TAMPA, Fla. - Fallout continues from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on vaccine passports with Norwegian Cruise Lines’ CEO threatening to leave the state if the company can’t do vaccination checks.
The governor’s office did not respond to our request for comment on the matter and neither did Norwegian Cruises. All signs point to the CDC allowing cruises to start up again in the U.S. this July. But Thursday Norwegian’s CEO said during an earnings call that they may leave Florida if they can’t require vaccination proof to sail.
"The thing that I believe all cruise lines want to avoid at all costs is a repeat of even a small amount of contagion on the ships," said Dr. Jay Wolfson, USF Health professor of public health and a lawyer.
Wolfson said cruise companies can’t afford to lose any more money, and they may see Florida’s ban as a risk they cannot take.
"If a private corporation wants to have requirements and if people don’t want to meet those requirements, they don’t have to use the product. It’s that simple. This is not an essential product," said Wolfson.
Norwegian plans to require vaccines for passengers and crew. Earlier this week, DeSantis said cruises should happen in Florida without needing the vaccine.
"If you look at what’s going on in Europe, in Asia and in other parts, these cruise lines are sailing. They have been sailing safely even in areas where there’s not widespread vaccine availability," said DeSantis.
Health lawyers said there’s a chance this situation could end up in court with federal rules overtaking state rules.
"There’s the question of whether the CDC rules, guidelines will trump the Florida laws that’s called preemption, it happens throughout history. We’ll see who wins, the feds or the state," said Wolfson.
Cruising is a chunk of Florida’s tourism economy, and Norwegian sails out of Port Tampa Bay. A port spokesperson said a statement to FOX13 saying "Port Tampa Bay is committed to working with all parties to bring about the safe return to cruising. This includes our cruise line partners, state leaders, and federal agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control. We will continue to work to find solutions that satisfy everyone."
So far cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean not have announced requirements for vaccines to sail in the U.S. The CDC said companies can participate in test voyages with volunteers to skip the agency’s vaccination rule for nearly everyone on the ships.