Cruise lines want to sail out of Florida, where a vaccine passport ban is in the way

By Jesús Jiménez

Cruise lines are starting to make plans to sail out of Florida this summer, but the state’s ban on vaccine passports complicates how ships can navigate the state’s ports.

Some cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, plan to sail with fully vaccinated crews and by ensuring that guests are also fully vaccinated. But while the federal government says employers can make on-site employees get vaccinated, a Florida state law prohibits businesses from requiring a vaccine passport, or proof of COVID-19 vaccination, in exchange for services.

The law has local officials concerned that their cities will be set to lose if cruise lines decide to skip Florida ports, as Frank Del Rio, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line, recently threatened to do as a last resort.

On Monday, Norwegian Cruise Line announced it planned to set sail this summer from New York, Los Angeles and two Florida cities — Port Canaveral and Miami. The cruise line, however, did not specify how it planned to sail out of Florida.

Del Rio said the cruise line was in communication with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s staff and legal team to “ensure that we can offer the safest cruise experience for our passengers departing from the cruise capital of the world.”

Other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean International, may bow to the state’s vaccine passport ban. In an announcement of its voyage plans out of Miami this summer, the cruise line said its crews would be fully vaccinated, while guests were “strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible.”

Royal Caribbean guests who are not vaccinated or unable to prove that they’re vaccinated will be required to be tested for the virus along with other protocols to be announced later, the cruise line said.

Last week, the mayors of Broward County, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood sent a letter to DeSantis, urging him to reconsider the state’s position on vaccine passports.

“While the cruise lines are ready to set sail pursuant to CDC guidelines, they are currently prevented from doing so,” the mayors wrote. “We are extremely concerned that unless a resolution can be reached, this impasse over the rules will result in the loss of the cruise industry in Broward County and Florida overall.”

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