While in Southern Florida to sign a bill on faith-based ambulance services, Florida Governor DeSantis was asked about what the cruise industry will face once they start sailing again at the end of this month.
Several cruise lines have said they will require vaccines once they sail, while others have changed policies to reflect this Florida law.
Will The Cruise Industry Back Down?
As the multi-billion cruise industry prepares to set off from Florida in June, the debate on the vaccine mandate is heating up more and more. While Governor DeSantis insists the issue is not with the cruise lines but with the CDC, the cruise lines seem to be having a tough time deciding what to do.
The law has been stated and reiterated multiple times by the Governor and his office. Yet, questions keep coming up whether a workaround for the cruise industry to begin under the CDC protocols without violating his orders is possible. Governor De Santis had his answer to Local 10 News ready while in southern Florida:
“The question is CDC’s orders and we’re challenging CDC. That hearing went very well for us and I think we’re going to be successful when the judge rules. I think what’s gonna happen is, the CDC is going to get peeled back. They’re going to have the ability to sail. They’re going to be able to sail consistent with Florida law. They all tell us they are ready to go.”
Whether this is the case remains to be seen. Celebrity Cruises, which will set sail in less than two weeks from Florida, has said it will require all guests to be vaccinated but will amend the policies they have not to breach the law.
Another cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line, has said they will require vaccines no matter what. NCL is not sailing until August from Florida and has ample time to figure out contingencies. Frank Del Rio, the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO, said discussions are still ongoing:
“We are currently in communication with his staff and legal counsel to ensure that we can offer the safest cruise experience for our passengers departing from the cruise capital of the world,”
It could be a costly exercise for both Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. The fine for non-compliance amounts to $5,000 each time a passenger is asked for proof of vaccination.
This means one vessel could be fined millions of dollars for a single sailing. According to the Washington Post, DeSantis said any vaccine requirement would create “huge” privacy issues and lead to individuals handing over personal information to “big corporations.”
What About The Lawsuit?
Governor Ron DeSantis and the State of Florida have asked the courts to halt the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order and the subsequent requirements the order brings. While cruise ships may sail without vaccinated guests, the consequences are such that a company like Carnival Cruise Line sees no way to offer guests the experience they expect.
The lawsuit was under mediation until last week, and a ruling is expected any day now from Judge Steven Merryday. If the Judge rules in favor of the State, the cruise lines, specifically Norwegian and Celebrity, will need to either comply or find a different port to sail from.
It’s a strange place for the cruise lines to be in. One of the closest allies in the restart of cruising could be the one holding back the industry. However, Governor DeSantis is not fazed:
“Remember, had I not brought this suit, nothing would be happening right now. It was totally dead. CDC wasn’t budging. But we lit a fire.”
The entire situation is becoming an information nightmare for the cruise lines. Between the often confusing regulations from the CDC, the vaccine mandate ban in Florida and Texas, the issues that come with bringing ships back into service, and ensuring every crew member is vaccinated, the cruise lines have their work cut out for them. Whether or not sailings will be affected later this month and into next month remains to be seen.