Skip to content

Norwegian Cruise Line sues Florida over vaccine passport ban

July 13, 2021
6 min read
An artist's drawing of Norwegian Prima, new NCL cruise ship
Norwegian Cruise Line sues Florida over vaccine passport ban
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

One of the world's biggest cruise companies is suing Florida over the state's so-called vaccine passport ban.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court against Florida's surgeon general, Scott Rivkees, to stop him from enforcing the ban, which was enacted as a state law earlier this year. The law says businesses in Florida can't require customers to show proof of a vaccine.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's new cruise newsletter.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, which plans to restart cruises out of Florida on Aug. 15 with a requirement that all passengers show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The company suggested it would have to cancel the sailings if the law was enforced.

"[A]fter months of Herculean efforts, [Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings] is at last set to resume sailing Aug. 15, 2021, in a way that will be safe, sound and consistent with governing law, particularly the Conditional Sailing Order administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)," the company noted in its complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. "Yet one anomalous, misguided intrusion threatens to spoil [the company's] careful planning and force it to cancel or hobble upcoming cruises, thereby imperiling and impairing passengers’ experiences and inflicting irreparable harm of vast dimensions."

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings executives have maintained for months that the only way to safely restart cruising this summer with COVID-19 still prevalent was for ships to sail only with passengers and crew who are vaccinated against the disease.

Norwegian Cruise Line plans to restart cruises out of Florida on Aug. 15. (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

The company also has noted that its plans for requiring passengers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine is in keeping with recommendations issued both by the CDC and its own internal "healthy sail panel" of medical experts.

"In light of the recommendations from the healthy sail panel and other leading industry and public health advice, [the company] has concluded that the most effective way to ensure the health and safety of passengers and crew is to require full vaccination on cruises by everyone on board," Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio said in a declaration that accompanied the company's complaint. "The fact that 34 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 and 600,000 have died tells me that the trifecta of mask-wearing, social distancing and washing hands [was] not sufficient to curb the transmission and effects of COVID-19."

Del Rio added that surveys are showing that the "vast majority" of the company's customers want an everyone-must-be-vaccinated rule for cruises.

"Thankfully, demand for NCLH cruises has returned with passengers ready to cruise even as concerns with COVID-19 persist," Del Rio said. "I attribute the demand for NCLH cruises in large part to our plan for 100% vaccination."

Del Rio added that only by verifying the vaccination status of cruise passengers could the company best guard against the introduction and spread of COVID-19 on its ships.

"I consider it irresponsible, counterproductive and damaging to our brand to deviate from that approach in order to make home ports in Florida viable," Del Rio said.

In the complaint, the company suggested it was caught between what was the right thing to do from a health and safety point of view and federal guidelines, and the Florida law.

The Florida law "places NCLH in an impossible dilemma as it prepares to set sail from Florida: NCLH will find itself either on the wrong side of health and safety and the operative federal legal framework, or else on the wrong side of Florida law," the company said in the complaint. "Because neither prospect is acceptable, NCLH must respectfully turn to this court seeking essential relief. Only with the benefit of prompt judicial relief suspending Florida’s prohibition can NCLH’s passenger cruises proceed as currently planned starting Aug. 15."

Among its central arguments in its lawsuit, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is suggesting that the Florida ban is preempted by federal law and also violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line

The company also argued that the Florida ban violates both the Dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and due process rules. The company said that, absent an injunction from the court to block enforcement of the ban, it would suffer irreparable harm.

The Florida vaccine passport ban was pushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who initially issued it as an executive order.

In a statement sent to TPG, the press secretary for the governor, Christina Pushaw, called Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' lawsuit meritless.

"Norwegian Cruise Line has made the disappointing and unlawful choice to join the CDC in discriminating against children and other individuals who cannot be vaccinated or who have opted not to be vaccinated for reasons of health, religion or conscience," the statement said. "Every other industry in Florida has safely reopened while still respecting the right of every Floridian to make their own medical choice when it comes to vaccinations."

The statement noted that around 40% of Florida's residents had not been vaccinated for COVID-19 and thus would be excluded from Norwegian ships if the line sailed with a vaccine requirement.

"This administration will not tolerate such widespread discrimination," the statement said.

The statement threatened Norwegian with fines of $5,000 for every passenger that the company requires to show proof of vaccination status when it resumes sailings from Florida.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image an artist's drawing of Norwegian Prima, which is scheduled to debut in August 2022 courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Featured image by NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases