Florida will fine cruise companies who are in violation of a law that prohibits businesses from asking customers for proof of vaccination, the office of Governor Ron DeSantis announced yesterday, 27 May.
The statement comes a day after Celebrity Cruises announced that it would resume sailing from Port Everglades on 26 June, and that it would do so in compliance with regulations established by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). The guidelines stipulate that ships need at least one practice run before the resumption of regular cruising, but can skip the requirement if they can vouch that 98 per cent of the crew and 95 per cent of the passengers have been vaccinated.
The only way Celebrity can comply with the CDC is by asking for proof of vaccinations from passengers.
Governor DeSantis’ office, however, calls CDC regulations “coercive,” and says that the CDC has “no legal no legal authority to set any sort of requirements to cruise.” “Moreover, the CDC went on record admitting that the federal government chose not to make a legal requirement for vaccine passports. Now they provide coercive guidance, in the absence of any federal law or congressional authorisation. In short, the CDC is pushing cruise ships to violate Florida law, in order to comply with CDC ‘guidance’ that is not legally binding,” the statement continued.
The situation creates a standoff between Florida’s government and the cruise companies.
Governor DeSantis put in place an executive order on April 2 that forbids any business in the state from looking for proof of vaccination. That order has now been passed into law and anyone in violation of it can be fined up to $5,000 per customer.
They refuse to exempt cruise companies from the law.
But the cruise companies all more or less accept that vaccinated passengers are the key to a safe and successful resumption of cruising. Norwegian Cruise Lines requires that all passengers be vaccinated, while Royal Caribbean International’s policy is that anyone eligible for a vaccine will have to get one while those who aren’t, including children, will need a negative PCR test before they are allowed on board.
The cruise industry is big business in Florida. In 2019 it accounted for over $7 billion in wages. Earlier this year, both Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises announced new homeports in the Bahamas and St Maarten, respectively.
DeSantis can ill-afford to lose cruise companies to other homeports, but he is a staunch libertarian whose supporters have embraced his skepticism about the true impact of Covid-19.
“We have a whole bunch of people who are itching to do business in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in response to Norwegian Cruise Line’s vague threat that if they couldn’t sail from Florida they would go elsewhere.