May 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Norwegian Cruise Line threatens to skip Florida ports over "vaccine passport" ban

 Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sun cruise ship is docked at the Port of Jacksonville amid the Coronavirus outbreak on March 27, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sun cruise ship is docked at the Port of Jacksonville in March 2020. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Norwegian Cruise Line this week threatened to pull its ships from ports in Florida after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill prohibiting businesses from requiring customers show proof they have received COVID vaccines, AP reports.

The big picture: Norwegian, which is based in Miami, plans to resume cruises in the Caribbean and Europe this summer and fall with "mandatory vaccination requirements for all guests and crew on all sailings" through the end of October.

  • DeSantis signed the bill on Monday, saying in a statement, "In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision."
  • The ban was already in effect under an executive order DeSantis signed last month that also prevented state agencies from issuing so-called "vaccine passports."

What they're saying: "It is a classic state-versus-federal-government issue," said Norwegian's CEO, Frank Del Rio, Thursday during the company's quarterly earnings call, per AP.

  • "Lawyers believe that federal law applies and not state law, but I’m not a lawyer. And we hope that this doesn’t become a legal football or a political football," he added.
  • Del Rio also said the the route to resuming U.S. cruises is "a bit rockier and a bit steeper" than expected, adding that the company's plan to restart cruises mid-summer "could be in jeopardy."
  • DeSantis' office did not immediately comment on Del Rio's remarks.

The bottom line: Del Rio concluded that if Norwegian ships can't go to Florida, they could go to countries in the Caribbean. "We certainly hope it doesn't come to that."

Go deeper: CDC guidance says cruise ships won't need to mandate vaccines

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