Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Suing Florida Surgeon General Over COVID-19 Vaccine Passports

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube, CNBC Television

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NYSE:  NCLH) is fighting a Florida state law that prevents businesses from requiring customers and employees to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. 

In a complaint filed Tuesday against Florida surgeon general Scott A. Rivkees, the Miami-based cruise line asked the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida to throw out the state’s ban and grant the cruise line a preliminary injunction that would enable it to confirm vaccination status when it resumes sailing next month.

Norwegian described the law, which went into effect July 1, as an “anomalous, misguided intrusion” that “poses imminent, substantial, irreparable harms” to its operations. 

The company said it is “duty-bound to protect the health and safety of its personnel and passengers by requiring proof of vaccinations.” Norwegian added that it “cannot afford to expose itself to prosecution by Florida and crushing penalties of up to $5,000 per passenger, as it would by requiring vaccine documentation in the present posture."

Norwegian also wants the OK to resume sailing with health and safety protocols it developed in order to comply with COVID-19-related guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A federal judge ruled against the CDC last month, saying the agency overstepped its authority in requiring cruise companies to adhere to the conditional order before hitting the high seas with paying passengers. The judge also issued a preliminary injunction that will turn the CDC’s order into non-binding recommendations on July 18. 

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed in April by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In a statement on Tuesday to CNBC, Norwegian said, “We believe Florida’s prohibition is on the wrong side of federal law, public health, science and is not in the best interest of the welfare of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit, therefore, we have reluctantly turned to the courts for relief.” 

“Our policy of 100% vaccination of guests and crew is consistent and in place without issue in every port we sail from around the world except for Florida,” it added.

DeSantis’s administration told Politico on that Norwegian “has made the disappointing and unlawful choice to join the CDC in discriminating against children and other individuals who cannot be vaccinated or who have opted not to be vaccinated for reasons of health, religion, or conscience." 

Since the start of the pandemic more than a year ago, cruise lines, one of Florida’s biggest industries, have remained in port.

According to CNBC, Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line recently resumed sailings out of Florida under the CDC’s framework. Both are requiring unvaccinated passengers to follow safety protocols and purchase travel insurance to cover COVID-19-related costs including testing.

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