Norwegian Suing Florida Over State's Ban on Cruise Lines Requiring Vaccine Proof
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is suing Florida's surgeon general over the state's ban on requiring proof of vaccination, the culmination of months of clashing over the concept of vaccine passports.
The cruise line — which requires all guests to be fully vaccinated before boarding and will continue to do so through at least Oct. 31 — filed a suit on Tuesday "as a last resort," accusing Florida of not allowing it to resume cruising "safely and soundly," according to court documents shared with Travel + Leisure. The suit argues the ban violates parts of the Constitution, including the First Amendment.
"The swift deployment of vaccines has been the primary vehicle for people to safely get back to their everyday lives while containing the spread of the virus," Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said in a statement shared with T+L. "With our extensive planning and preparation, we are ready to resume sailing from Florida ports on August 15, 2021. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts we have been unable to reach a reasonable and mutually agreeable solution with the State of Florida that would allow us to require documentation confirming guests' vaccination status prior to boarding."
The lawsuit was filed after Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an order banning businesses from requiring customers to show they're vaccinated to receive service. The state then sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The New York Times reported, arguing the agency had overstepped its authority. A federal judge temporarily blocked the agency from enforcing its rules.
Some cruise lines have since chosen to make vaccines optional on ships leaving out of Florida (like Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises), but Norwegian hasn't budged and has even threatened to skip ports in the state.
Several companies have already resumed sailing in the United States under strict rules from the CDC. The agency requires cruise lines to sail "simulated voyages" with volunteer passengers unless at least 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
The CDC has also loosened mask requirements and waived the need for testing for fully-vaccinated passengers, and allows them to explore ports on their own. For its part, Norwegian has said it won't require guests to book shore excursions through the cruise line.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.