Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines announced it will require unvaccinated travelers to carry specific insurance, will this run afoul of Florida law?
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Royal Caribbean Requires Unvaccinated Travel Insurance
The largest cruise line by revenue and the second-largest by passenger volume, Royal Caribbean International has changed its policy with regard to COVID-19 travel.
“Royal Caribbean International said on Tuesday it would require unvaccinated guests over 12 years of age traveling from Florida to show proof of insurance that covers COVID-19 related medical expenses, quarantine and evacuation.
The new policy comes after two unvaccinated teenagers tested positive on its Adventure of the Seas ship last week and two others were infected on Celebrity Millennium earlier this month… In Florida, the government bars companies from requiring to show proof of vaccines, which makes it difficult for cruise operators which, as per US health regulators’ orders, need to show a majority of its passengers and crew are vaccinated before setting sail.” – New York Post
For those who are not fully vaccinated, additional requirements include locations where guests must wear a mask, submit to additional testing (at their own expense), and “specific health protocols.” Unvaccinated travelers must carry an insurance policy with a minimum of $25,000 per person for medical expenses and $50,000 per person in travel expenses.
Those who have been fully inoculated can volunteer to demonstrate their status to avoid the restrictions and keep their “perfect day at Cococay” though probably not this week. The tropical storm, Elsa, is threatening South Florida cruise ports and long overdue cruise vacations.
Florida Law Prohibits Asking Vaccination Status
It first found itself in the middle of a dispute between the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State of Florida a few weeks ago. The CDC provisionally allowed a moratorium on its “No Sail Order” but required cruises to have a vaccination of 95% or greater including crew members and passengers. Florida introduced new legislation (SB 2006) that prohibited any business from requiring vaccination status disclosure. Royal Caribbean couldn’t be assured it was in compliance with the CDC order without finding itself out of compliance with Florida.
The issue went before a Federal judge who determined that the CDC could not supersede Florida law; Governor Ron DeSantis declared the ruling a victory.
Royal Caribbean, whose Celebrity Cruises’ Freedom of the Seas was the subject of the first proving cruise, isn’t officially requiring the vaccination status disclosure. However, without the ability to require vaccination status what would prevent a traveler who was not fully vaccinated from simply deciding against the onerous COVID mitigation requirements?
In Writing Or In Spirit
There’s been a discussion taking place in the comments section of this blog over the last few weeks, first about Florida’s SB 2006. The conversation advanced about whether or not a discount could be provided for the vaccinated travelers and if this would constitute some form of price discrimination in the way that a surcharge based on vaccination status might.
The latest move from RCI is a potential solution but seems like one that will be quickly challenged in court and result in a loss for the cruise ship operator. They cannot ask a traveler to show documentation that they are vaccinated but can require insurance if they choose not to demonstrate it. However, that will then in essence deliver the same requirement to disclose. A traveler may choose to carry insurance for their own financial purposes, but wearing a mask, and an identifier that is clear they have not proven vaccination is the same thing.
It may (or may not) circumvent the government requirements to the letter of the law but it certainly contradicts the spirit of the law which may be sufficient to warrant a new lawsuit and one that refers to prior case law.
Despite clarity from the legal system and a clear path forward from both the State of Florida and the CDC, Royal Caribbean has stepped back into the fray and put itself in choppy waters. Royal Caribbean is attempting to attract customers back to cabins and palm beaches with safety onboard its vessels, but in so doing may find itself in a legal battle due to its approach.
What do you think? Does RCI’s travel insurance policy contradict Florida law? Will it stand?
“ that prohibited any business from requiring vaccination status disclosure”.
Doesn’t seem very pro-business to dictate what private businesses can or can’t do.
@UK – Some would argue it’s not necessary anyway since HIPAA law states that medical information can’t be asked anyway. But pro-business governments dictate terms all the time to businesses, like that they can’t discriminate, they can’t be open certain hours, or that they have to represent truth in advertising.
Nope. HIPAA only applies to “covered entities” which are typically health care providers, insurance companies, and third-party medical billing services. Nothing in HIPAA would apply to a cruise line operator like RCI.
@Chasgoose – Could businesses (not covered entities) then ask for Other statuses? Could a business ask a person (relating to approval/denial of service and or rate changes) if they have the flu? What about Herpes, HPV, colon cancer, or AIDS? And if they are declined service or provided elevated rates based on the answer, at what point is that discrimination?
Well none of those are a protected class by the federal government. I don’t know about state laws, are you familiar of one? There may be some sort of state law somewhere on price discrimination, but others from a legal perspective, yes you could price discriminate on that.
Cruise lines have discriminated for health reasons for decades. Women who are more than 24(ish) weeks pregnant have been prohibited from cruising for a long time. People with many health conditions, including the flu, aren’t allowed to board. Where it stops is when they discriminate against protected classes.
The letter of the law is typically all that matters in these cases usually. Also, even then I don’t think RCI violates the “spirit” of the law either. Florida only prohibits the forced disclosure of vaccine status. They don’t justify it based on the idea that businesses shouldn’t be able to prohibit people who are unvaccinated or that businesses shouldn’t be able to require addition safety measures or pass on additional costs they might incur by allowing unvaccinated passengers (such as higher insurance costs), they justify it based on the right to medical privacy (laughably, given their rabid resistance the the idea of that right in most other areas, especially reproductive health).
RCI’s solution absolutely doesn’t the letter of the law because the law only prevent them from requiring people to disclose their vaccination history. Their approach on the other hand just provides people with a choice, either do so and avoid the extra insurance requirement (and get full access to the ship) or don’t and have to get the insurance instead. In theory if there were vaccinated people who didn’t want to divulge their medical history they would also be free to do so themselves and since medical privacy is intentionally the goal here, RCI’s policy still protects that. Sure there is an incentive to disclose, but those who don’t aren’t being denied service. To the extent this is challenged as discriminatory, RCI can cite higher insurance costs when allowing unvaccinated guests and also safety reasons for denying them full access to the rest of the ship.
If Florida had cited discrimination as their reason then this wouldn’t work, but also I think the law would be much more vulnerable to challenges since private businesses are almost always allowed to make their own decisions about what level of health and public safety they want to impose, the only limits tend to be minimum safety standard that need to be met. Florida knew that medical privacy made the law less vulnerable to challenge, but the trade off is that it’s harder for them to challenge workarounds like RCI.
I like to err on the side of caution, so I support being able to request proof of vaccination. In many other areas of life, this is required (if you have children, you know). Due to covid, I am not comfortable with cruise travel (so even with the requirement, I am not going to be a customer – yet).
Moving on. Maybe RCI can pull off a technicality. Maybe RCI doesn’t require proof of vaccination to board the ship in Florida, but they require proof of vaccination to access CocoCay (Bahamas), or proof of vaccination to re-enter the ship when trying to leave CocoCay.
That would be a smart way to do it.
What’s wrong with a private establishment wanting to protect itself on its premises. There wasn’t a federal mandate that said individual store owners could not mandate mask wearing in their premises. The ships belong to Royal Caribbean, the moment you step on board expect to be subjected by its rules and regulation which is clearly stipulated when you purchase the tickets. Don’t like the rules, just stay at home.
We’re talking about safety here guys, every soul on board has the right to feel safe.
Good on ya Royal Caribbean! Have to keep the anti-vaxxers at bay.
UA-TDS has no problem with discrimination so long as it is against folx he despises. I wouldn’t have a problem with RCI’s policy if all private entities were allowed to discriminate as they pleased (no protected classes).
Keep banging that weak drum loudly, anti-vaxxer. Science is not in your purview it seems.
I didn’t even say anything about the vaccines. If you “follow the science,” you believe racism is the biggest health problem America faces, such an urgent problem that social distancing rules can go out the window. Folx like UA-TDS fail to grasp the difference between “following the science” and actually understanding the scientific method and its implications. Keep jumping on those boxes, racist anti-racist!
You and your ilk are part of the problem, not the solution.
Why aren’t you banging the drum anymore for your magical new vaccine that may not be approved until next year, if at all? What, ones that have been given to 2.4B people and counting are somehow going to give you a third eye?
Anti-science, anti-vaxxer chump.
I have a problem with authoritarians while folx like UA-TDS cheer them on. I have no problem with people choosing to get vaccinated. I have a problem with people trying to coerce others into getting vaccinated and demanding they “follow the science” when the coercers themselves have no understanding of “the science.”
I am not fat or old, so I have no problem waiting for a superior vaccine. Why should I “bang the drum” for a vaccine if there isn’t any news about it since the Phase I trial? It is telling that UA-TDS considers live attenuated vaccine technology to be “magical.” Science might as well be magic to him.
It boggles my mind that someone as unpleasant and unsavory as the box jumper is paid by someone to meet with clients.
Airlines flying to certain international countries are required to check a passengers vaccination status before they let them board. Florida’s law provides an exemption for airlines operating out of Florida but not cruise ships. What I don’t understand is why are cruise ship offered the same exemption airline have when both vessels are transporting passengers to international destinations one vessel just happens to move a lot faster than the other.
Florida does not have the authority to force countries in the Caribbean to allow unvaccianted Americans in their country simply because they arrive by cruise ship and not an airplane. Take for instance the Bahamas, or Aruba, if I arrive in the Bahamas or Aruba by air I must show proof that I’ve purchased travel insurance if I’m unvaccinated. But your saying if I arrive by cruise ship then I should just be allowed enter these or other Caribbean countries and to do whatever I want simply because I arrived by sea?
There are a whole host of countries that still have entry requirements or restrictions as a result of COVID but somehow people who want to go on cruises seem to think they can just snap their fingers and everything goes back to how it was pre-COVID. I love cruise vacation’s I’ve taken over 30 cruises I have several cruises planned one for later this year and I 100% agree unvaccinated passengers need to buy travel insurance. If you are unvaccinated and test positive the cruise line should not have to pay for your quarantine on land or if you should become extremely ill the cruise shouldn’t have to pay to medically evacuate you.
For those who don’t want to get vaccinated I’m okay with it, I don’t believe in forcing or coercing people into getting vaccinated. But for those who are unvaccinated they must understand that for now they will still face restrictions on international travel no matter the mode of transport whether it be by air or by sea.
If we had domestic cruises in this country like for example an 8 night Miami to Boston or 7 night Seattle to San Diego where the ship never stops at in an international country then I would be all for unvaccinated individuals cruising without restrictions because anyone can travel within this country without restrictions. Once you add an international destination you have to comply with the entry requirements for that country.
“Florida Law Prohibits Asking Vaccination Status” – this is simply untrue. Have you actually read the law? Companies are free to ask. They only run afoul if they deny services or refuse entry to someone who refuses to provide it. The law explicitly allows companies to impose additional screening protocols, and doesn’t deny a business the right to implement additional health and safety protocols for unvaccinated travelers. Saying “they can’t ask” perpetuates a lie and clouds the issue unnecessarily.
The article is also riddled with simple factual errors. Freedom of the Seas is not a Celebrity ship–it sails under the Royal Caribbean brand. Separately the Celebrity Edge sailed under the 95% vaccinated exemption on June 26th (the first ship leaving from a US port), so maybe you were making a reference to that? The judge in the CDC case also didn’t even look at the interactions between the CDC CSO and SB 2006, but instead was looking at the CSO on its own and whether the CDC exceeded its statutory authority.
It’s kind of moot, though, because DeSantis almost certainly won’t bother implementing fines or challenging these measures in court as long as there’s a plausible argument that they’re following the letter of the law. The measures in SB 2006 were just red meat for his base, and he’s been able to declare victory on that. No one who he actually wants to reach cares about the nature of these work-arounds.
I will just leave this link, and quote from my comment back on May 30:
How close was I?
“I wonder if RC could require a small insurance policy from each passenger that is purchased from another company (outside of Florida), and that company offers to sell insurance, with discounts for proof of vaccination?
So a workaround perhaps? RC isn’t requiring the vaccination proof, the insurance company is….
And of course the price for the insurance is $infinity for the non-vaccinated, and a pittance for vaccinated? Or maybe won’t see to non-vaccinated at all?”
Lol. @cargocult has an issue with authoritarians but sucks up to Trump. Go figure the irony. Lol once more
Yeah, Trump was such a horrible authoritarian that he was able to stay in office for another term. You probably think the 1/6 Capitol riot (“Trump’s insurrection” as CNN likes to call it) was a serious threat to democracy instead of a bunch of idiots and LARPers who were like dogs chasing a car. The only person who was killed as a direct result of that riot was shot by Capitol police, but I am sure you swallow the lie that it was a murderous mob. That you don’t recognize the Democratic platform as fascism shows how little you understand about government and liberty. But you and UA-TDS are on the “right side of history,” amirite?
He calls it rigged to this day, he tried to overturn it, he whipped up a frenzy at the Capitol and caused his sycophant supporters to trash our Capitol. But no biggie according to you. Just admit you voted for the loser already.
And the fact that you don’t acknowledge Officer Brian Sicknick being killed by the actions of this mob, shows how deplorable a person you are.
Between that and being a total anti-vaxxer…no wonder you can’t seem to hold a job where people would pay for you to travel to actually engage with other people.
Facts don’t matter for folx like UA-TDS. His rage doesn’t stop at rational minded folx. It extends to all of reality that doesn’t conform to his authoritarian leftist paradigm. I didn’t approve of what happened at the Capitol, but to consider it a dire threat to democracy is plainly hysterical.
Natural causes as determined by an official in that Republican hotbed of DC and as reported by that right-wing rag the Washington Post.
Of course, anything can be racist or MAGA-affiliated as long as UA-TDS says so. Homophobic white supremacist terrorism! By a member of a gay men’s chorus!
I have facts on my side. UA-TDS has box jumping and rage.
I never voted for Trump, but I find the media’s treatment of him offensive. It is hilarious how he triggers folx like UA-TDS, though
UA-TDS calls me an anti-vaxxer when I have no problem with people getting vaccinated if they wish. I never bothered with flu vaccines and I am not worried about contracting COVID-19. I prefer to keep my options open with regard to future vaccines. Why does this offend folx like UA-TDS so much? The authoritarianism is strong in this one. I wonder what he makes of black vaccine hesitancy. Are black folx scum on the wrong side of history as well?