As cruise lines prepare to return to service in the United States, there is a showdown brewing in Florida between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over COVID-19 vaccinations .
Governor DeSantis signed an Executive Order in April banning businesses operating in the state from asking for proof that customers received a COVID-19 vaccination, a ruling with major implications on Florida’s cruise industry.
Travel advisors and legal experts weighed in on the ongoing battle.
“I firmly believe that the CDC will be able to override Florida Governor DeSantis on the vaccine requirement,” Florida-based travel advisor Scott Lara told TravelPulse. “While I appreciate the Governor resisting so-called Vaccine Passports, we must keep cruise passengers healthy.”
Earlier this week, the CDC approved Celebrity Cruises to become the first cruise line to set sail with paying passengers on board. The ship is scheduled to depart from Fort Lauderdale on June 26.
Celebrity will no longer need to conduct the test sailings required by the CDC, as the cruise line revealed it would follow the mandate that 95 percent of passengers and crew members need to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
In response, DeSantis revealed cruise lines operating in the state that ask passengers for proof of vaccinations would be fined $5,000 per passenger . The Governor’s press secretary Christina Pushaw said the CDC’s vaccine guidance was “coercive” and a possible violation of state law.
“This is not driven from a motivation of safety,” Miami-based maritime attorney Mike Winkleman told the Washington Post . “If the motivation were safety, you would say, ‘Of course everyone has to be vaccinated.’ It’s kowtowing to a small minority that are a really vocal base for him.”
“But the idea that the federal government in general doesn’t have the authority to set the conditions for cruise ships and that Florida somehow has more authority over who comes in and out of the ports, that’s really an odd one,” Winkleman continued.
The battle between Florida and the CDC over COVID-19 vaccine requirements has caused companies such as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. to threaten to pull their ships out of the state and operate other markets outside of Florida .
“I think ultimately it will be the CDC,” travel advisor John Maddox said. “Ultimately, public health trumps all. It's difficult to see a ruling in favor of Florida. Especially since things are moving in a restart direction.”
In April, Florida announced it had filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the “ unlawful ” shutdown of the cruise industry.