The governors of Florida and Texas, both Republicans, are set to face off against some of the world’s largest cruise lines, including Norwegian and Carnival, over whether passengers boarding ships leaving their states should be required to show proof of vaccination.
The hardline positions taken by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott against so-called vaccine passports are at odds with the policies being implemented by cruise lines as they prepare to resume operations this summer, potentially jeopardizing the jobs of cruise line employees based in their states and causing confusion for passengers.
DeSantis signed a bill last month banning “vaccine passports” and fining businesses that require proof of vaccination $5,000 per incident. With fines of $5,000 per passenger, Florida may seek to impose massive fines on cruise ship operators.
That action came just weeks after he filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the agency’s cruise rules, in the hopes of allowing cruises to resume without restriction. Currently, the CDC requires 95 percent of passengers and 95 percent of crew members to be vaccinated in order for ships planning to sail with more unvaccinated passengers to skip the agency’s required trial sailings.
DeSantis said last week that the CDC’s rules have “mothballed the (cruise) industry for 15 months” after a court mediation failed. He claimed that the vaccine requirements would effectively bar families with young children from taking cruises if they were not eligible for the vaccine or if their parents chose not to have them vaccinated.
“We were basically saying, like honestly, just let them sail,” DeSantis said. “If we win the case, it opens up. They will all sail out of Florida. They will all do it consistent with Florida law.”
Abbott, the Texas governor who earlier this year incorrectly blamed renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power for the state’s massive power outages, was questioned on Twitter Monday by a conservative journalist about Carnival Cruise Line’s plan to require passengers on a ship leaving Galveston in July to have been vaccinated.
“I’m signing a law today that prohibits any business operating in Texas from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine information,” Abbott said, referring to Senate Bill 968, which the Republican-controlled state legislature approved this year. “Texas is open 100% without any restrictions or limitations or requirements”.
Despite DeSantis and Abbott’s insistence, several cruise lines announced this week that they will require vaccines on departures from Florida and Texas this summer. The issue could also arise in Alabama, where a law prohibiting vaccine passports, signed by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey last month, could complicate future cruises out of Mobile’s port.
With a departure from Florida on June 26th, Celebrity Cruises will be the first to attempt to navigate between DeSantis and the CDC. All passengers over the age of 16 must be vaccinated, according to the company.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced on Monday that it will resume cruises from Miami in August, and that all passengers will be required to be vaccinated.
Norwegian Cruise Lines announced on Monday that vaccines will be required on its August 15 cruise departing from Miami. Del Rio praised DeSantis for pushing for the cruise industry to resume operations in the midst of the pandemic, but said the company would not budge on its vaccine requirement.
“We are currently in communication with his staff and legal counsel to ensure that we can offer the safest cruise experience for our passengers departing from the cruise capital of the world,” Del Rio said in the statement.
Other cruise lines have agreed to work with Republican governors. Passengers on Royal Caribbean cruises departing from Texas and Florida are encouraged to be vaccinated, but they are not required to show proof.