Norwegian Cruise Line CEO says it will stop sailing out of Florida if the state does not allow it to verify COVID-19 vaccinations

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank J. Del Rio
Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

In April, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning vaccine passports and local businesses from requiring proof of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, Norwegian Cruise Line, which will be requiring its guests and crew to be vaccinated, may have to stop sailing out of the Sunshine State.

The same month DeSantis’ unveiled the executive order, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for guests and crew aboard its three cruise lines – Norwegian, Oceania, and Regent Seven Seas – in a bid to resume sailing by July.

“We believe that through a combination of 100% mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew and science-backed public health measures … we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment for guests and crew,” Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said in a press release.

However, this mandate may directly clash with DeSantis’ executive order, which also includes “prohibiting cruise lines from requiring vaccine passports for their Florida operations,” DeSantis’ press secretary Cody McCloud told Insider in an email in April.

This creates a potential skirmish between the cruise line and Florida. As a result, Norwegian has been in talks with DeSantis’ office regarding this “issue,” Del Rio said during the company’s Q1 earnings call on May 6. But ultimately, this executive order could cause the cruise line to stop sailing out of Florida if state law applies.

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“At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers, and rudders, and god forbid we [can’t] operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from,” Del Rio said. “We can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would’ve gone to Florida.”

DeSantis previously announced in April that the state would be suing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bring back the cruise industry “immediately,” citing that the state was losing business because cruise lines had found a workaround to the CDC’s halt on cruising by sailing out of international ports like Bermuda and the Caribbeans instead.

However, Del Rio hopes the cruise line won’t have to move its ships out of the state’s “very lucrative market”: “Everyone wants to operate out of Florida,” Del Rio said. But despite this clash in mandates, Norwegian still has plans to stick with its vaccine mandate.

“We’re going to have one rule and one rule only, and that is at least at the beginning, 100% of our guests and our crew will be vaccinated,” Del Rio said.

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