Royal Caribbean Cruises has announced that it intends to sail from Florida, but a new law may complicate matters.
Royal Caribbean Returns to Service
Cruise enthusiasts rejoice, Royal Caribbean International is ready to set sail again. After working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 15 months (since the “No Sail Order” was put into place) the cruise line will operate its Celebrity Cruises ship, Celebrity Edge, on June 26th for a seven-night western Caribbean trip.
The trip that will visit both the Bahamas and Mexico will cruise from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, one of the busiest cruise terminals in the country. The departure location was likely chosen both due to infrastructure and as a symbolic gesture. Florida offers cruises from all over the state including Tampa, Jacksonville, and Port Canaveral adjoining the Kennedy Space Center.
But wait, there’s more.
In order to become approved for the cruise outside of the No Sail Order, RCL had to ensure all travelers and crew members would be fully vaccinated.
“Celebrity Cruises spokesperson Susan Lomax said the company has opted to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination threshold and will require all crew and passengers 16 years old and older to be vaccinated. The age requirement will drop to 12 years old on Aug. 1.”
However, Florida Governor DeSantis just signed SB 2006 into law that states that makes it impossible for RCL to ask for proof of vaccination.
“Additionally, the legislation codifies the prohibition of COVID-19 vaccine passports. Governor DeSantis enacted this prohibition through an executive order last month, blocking any business or government entity from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination.”
A spokesman for Governor DeSantis extemporized outside of the press release the exact conundrum that the cruise lines will find themselves in:
“We’ve been very clear, the law is clear in Florida,” said Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for the governor. “You can’t mandate vaccine passports. We are interested to see how the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) works with them so that they don’t get these exorbitant fines.” – Tampa Bay Times
Will It Sail?
The question remains as to whether or not the first new cruise will actually sail.
- The CDC had prohibited new sailings but has allowed this one so long as all the passengers and crew are vaccinated.
- Florida law prohibits and can fine (up to $5,000) any business that asks customers their vaccination status
That leaves this ship and future cruises in choppy waters. How can Royal Caribbean prove to the CDC that it has complied and all of their staff and passengers are vaccinated while at the same time not asking it nor requiring it?
The Governor’s order might work well against landlocked, permanently affixed businesses, but many fly to Florida to start their cruise vacations the prior night, cruising the next morning. Would those travelers choose to fly to Galveston, New York, Boston, or San Diego instead? Will cruise lines who have to remain compliant with both the ports they serve and the overarching governmental departments like the TSA, Homeland Security, and in this case, the CDC, move their best ships out of those cruise ports for the time being?
In the case of the larger return to the water, the above issues may move ports of call elsewhere, but for this particular cruise, it will set sail prior to SB 2006’s enactment on July 1st, 2021 and therefore it will likely sail regardless.
Governor DeSantis might have scored a victory for his right-leaning electorate in the fight against vaccine passports and required vaccination (and disclosure) of its citizenry. Businesses can still choose to require masks or take other precautions, they can also shut their doors if they choose to only sell to vaccinated persons and require proof of inoculation. However, if cruise lines feel that they must sail with explicit knowledge of the vaccination staff of passengers and cannot do so in the state of Florida, the Governor may have some very upset local business owners. That is if both cruise lines and passengers both choose against cruises from Florida. It should make for an interesting showdown.
What do you think? Will the first new cruise set sail? Will Florida acquiesce or allow exceptions? Will the CDC be able to enforce its vaccination requirement?