers and crew members are vaccinated.
Legally, lawyers believe that federal law applies and not state law, but I’m not a lawyer. And we hope that this hasn’t become a legal football or a political football. But at the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders. And God forbid, we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from. And we can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would have gone to Florida. We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio comments on the company’s 2021 Q1 earnings call with investors and analysts on May 6, 2021.
Del Rio’s willingness to take cruises to ports outside Florida comes just as Norwegian and other companies hope to resume sailing in the U.S. this summer.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance for Phases 2B and 3, which would allow for cruise ships to undertake trial voyages with volunteers as passengers before fully reopening.
Test cruises will have at least 10% passenger capacity and can last two to seven days. The test cruises will also need to have an overnight component.
In early April, DeSantis announced that the state was filing a lawsuit against the CDC and the federal government demanding the reopening of the cruise industry. The governor said that since the COVID-19 vaccine is available to most people, there’s no reason cruise lines can’t be back up and running.
On Monday, DeSantis signed SB 2006, a bill introduced by Florida Senator Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills), which would prohibit businesses, governmental agencies and educational institutions from requiring “patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state. This subsection does not otherwise restrict businesses from instituting screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.”
Cruises have been on hold since the CDC issued a No Sail Order on March 14 of last year. Industry experts say there is pent-up demand, and they’re ready to sail.
DeSantis has championed the cruise industry, suing the federal government to get cruises on the water again. Now DeSantis’ own policy may keep at least one cruise line out of Florida when the industry does resume operations.