Cruise ship company may avoid Florida over state’s refusal to allow Covid vaccination checks

·2 min read
<p>Norwegian Gem cruise ship is seen at the Port of Miami in Miami Beach, Florida</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Norwegian Gem cruise ship is seen at the Port of Miami in Miami Beach, Florida

(AFP via Getty Images)

One of the world’s largest cruise companies has threatened to pull out of Florida over Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on Covid vaccine checks.

The new law prohibiting the use of so-called vaccine passports in the state was signed on Monday, with Mr DeSantis saying no business or government entity can deny service based on personal vaccine choice.

The CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Frank Del Rio, said during an earnings call on Thursday that the company will find other ports of call if they can’t require proof of vaccination for passengers and crew.

“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’ve gone to Florida,” Mr Del Rio said.

Mr Del Rio reiterated Norwegian’s commitment to guaranteeing "100 per cent of our guests and crew" would be fully vaccinated when cruises restart, according to The Miami Herald, which first reported his comments.

He is hoping Florida’s new law will be overridden by a federal mandate from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends at least 98 per cent of crew and 95 per cent of passengers be vaccinated before resuming normal operations.

"It is a classic state versus federal government issue… Lawyers believe that federal law applies," he said. "I think everyone should be wanting to start cruising in the safest possible manner."

While Mr DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment, he has previously said people have the right to participate in society without divulging health information and that cruise lines are "basically public accommodations".

"It’s like, OK you’re gonna do this and what, give all this information to some big corporation?” he said. “You want the fox to guard the henhouse? I mean give me a break.”

The law will become effective on 1 July. If Norwegian, the world’s third-largest cruise liner, pulls out of the state over the ban on vaccine checks others could follow.

Florida accounted for 60.1 per cent of all passengers embarking on a cruise from the United States before the pandemic hit, according to a report from Cruise Lines International Association.

Norwegian Cruise Line has been contacted for comment.

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