Cruise Line Threatens to Skip Florida Ports Over Proof-of-Vaccination Ban

Norwegian Cruise Line is threatening to keep its ships out of Florida ports after the state enacted legislation that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination against Covid-19 in exchange for services.

The company, which plans to have its first cruises available to the Caribbean and Europe this summer and fall, will offer trips with limited capacity and require all guests and crew members to be vaccinated on bookings through at least the end of October.

During a quarterly earnings call on Thursday, Frank Del Rio, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line, said the issue had been discussed with Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, a Republican. Mr. Del Rio said if the cruise line had to skip Florida ports, it could operate out of other states or the Caribbean.

“We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that,” Mr. Del Rio said. “Everyone wants to operate out of Florida. It’s a very lucrative market.”

In addition to prohibiting businesses to require proof of vaccination, the Florida law also prevents state and local governments from closing businesses or schools for in-person learning unless there is a hurricane emergency.

“I have refused to take the same approach as other lockdown governors,” Mr. DeSantis said in a statement on Monday when he signed the bill. “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.”

His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday, and Norwegian Cruise Line could not be reached for comment.

“We hope that everyone is pushing in the same direction, which is we want to resume cruising in a safe manner, especially at the beginning,” Mr. Del Rio said on the earnings call. “Things might be different six months from now or a year from now.”

The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows for cruise ships to conduct “simulated voyages” with volunteer passengers to see how cruise lines can safely resume operations with measures such as testing and potential quarantines.

The C.D.C. requires cruise lines to complete the test runs before they can be cleared to sail with passengers this summer.

“It is not possible for cruising to be a zero-risk activity for spread of Covid-19,” the C.D.C. said this week. “While cruising will always pose some risk of Covid-19 transmission, C.D.C. is committed to ensuring that cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers and port personnel.”

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