Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ escalating drive for more state control may have just run into a cruise ship-sized boulder.
During an earnings call on Thursday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio threatened to take the company’s ships elsewhere if Florida won’t allow the company to require COVID vaccinations for passengers and crew.
Coming days after DeSantis signed a bill that bans businesses, schools and government entities in Florida from asking anyone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, Del Rio’s remarks were a clear and public rebuke to the governor.
And his words have economic weight. According to a Miami Herald story, Norwegian is the world’s third-largest cruise company. Miami-Dade County spent $263 million building a terminal for Norwegian at PortMiami.
What Del Rio’s company wants to do is reasonable and right. He wants to protect the people on his ships. Can any of us forget the horror of ships with sick passengers and crew last spring? Dozens of ships were stranded across the world. And once passengers went home, thousands of crew members remained in cruise ship limbo, trapped at sea for months without pay.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t require 100 percent vaccination. It’s leaving that decision to cruise companies. But it does recommend that all crew members, passengers and port workers be vaccinated.
No industry was harder hit by the COVID-19 pandemic than the tourism industry, with travel bans and warnings in place across the globe for more than a year. For the 60,000 South Floridians who work in the cruise industry, reopening cruising is critically important.
And it’s not like other cruise lines in other places aren’t already requiring vaccines. Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Corporation have said they will require 100 percent vaccination for upcoming cruises in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Israel.
If Norwegian wants to be sure its ships are safe — which is the right thing to do for its customers and for all of us — why on Earth is the government of Florida getting in the way? Republicans claim to value local control, decentralization and private enterprise. But the actions of this governor and Republican-controlled government say just the opposite.