Last night, a federal judge ruled that Norwegian Cruise Line was able to ask passengers that are boarding in Florida for proof of their vaccination. The news comes after the state of Florida passed a controversial law banning the use of vaccine passports, and after a concerted effort on behalf of cruise lines to get around the law.
The latest twist in the ongoing saga of the cruise industry and the state of Florida, it comes as cruise lines have been reporting positive cases of Covid-19 onboard their cruises, and could help to prevent this from happening again in the future. Here’s everything you need to know about this story, and other cruise-related developments that have occurred in the past week.
Judge Sides With Norwegian – Information For Travelers
Back in April of this year, the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that banned the use of vaccine passports in the state. Citing concerns that such a document would create a two-class system for citizens of the state, it meant that businesses in the state couldn’t restrict access for unvaccinated members of the public – an act that had consequences for the cruise industry, which had been working hard lobbying the CDC for a resumption of operations, as it meant they could not ask passengers in Florida for proof of vaccination.
On July 13th, Norwegian Cruise Line filed a lawsuit against Florida’s surgeon general, accusing the state of preventing them from restarting their operations in the state “safely and soundly”. The basis for Norwegian’s claim was that the ban on vaccine passports was not valid due to the fact that it not only pre-empts federal law, but that it also goes against several aspects of the constitution, including the first amendment.
Last night, it emerged that the cruise line had been handed a win in their legal proceedings. The U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams granted the cruise line’s request for a preliminary injunction that would allow them to require proof of vaccination for passengers in the lead up to the trial of the case. The decision buys the cruise line some time, and will allow them to ask for evidence from passengers for their August 15th departure from Miami – their first departure from the state since the pandemic brought the industry to a screeching halt.
Prior to the judge’s decision, asking passengers for proof of vaccination would have seen the cruise line fined as much as $5000 for each infringement of the executive order. During the court hearing, Norwegian’s attorney described the situation in Florida as “scary”, before adding that they were trying to protect their staff and passengers.
Speaking about the matter, Norwegian’s CEO, Frank Del Rio, said:
“The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our number one priority, today, tomorrow and forever. It’s not a slogan or a tagline, we fiercely mean it and our commitment to these principles is demonstrated by the lengths our Company has gone through to provide the safest possible cruise experience from Florida.”
In other cruise-related news, both Carnival and Royal Caribbean have updated their restrictions following a series of positive Covid-19 tests on board their cruises. Carnival has widened its mask policies, whereas Royal Caribbean now requires passengers to be tested prior to boarding their cruise ships.
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