Florida's ban on vaccine passports leaves cruise line questioning its future in the state

Cruise Ship
Posted at 7:20 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-09 10:08:53-04

TAMPA, Fla.— — Cruising could make a comeback in the US as soon as this summer. But after Florida’s Governor signed legislation to ban vaccine passports, at least one cruise line is questioning what it could mean for its operations in the state.

“Together, we’ve been on I think 12 cruises, and I’ve been on almost 20 at this point,” said Alyssa Griffin.

Griffin and her husband are local travel vloggers with “Griff & Alyssa” on YouTube. Griffin says she’s anxiously waiting to hop on a cruise again.

“As soon as that’s announced, we will book probably the first cruise out of the US wherever it is,” said Griffin.

Last week, the CDC clarified for cruises saying ships can bypass test cruises and go directly to open water sailing with passengers if a ship attests 98 percent of its crew and 95 percent of its passengers are fully vaccinated.

Earlier this week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill to ban vaccine passports, cementing an executive order blocking any business or government entity from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

“In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision,” said DeSantis in a release.

On a quarterly earnings call Thursday, Frank Del Rio, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, was asked how they plan to deal with the issue. He said legally, lawyers believe federal law applies and not state law.

“But at the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers, and rudders. And God forbid, we can't operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from. And we can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would have gone to Florida. We certainly hope it doesn't come to that,” Del Rio said on the call.

Recently, DeSantis has pushed to get cruise lines operating again, and under his direction, the state even sued over the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order.

Griffin explained cruise lines are working very hard to get people back on board as quickly and safely as possible.

“Obviously there are thousands of employees that work on the ships themselves, but you have people that work in the port, in the cruise terminal,” said Griffin. “You have parking, you have security, so all of those jobs are also impacted.”

Griffin says she hopes the CDC and Governor can work it out. Even still, she says she’s ready to set sail as soon as she can.

“I get super emotional, so I’ll probably cry,” said Griffin. “We cannot wait, so whether it’s going to be sailing out of Florida or from another island, we’re ready.”

Norwegian Cruise Line sent the following statement:

"Beginning July 1, Florida law will prohibit vaccine passports. Until then, we expect all government and private entities to abide by the Governor’s executive order banning vaccine passports. Passengers have been able to safely cruise from international ports for months without being required to divulge their personal COVID vaccination status. As soon as the CDC ends it’s unconstitutional prohibition on cruising, passengers will be able to do the same from Florida ports."

Port Tampa Bay sent the following statement:

“Port Tampa Bay is anxious to resume cruise sailings and continues to work closely with our cruise line partners to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines. We are ready to do our part to ensure passenger safety and follow all protocols in place for a safe return of cruising and appreciate Governor DeSantis’ support of the cruise industry.”