Vax Fight Between Cruise Line, Florida Heats Up

Norwegian wants 100% of crew, passengers vaxxed, sues Fla., which says that's discrimination
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2021 10:15 AM CDT
Norwegian Sues Fla.'s Head Doctor Over Vax Passport Ban
This May 4, 2018, photo shows the Norwegian Bliss in New York for a preview event.   (Charles Sykes/Norwegian Cruise Line via AP)

The cruise industry is taking shaky steps back into the water, and Norwegian Cruise Line just made a move it hopes will help keep its business safe and afloat. On Tuesday, the company sued Scott Rivkees, the surgeon general of Florida, over the state's ban against businesses asking for proof of vaccination against the coronavirus, per the Wall Street Journal. Norwegian plans on requiring vaccination for all passengers and crew, including kids, when it starts up its cruises to the Caribbean on Aug. 15, and the suit notes Rivkees is the state official in charge of enforcing the ban. The cruise line calls its complaint a "last resort" against the "misguided intrusion" of a state law that bars the use of vaccine passports in Florida, per CNN. A rep for Gov. Ron DeSantis' office says the cruise line's move would unfairly single out those who can't get vaccinated for health reasons, can't yet get their jabs (ie, kids), or won't get vaccinated for religious or conscience-based reasons.

"Apparently Norwegian prefers the shackles of the CDC to the freedom offered by Florida," the rep says, referring to CDC guidelines that set a 95% vaccination rate for passengers and crew. "This administration will not tolerate such widespread discrimination." Businesses that breach the state law could face fines of up $5,000 per violation. One expert tells the Journal that the cruise line has two solid arguments that could bolster its case: that the denial of vaccine proof is infringing on the flow of information protected under the First Amendment, and that it unconstitutionally upends the flow of interstate and international commerce. Norwegian has also said that the delta variant of the coronavirus, said to be more contagious than other versions, was a factor in its decision. Meanwhile, competitors like Royal Caribbean aren't requiring vaccinations but making unvaxxed guests buy travel insurance. (More Norwegian Cruise Line stories.)

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