A week after Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) said it might have to pull its ships from Florida if due to the state’s new law against vaccine mandates, Florida's Governor did not seem phased.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday in Ormond Beach, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) did not seem concerned with the potential for NCL to move its ships away from the state.
NCL wants to restart cruises with 100% of its passengers and crew members fully vaccinated, but a new state law prohibits any company from asking for proof of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio said last week that its three brands of ships would move their Florida-based vessels to home ports in other states or even to non-U.S. ports in the Caribbean if they were forced to comply with the new rule.
"At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellors and rudders, and God forbid we can operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from."
"We can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would've gone to Florida. We certainly hope that doesn't come to that. Everyone wants to operate out of Florida, it's a very lucrative market, it's close drive market."
When reporters asked Governor DeSantis about Del Rio's comment, DeSantis was not concerned with NCL's actions, and even called NCL "not one of the bigger" cruise lines. NCL is the third-largest cruise line in the world by passengers.
"The major cruise lines, Norwegian's not one of the bigger ones, by the way. Cruise lines have been operating in other parts of the world where there's no access to vaccine, much less the passengers required. And in areas where covid is more prevalent than it is in the United States right now."
"Royal Caribbean, Carnival, they want to go, they're going to be able to do it."
"I can tell you this, if one of the smaller ones says they somehow don't want that niche will get filled in Florida."
Governor DeSantis also talked about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) handling of the cruise industry during the global health crisis, and how he feels the federal agency has overreached with its policies.
Senate Bill (SB) 2006 specifies the new law prohibits "a business entity from requiring patrons or customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19."
"We are challenging the CDC's authority to do what they're doing. They mothballed the industry for over a year. That was never the intent of anything Congress has ever enacted. That was them exceeding their authority."
He specifically called out same CDC cruise ship policies that even Norwegian Cruise Line had issues with, "if you're sunbathing, you have to make sure they're wearing a mask while they're sunbathing. Are you kidding me? That is an absolute farce."
In terms of the new law that prohibits a company from asking for proof of a vaccine, Governor DeSantis said he wants cruise lines to be able to operate as they see fit up until a point, "What we want is the cruise lines to be open. And we want them to be able to make decisions about how they're going to how they're going to handle a lot of this stuff. That obviously is within the context of a Florida policy that respects the medical privacy of all Floridians."
"I'll hear is most people don't like the idea that if they show up at a ballgame, they got to whip out vaccination records or some things like that. But some say, well, maybe on a cruise, maybe we could do that a little different. Trust me, it will not stop at that. The minute that they start doing this, they're going to continue to do it. It will expand."
Governor DeSantis also touched upon the injunction the state is seeking against the CDC to allow ships to sail immediately, and he seemed optimistic about the legal challenge, "We had a great hearing. I think, by and large, the reports I heard in federal court yesterday."
"We think we got our points across. We think the judge was receptive."