“Cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders.” Those were the words from Norwegian Cruise Line CEO and President Frank De Rio on the Bill Governor DeSantis signed into law in Florida.
The Bill calls for businesses operating in the State to be unable to ask patrons for proof of vaccination. While the cruise lines have been reasonably quiet on the issue and hopeful of resolving this behind closed doors, the NCLH CEO has now spoken out.
And he is not the only one firmly against the measures the Governor wishes to incorporate. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava issued a statement where she firmly denounces the measures.
Norwegian Cruise Line Could Move Ships Elsewhere
Governor DeSantis has been a staunch supporter of the cruise industry in recent months; however, his most recent Bill does nothing good for the cruise industry and will limit if the cruise lines can conduct business from the State.
The cruise lines need to comply with a wide variety of measures that include a 95% vaccination mandate for passengers onboard the ships if the vessels want to sail from mid-July. And that mandate is what Governor DeSantis is firmly against.
Del Rio now says that if Florida does not allow Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination, something the line has committed itself to, for passengers and crew, it will take its ships elsewhere.
The threat came during the earnings call earlier this week, a few days after DeSantis signed the Bill into law. As the world’s third-largest cruise operator Norwegian Cruise Line makes significant contributions to the Florida economy, something Del Rio will take away if he needs to:
NCLH President and CEO Frank Del Rio:
“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.”
With a wide variety of ports in the near vicinity and Norwegian having already rescheduled ships to nearby ports, it will likely not be an empty threat from Del Rio, someone who has been fighting for his cruise company in recent weeks.
To make things more interesting for the cruise lines, Norwegian sees excellent returns on its voyages from the Dominican Republic, something which should worry Governor DeSantis:
Frank Del Rio:
“We’re very encouraged with the vessel out of the Dominican Republic. The DR has a very good airlift to the U.S. I believe it’s the #1 destination for Americans to the Caribbean. And who knows? That vessel might prove to be so profitable there that it never returns back to U.S. waters. Which would be, again, one of the economic casualties of this prolonged CDC-induced suspension.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Has a Say
Frank Del Rio is certainly not alone in his opposition of the DeSantis Bill; Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava warned Governor DeSantis not to stand in the way of a restart of cruising in the State of Florida.
With the majority of ships sailing from Florida in the Miami Dade area, the Mayor is right to be mindful of the hundreds of thousands of constituents affected by a cruise lines’ departure from the State.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava:
“Preventing private cruise companies from setting policies to keep customers and workers safe puts Floridians’ lives needlessly at risk, and is contrary to the free enterprise that makes this country great. Now, this decision could result in thousands of jobs leaving South Florida at this critical moment for our economic recovery.”
According to the Mayor, the livelihood of thousands of families hangs in the balance if Norwegian does decide to leave the State.
“This isn’t about politics; it’s about the livelihoods of so many families who have already struggled so much this year. I urge the Governor: Don’t stand in the way of the safe restart of cruising – a cornerstone of our regional and State economy.”
Still Much Work To Do
It is the second mountain the cruise industry will have to climb before setting sail again this summer. It seems unlikely DeSantis will be backing out of his policy, especially now his name is in the minds of many as a running mate for a possible vice-president position. There is a way out though, as Frank Del Rio believes the law possibly does not affect the cruise industry:
“We’ve had discussions with the Governor’s office. Those continue, but it is a classic state versus federal government issue. 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.”
The CDC’s requirements have also become significantly more difficult to pass since the update earlier this week.
Industry lobby group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reacted in a statement. The group says it sees a long road ahead for the cruise lines, but CLIA is happy to see the CDC work towards its commitments towards the industry. It also warns of the consequences of a delayed resumption while pointing out the successful restart of cruising elsewhere in the world:
Meanwhile, nearly half a million American jobs and livelihoods continue to hang in the balance. The cruise industry will continue to go above and beyond to meet the requirements of the CDC, building on the ongoing resumption of operations taking place in other parts of the world and the demonstrated success of the industry’s protocols and public health measures.
Between all the noise, it is difficult to pinpoint a date and time when we will see a cruising restart, be it from Florida or elsewhere in the United States. With these many obstacles, it is easy to see why cruise companies could decide to move their vessels to other nearby ports in the Caribbean.
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It would save the cruise lines an incredible amount of money and sail from ports that are happy to have the ships, instead of ports of call or homeports where the rules and regulations prevent the companies from conducting business.