Florida sued by Norwegian Cruise Line over vaccine passport ban

Cruise Line Ships Occupy Berths at Port Miami Due to Cancelled Cruises from Covid-19 Coronavirus Precautions – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by TetKabrit

MIAMI, Fla. – Norwegian Cruise Line is fighting a new Florida law that prohibits cruise lines from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Filed on Tuesday in Miami federal court, the suit claims that the law jeopardizes the safe operation of cruise ships by broadening the risk of contracting the virus. Norwegian’s plan is to restart cruises from Florida ports on August 15, 2021, with all passengers requiring vaccinations. 

Norwegian is aiming to have the ban lifted by August 6th. The current law imposes a $5,000 fine each time a cruise line requires that a passenger provide proof of vaccination. The company claims that the ban violates both federal law and several constitutional rights. 

The company, known as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), says it will not be able to sail from Florida unless a judge makes an effort to block the law. 

“The result would be a devastating, unrecoverable loss for everyone – not only for NCLH’s business but also for tens of thousands of passengers, employees, and stakeholders who all benefit from NCLH resuming safe operations as planned,” the lawsuit says.

“The only way NCLH could maintain its protocols and operations as currently planned is by abandoning Florida altogether,” the lawsuit adds.

The lawsuit names Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, who is head of Florida’s Health Department as the defendant. Rivkees is an appointee of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, whose representative said that the cruise line’s policy is discriminatory towards children under the age of 12 and others who are not vaccinated. 

DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, noted that Florida recently won a similar lawsuit in which challenged several cruise industry regulations established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Florida already fought and won its case so that Norwegian and all other cruise lines can invite and serve all Americans on its vessels,” Pushaw said. “But apparently Norwegian prefers the shackles of the CDC to the freedom offered by Florida.”

The CDC is appealing the earlier decision by a Tampa federal judge.

Cruise lines including Royal Caribbean and Carnival have already begun traveling from Florida with numerous policies regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. 

In May, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ CEO, Frank Del Rio, stated that Florida’s law could cause the cruise line to move its ships elsewhere. 

“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 a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida,” he said during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

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