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CDC's cruise vaccination restrictions at odds with Florida's ban on vaccine passports

Federal judge to decide how to move forward
Carnival Cruise ship
Posted at 6:09 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-12 17:16:07-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Update: An impasse was declared on June 12 after settlement discussions proved unsuccessful. This most recent court filing confirms that mediation failed. Judge Merryday says he will make a ruling on the future of the cruise industry soon.

Impasse.jfif

Florida’s ban on businesses requiring proof of vaccination is currently at odds with the CDC’s requirement of cruise lines to have 95% of passengers be fully vaccinated in order to avoid simulated voyages.

So the question is, how will cruise lines check for vaccination status before setting sail?

That question is one of many leaving cruise-goers to wonder whether their vacation is in limbo.

“July 10th we’re supposed to be heading out on an 8-day cruise to Aruba and all of that,” said Steven Schrader, who has plans to sail on Carnival out of Port Miami in July.

It’s a cruise the Schrader family planned to take last year, before the pandemic shut the industry down.

“I think we’re up to 6 cancelations,” said Schrader.

It’s the dream trip, but Steven worries it’s going to get pushed back again, at least for his family. He and his wife are planning to take their three kids. The family is fully vaccinated. All but their 6-month-old daughter Elizabeth. She can’t get a vaccine yet.

“It’s heartbreaking for us, cause we work really hard all year to give our kids these amazing experiences,” said Schrader.

They’re waiting to hear back from Carnival Cruise Line about whether Elizabeth can be included in the 5 percent of people not vaccinated on board.

But the CEO of Port Everglades says people are going to have to be flexible when it comes to cruise plans this year.

“I think there’s going to be some questions as to whether those particular cruises that people might be signed up for actually do occur, or whether they’re going to be pushed back,” said Jonathan Daniels, CEO of Port Everglades.

Another big question is, with Florida’s ban on vaccine passports, how will cruise lines check vaccination status in order to meet the 95 percent vaccination requirement the CDC has set?

“Both cruise lines and the Governor’s Office, they want cruising to begin again. It’s such a significant part of the economy, all parts of Florida, because of that they are going to ultimately work hopefully together to come to some type of resolution,” said Daniels.

Here’s what cruise lines are saying so far:

Carnival Cruise Line says: "These cruises are available for guests who have received their final dose of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination, in accordance with current guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."

Norwegian Cruise Line says: "The Company’s restart efforts continue in partnership with local governments and are guided by the robust protocols of the SailSAFE™ health and safety program, which at its cornerstone includes that all crew and guests must be fully vaccinated to embark for voyages through Oct. 31, 2021."

Celebrity Cruises says: "As with all Celebrity Cruises’ ships, Celebrity Equinox meets the highest standards for providing a healthy cruise experience for its guests and crew, sailing with at least 95% of crew and guests being vaccinated. As of August 1, all guests ages 12 and over must be vaccinated."

Royal Caribbean opted for simulated voyages to avoid the 95% vaccination requirement. Still, they say as of June 4th: "90% of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise." They also say: "Guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date."

We’ve reached out to each cruise line to see what their plans are for obtaining proof of vaccination. We’ll bring you that information as soon as they get it to us.