Norwegian Cruise Line can now require proof of vaccination, Florida court decides

Aug 9, 2021

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Norwegian Cruise Line and luxury sister brands Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises will be allowed to require passengers to show proof of vaccination in order to sail, following a preliminary injunction granted by a judge on Sunday.

Since cruise lines announced they’d be resuming sailings from the U.S., Norwegian Cruise Line has been the only brand to commit to a 100% vaccination rate for both crew and passengers.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made that more difficult to achieve when he issued an executive order in early May that prohibits Florida businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination in order to enter the premises or receive services.

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(Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

The law, which threatened businesses in the Sunshine State with a $5,000 fine for each incident, forced cruise lines to make it voluntary for passengers to show proof of vaccination at the terminal.

Some lines, however, such as Royal Caribbean, have offered incentives — vaccinated-only spaces where inoculated passengers can remove their masks — for cruisers to offer proof.

On July 13, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) — parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises — filed a lawsuit against Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, asking for an injunction against the law and claiming that “if it cannot maintain its vaccination policy in Florida, it would be forced to either cancel all voyages leaving from the state or allow unvaccinated passengers to sail, and both options would cause significant financial and reputational harms.”

On Aug. 6, both parties appeared in front of U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams, who granted the preliminary injunction on Aug. 8.

Official documents state that “while [NCLH provided] substantial unrebutted evidence showing that they are likely to suffer significant financial and reputational harms absent an injunction, [Florida failed] to articulate or provide any evidence of harms that the state would suffer if an injunction was entered. And while NCLH has demonstrated that public health will be jeopardized if it is required to suspend its vaccination requirement, [Florida] identifies no public benefit from the continued enforcement of the Statute.”

(Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images)

NCLH also supported its claim that the law infringes on the company’s First Amendment right to enforce rules it deems necessary onboard its vessels.

“This order will now allow the company to operate in the safest way possible with 100% vaccination of all guests and crew when sailing from Florida ports,” NCLH said in a statement.

“The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our number one priority today, tomorrow and forever,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of NCLH. “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.”

Just one day prior to the ruling, Norwegian Encore became NCL’s first ship to depart from a U.S. port in nearly 18 months. The line’s first sailing from Florida is set to depart from Miami on Aug. 15 on Norwegian Gem.

Because the line is requiring 100% vaccination for all passengers, it is effectively prohibiting children younger than 12 from sailing on NCL ships because they are currently unable to receive the vaccine. However, it has said it will allow exceptions for certain medical or religious reasons.

Featured photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

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