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Norwegian Cruise Line may require passengers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine before boarding any of its ships in Florida, a federal judge ruled.
US District Judge Kathleen Williams’ decision in Miami to grant Norwegian’s request for a preliminary injunction comes despite a state law passed in May fining companies that require testing of such vaccines.
The law, defended by the governor. Ron DeSantis, hits companies with a fine of $ 5,000 per violation for asking customers to prove they were vaccinated against the coronavirus.
In her decision, Williams said Norwegian will likely succeed in a court case with its argument that Florida’s so-called “vaccine passport” ban puts public health at risk and infringes on the cruise line’s First Amendment rights. .
Williams’ decision also allows Norwegian to continue its first voyage from Miami since the pandemic widely disrupted the cruise line industry in March 2020. Norwegian Cruise Lines is one of several companies that sail from Florida ports.
Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said in a statement on Sunday, that the company welcomes the Williams ruling. He said it “allows us to sail with 100% fully vaccinated passengers and crew, which we believe is the safest and most prudent way to resume cruise operations amid this global pandemic.”
Confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Florida are at an all-time high as the delta variant increases across the country and the world. On Sunday, about 1 in 4 hospital beds in Florida had a COVID-19 patient.
Despite this, DeSantis continues to fight broader coronavirus restrictions, such as mask mandates.
Norwegian said it implements a 100% vaccination level rule for guests and crew members at every port it sails from around the world.
The company relies on “robust science-backed health and safety protocols” where vaccines are the “cornerstone” to deliver what Norwegian believes is the safest experience for travelers.
Despite the ongoing global pandemic and the most recent surge in Florida, the state prohibited Norwegian from implementing its vaccine documentation rule. The company filed its lawsuit in July against the Florida Surgeon General and the head of the state Department of Health after failing to reach an agreement with officials on vaccine requirements.
Neither the Surgeon General nor the Florida Department of Health issued a statement on the judge’s ruling Sunday.
To date, the disruption of operations during the pandemic has cost Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, more than $ 6 billion, the company claims in court documents.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s First Voyage Leaving Florida Since the pandemic disrupted business last year, he is scheduled to leave Miami on August 15.