Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Sues Florida Surgeon General

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Disagreements on vaccination documentation have escalated into a legal conflict.

Even in the best of times, cruise ships can be like floating petri dishes, carrying massive quantities of foreign bacteria and viruses between countries. In the era of COVID-19, such a reality becomes outright dangerous, as the infamous Diamond Princess cruise incident may remind all of us. As such, while cruise lines are beginning to resume operations, they’ve been doing so with the addition of stringent safety measures to ensure that an incident like the Diamond Princess doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, one cruise line has hit a rather decisive roadblock.

Back in April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting businesses from requesting any sort of COVID-19 vaccination documentation. This was put in place when the notion of “vaccine passports” was still being tossed around, but it seems it’s had rippling effects. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings wants to ensure that all of its passengers and crew are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before allowing them aboard, but because of the executive order, they aren’t permitted to do so in Florida, which is one of their main stops. This conundrum has prompted NCLH to file a formal legal complaint against the Floridian government, specifically the surgeon general, on the grounds that the order forces them to risk either their health or legal status.

“The upshot places NCLH in an impossible dilemma as it prepares to set sail from Florida: NCLH will find itself either on the wrong side of health and safety and the operative federal legal framework, or else on the wrong side of Florida law,” the complaint says.

“The risk of transmission of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated in the close quarters of cruise ships coupled with the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing the spread of COVID19 and in reducing the deaths caused by COVID-19 makes transmission of information about COVID-19 vaccines a matter of life and death,” the complaint says.

NCLH is calling on the courts to suspend the order, at least temporarily so the ships can dock and depart safely. In the event a consensus can’t be reached, the company may be forced to take its cruise line business elsewhere.

“At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from, and we can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida,” NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio said during the company’s quarterly earnings call in May.

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