Norwegian Cruise Line to Require Vaccine Passports in Florida

(Source: Steinar Engeland, 2016, Unsplash)

A federal judge recently ruled in favor of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) in a case against the State of Florida, issuing an injunction to block Florida’s ban on vaccine passports. The company filed suit earlier this year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in a bid to overturn the state’s ban on vaccine passport requirements.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ Emergency Order issued April has banned businesses from “requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination… to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business”. After codifying this into law, Florida officials have interpreted the ban to apply to international cruise ship operations based in the state. Violations of the law could have triggered a penalty of $5,000 per passenger, potentially adding up to millions of dollars per cruise.

In July, NCLH asked the court to grant a preliminary injunction to suspend and/or block the state’s ban so that it could continue with its sailings from Florida seaports. The firm’s goals include using vaccine passports to exceed compliance with CDC rules for the resumption of cruising, attaining a 100 percent onboard vaccination rate, and meeting requirements at ports of call. NCLH has refused to continue sailing from Florida if the law remains and it has threatened to leave the state completely, noting the raging active COVID-19 outbreak in the state. “It’s scary what is happening in Florida. Florida is a hot spot. All we’re doing is trying to protect our staff and passengers,” said NCLH attorney Derek Shaffer.

In a ruling issues Saturday night, Judge Kathleen M. Williams agreed with NCLH and issued a temporary injunction, highlighting the need for NCLH to show compliance with vaccine requirements at other ports of call.”Amid myriad, rapidly-changing requirements regarding quarantining and testing, there is one constant that facilitates cruise line customers’ access to advertised ports of call: documentary proof of vaccination” she wrote.

NCLH responded by welcoming the decision, and noting that Florida is the only jurisdiction in the world to take issue with the firm’s 100-percent vaccination policy. “The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our number one priority, today, tomorrow and forever,” said NCLH president and CEO Frank Del Rio.

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This article is intended for general interest and does not constitute legal advice.

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