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Thursday, Jun 24, 2021

Bon Voyage: Norwegian Cruise Line May Skip Florida Ports Due to COVID-19 Vaccine Passport Ban

Bon Voyage: Norwegian Cruise Line May Skip Florida Ports Due to COVID-19 Vaccine Passport Ban

On Monday, Florida Governor Ronald DeSantis signed SB 2006 - legislation which, in part, allows the governor to overrule local emergency rules. The Republican governor also signed executive orders that called for the immediate suspension of local COVID-19 restrictions, and introduced vaccine passport prohibitions.

During a Thursday earnings call with analysts, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio remarked that subsidiary Norwegian Cruise Line may be forced to run operations out of ports in other US states - or the Caribbean - if Florida maintains its statewide prohibition of vaccination documentation.

"It is a classic state-versus-federal-government issue," Del Rio said, as reported by the Associated Press. "Lawyers believe that federal law applies and not state law, but I’m not a lawyer. And we hope that this doesn’t become a legal football or a political football."

Del Rio explained that US law currently requires cruise lines operating in the country to confirm that most of the crew members and passengers have received the COVID-19 vaccine. However, new legislation in Florida would impede these efforts.

"We certainly hope it doesn't come to that," Del Rio said on Thursday.

Cruise ships have been blocked from leaving US ports since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a "no-sail" edict in March 2020. Recent CDC guidance details that cruise ships may return to US waters if they can prove 95% of the passengers, and 98% of the ship's crew are vaccinated against COVID-19.

SB 2006, dubbed 'Emergency Management,' authorizes Florida's governor to "invalidate certain emergency orders" and restricts local emergency orders to 7 days, unless a governing body issues a majority vote to extend. If approved, emergency orders are then subject to 7-day increments that cannot exceed more than 42 days in total.

Additionally, Executive Order 21-101 extended a previous order that blocked requirements for vaccine documentation or "vaccine passports," and Executive Order 21-102 invalidated all remaining local emergency orders on individuals and businesses.

"This legislation ensures that legal safeguards are in place so that local governments cannot arbitrarily close our schools or businesses," DeSantis said on Monday, after signing all three bills into law. "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."

SB 2006 goes into effect on July 1.

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