Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has decided not to follow other cruise lines by complying with the vaccine passport ban in Florida. Instead, the cruise company has filed a lawsuit against Florida’s Surgeon General on the vaccine passport ban, which the state signed into law in May 2021.
NCL Sues Florida Over Vaccine Passport Ban
The state of Florida pushed so much on its lawsuit against the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on overruling the Conditional Sailing Order. Well, now, Florida has its own defense to build after Norwegian Cruise Line Holding sues over the vaccine passport ban.
The lawsuit filed on July 13 against Scott A. Rivkees, State Surgeon General with the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, is seeking appropriate declaratory and injunctive relief. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings says it’s being prevented from safely resuming cruise passenger operations. It would befit passengers and crew if there were documentation confirmation such as vaccination proof, often called a vaccine passport.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which operates three cruise lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and luxury operator Regent Seven Seas, is rightfully worried about the ban in Florida. The cruise company has one of the oldest passenger bases in the industry, who will be skeptical of boarding a ship without fully vaccinated individuals, especially when they have been promised all would be vaccinated;
Frank Del Rio, President of NCLH:
“Maintaining our passengers’ trust and rebuilding consumer confidence remains challenging, particularly among NCLH’s older passenger base. The maintenance of consumer confidence and goodwill is essential for sustainable business success in the cruise industry. Cultivating passenger confidence and trust in the health and safety of cruise voyages has become more vital than ever in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless it is able to verify vaccination status, NCLH’s ability to attract and assure its passengers will be severely undercut.”
The cruise operator had declared early this year it would only sail with 100% vaccinated guests, meaning it would either have to forego this requirement or face fines up to $5,000 each time the line asks for a vaccine passport.
What If Norwegian Cannot Prove Vaccination Status?
In an affidavit filed with the lawsuit, Frank Del Rio outlines what would happen if the line does sail with unvaccinated guests. Not only would there be limited dining options such as no buffet on board, but unvaccinated guests would also have limited access to the Spa, theater, and casino.
Those same guests would also be limited to certain areas of the ship, being segregated from others, and have limited shore experience possibilities as the cruise line wants to protect the local population. The cruise line would do the same as Royal Caribbean and Carnival has done with requiring insurance and COVID testing, Frank Del Rio:
“We would have to require unvaccinated passengers to submit themselves to a series of COVID-19 tests that the customer would pay for and they would have to provide proof that they have bought COVID insurance. This would cost upwards of $200 per passenger.”
The other option for the cruise line would be to pull its ships out of Florida, something that Del Rio made clear earlier this year is an option, although not one he is willing to entertain lightly:
“If subject to the Statute’s prohibition, NCLH must either drop its plans to verify vaccination status on Florida cruises or else cease its operations in Florida. Neither option is consistent with NCLH’s commitment to passengers, crew, and all those who are counting on us, such as local stevedores, local suppliers, travel agents, and the economies of the local destinations we visit.“
While Norwegian Cruise Line waits for the courts to make any headway into the case, the cruise company has requested the court for an injunction of Florida’s vaccination mandate ban, which it hopes to go into effect on August 6.
This injunction would make it impossible for Florida to impose its ban, and allow the cruise company to resume sailings without penalties or fines until the court makes its final decision.
Norwegian intends to start sailing from Florida on August 15. Norwegian Gem will offer several passenger revenue voyages from Florida to the Bahamas, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the British Virgin Islands.