Florida Judge Allows Norwegian To Require Immunization Proof

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In a situation that has plagued the Florida cruise industry for months as ships restart, a federal judge in Florida has granted Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings the option of requiring proof of vaccination for passengers departing from the State.

“We want nothing more than to sail from Miami, the cruise capital of the world, and from the other fabulous ports in Florida, and we welcome today’s decision which allows us to sail with guests and a crew fully 100% vaccinated, which in our opinion is the safest and most prudent way to resume cruise operations in the midst of this global pandemic, ”said Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. in a press release.

While cruises have returned to sailing from several ports in the United States – and around the world – trips from Florida have seemed different from those from other ports. This is because the state enacted a law prohibiting companies from requiring customers to present proof of a shot. If they do, the company can face heavy fines.

Other cruise lines have returned to sailing from the state with a workaround to entice sailing with the vaccine. This included high testing fees for unvaccinated passengers and travel insurance requirements. Norwegian, however, wishes to sail with 100% of passengers and crew vaccinated. Under current law, the company and its cruise lines cannot do this.

The fight to demand proof of vaccine

Instead of adjusting Florida policies like other lines have done, the company has pushed back the law. A few months ago, CEO Frank Del Rio raised the possibility of moving ships out of Florida.

Instead, the company last month filed a lawsuit against the Florida Surgeon General seeking redress. On Friday, there was a hearing before U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams as the company sought an injunction to be able to sail from August 15 aboard the Norwegian Gem out of Miami.

According to the ruling, if Norwegian cannot demand proof of the shot, then “it would be forced to cancel all trips out of the state or allow unvaccinated passengers to sail, and both options would cause financial damage. and reputation important “.

And while the state argues that requiring vaccination would discriminate against unvaccinated people, the ruling noted that there was no supporting evidence. In fact, it has been noted that a company can enact “restrictions, requirements and expenses” on unvaccinated passengers under the law, just as other cruise lines already do with testing fees and charges. travel insurance requirements.

The court also found that with many foreign ports requiring vaccines for passenger entry – including the U.S. Virgin Islands – Florida law requires companies to adhere to ever-changing rules.

All in all, the judge ruled that from now on, an injunction against Florida’s “vaccination passport” law is granted, allowing Norwegian to navigate by requiring proof of vaccination.

Notably, the company has sailed from other ports with the same “100%” policy in place. Most recently, Norwegian Cruise Line made its US debut, sailing the Norwegian Encore from Seattle to Alaska on August 7 with the 100% vaccine rule in order.

Unlike some other lines, Norwegian’s policy means that children under 12 who are not eligible for shooting cannot sail with the company at this time. In addition to the vaccine rule, guests must also take a COVID test before boarding the ship, and guest capacity is limited.

As of now, Norwegian Cruise Line plans to not have any required masks or social distancing on its ships given the vaccine requirement. There are also no restrictions for shore excursions.

Could changes be made to the decision?

One thing to keep in mind is that the legal process can continue to unfold and decisions can change. For example, in a Florida action against the CDC’s Conditional Navigation Order (CSO), a judge sided with Florida. As a result, the CSO – which outlines the rules and protocols cruise ships must follow to navigate – has become a list of recommendations instead of requirements.

Weeks later, an appeals court overturned that decision, keeping the rules in place. Then a few days after that they went back on their decision again, transforming the CSO into recommendations. So far, however, cruise lines have made no sign that they plan to drop the CDC order when they are no longer needed.

All of this comes as the Delta variant of the virus continues to rage in the United States. Daily cases have grown from around 12,000 a day just over a month ago to over 125,000 a day. Latest CDC data shows 27 of the 65 ships tracked by the CDC as having possible cases over the past week. However, the total number of cases is not available.

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