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South Florida Mayors ask Governor to lift ban on cruise ships asking for vaccine proof

In:
03Jun2021

While the public is left wondering if Florida will allow cruise ships to ask passengers for proof of a Covid-19 vaccine, Mayors of three South Florida cities are now publicly urging the Governor to change his mind.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) championed and signed into law a new bill that prohibts any company in Florida, including cruise lines, from asking customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination against or recovery from Covid-19.

Such a law makes it apparently impossible for cruise lines to restart cruises, since most are requiring its passengers to be fully vaccinated.

Over the last few weeks, everyone has been wondering if a special exemption would be provided for the beleaguered cruise industry, whom Governor DeSantis has been a major supporter.

Thus far, the Governor has not budged and insisted the law will remain in place.

Now, the Mayors of Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, and Hollywood are publicly asking the Governor to reconsider.

In a letter first shared by Miami Herald reporter Aaron Leibowitz, the Mayors sent a letter to allow cruise ships to "come up with a solution" so that cruise lines can operate.

The letters were sent by Broward Mayor Steve Geller, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, and Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy.

The Mayors believe because cruise ships are either interstate or international commerce, they do have the right under to be regulated by the federal government.

Like the Governor, the Mayors want the cruise industry to come back so that the jobs and revenue they produce can help the Florida economy.

Governor DeSantis believes requiring the vaccine is unnecessary, and put the law into place to prevent many businesses from now prohibiting people based on their vaccination status.

Last month, the Governor explained his position on the matter of cruise ships, "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."

Florida tells Royal Caribbean it does not need its permission for cruise ships to sail

In:
21May2021

The Florida Health Department informed Royal Caribbean this week it can directly appeal to the CDC to begin cruises.

One of the mandates included in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plan for cruise ships to be able to restart sailings from the United States is for each line to  secure agreements with port and health authorities in the U.S. cities they plan to visit.

Royal Caribbean Group announced it had signed a port agreement with Port Canaveral to operate cruise ships, and Port Everglades informed RoyalCaribbeanBlog it had also signed a similar port agreement with Royal Caribbean Group on May 10.

The agreement explains what the cruise terminal would do in the case of Covid-19 cases on a cruise ship, as well as how it intends to keep the cruise terminal and gangways sanitized.

The CDC's instructions for cruise lines under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) are to submit the port agreements to the state Department of Health, but Florida has responded by saying they do not need to give cruise lines permission to operate, and directed cruise lines to go right to the CDC for test cruise permission.

The letter was sent on Thursday by State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, MD, to Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises CEOs Michael Bayley and Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.

In the letter, Dr. Rivkees said Florida has "limited statutory authority with respect to cruise lines, and the Department's permission is not required for your company to resume operations."

Dr. Rivkees went on to be even more specific about the lack of need for cruise lines to seek permission, "To be clear, nothing in state law stands in the way of cruise ship operations."

"The Department is in full support of your company resuming operations and we look forward to continuing this collaborative relationship when your company begins sailing again."

As a result of the letter, Port Everglades re-executed its MOA between the port and Royal Caribbean International/Celebrity Cruises, and believes the cruise lines can now send its application into the CDC for test cruise permission.

Once the CDC accepts the agreement, Royal Caribbean Group can make an application to the CDC to begin test cruises.

More ships coming to get crew vaccinated

Meanwhile, more Royal Caribbean ships are coming to get its crew members vaccinated in preparation for cruises to sail.

The quick pace of approval with Florida's ports means ships are coming to various ports for brief stops to get crew members inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine.

Explorer of the Seas stopped in Port Canaveral on Wednesday to administer 210 vaccines, and Adventure of the Seas arrived on Friday morning to administer 1,050 vaccine doses. Explorer will return on Saturday for another 210 vaccines to be administered.

What about Port Liberty?

With all of the news recently of Florida cruise ports working with Royal Caribbean to sign port agreements, many cruise fans have been asking about the state of affairs as it relates to Port Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey.

A spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued a statement after RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com reached out for an update.

"We are working closely with Cape Liberty Cruise Port in anticipation of the ‘trial cruise’ required by the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order to take place by mid-August, with a regular schedule of cruises expected to resume by the end of August."

"At this time, there is no timeline for cruise resumption at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal."

Florida Governor dismisses Norwegian Cruise Line threat to pull cruise ships from Florida

In:
13May2021

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."

Read moreA look at the CDC's "preposterous" requirements for cruise ships test sailings

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."

Norwegian Cruise Line warns it could move cruise ships from Florida due to vaccine passport ban

In:
07May2021

Will Florida's new law that prevents a company from asking for proof of a Covid-19 vaccine create a problem for cruise lines trying to restart cruises?

While Florida's Governor does not think there is an issue with the new law, at least one cruise line has said it is indeed an issue.

During the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) earnings call with investors, CEO Frank Del Rio described the new law as "an issue".

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a new law that prohibits businesses from being able to ask for proof of a vaccine from their customers.

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."

Mr. Del Rio believes this may come down a legal issue between state and federal jurisdiction, but he also said there is a possibility their cruise ships would have to sail from another state.

"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."

Mr. Del Rio indicated NCLH is having discussions with the Governor's office, but thinks this is "a classic state versus Federal Government issue".

Governor DeSantis doesn't think cruise ships need to ask passengers for proof of a vaccine, because of how well cruise operations are doing overseas.

On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis dismissed the notion cruise ships need the ability to require a vaccine, "These cruise ships are sailing in other parts of the world where they don't even have vaccines available and they're doing it safely and people are having a good time on it. So so they can do it."

It was not clear if he was talking in general terms, or in reference to the federal guidelines.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented its instructions for cruise lines this week on how to apply for test sailings and restart cruises, which include a few possibilities of requiring a Covid-19 vaccine to sail.

The CDC will allow cruise lines to skip a test sailing if they can ensure 95% of the passengers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

Even if cruise ships engage in test sailings, volunteer cruisers onboard these simulated voyages need to be vaccinated as well.

Norwegian Cruise Line has already committed itself to requiring 100% of its passengers and crew members to be vaccinated, and submitted a plan to the CDC about a month ago.

Thus far, NCLH has not heard back from the CDC.

"We want clearance for 100%," said Del Rio after being asked about Florida's law. "And as of today, which is a little over a month since we submitted our proposal to the CDC, we've not yet heard back from them. And that is very disappointing."

Florida Governor signs bill banning vaccine passports possibly affecting cruise ship restart

In:
03May2021

Will cruise ships scheduled to sail from Florida ports be forced to redeploy to other states because of new Florida law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis?

On Monday, Governor DeSantis signed SB-2006 that among other things, bans Covid-19 vaccine passports in the state.

The ban prohibits businesses, schools, and government agencies from requiring people to show documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccinations or post-infection recovery before gaining entry.

The bill takes effect on July 1, 2021.

This new law will replace the executive order he signed in mid-April that does the same thing in the interim.

The Governor is a strong proponent of cruise ships being able to restart, but also feels private businesses should not be able to require customers get a vaccine.

In a recent interview, he shared this sentiment, "I'm very supportive of getting our cruise lines back up and running.

"We think they should be able to sail. But we also don't think that they should be able to require your personal health information in that regard."

Royal Caribbean has not officially decided if it will require its cruise ship passengers to get a vaccine as a matter of fleet wide policy, although it is requiring the vaccine for select ships that will be restarting cruises outside the United States this summer.

Moreover, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced last week it would allow cruise ships to restart sailings sooner if they have at least 95% vaccinated cruise passengers.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley indicated it would be possible for some ships to start cruising under the vaccinated approach, while others could pursue restart under the Conditional Sail Order rules without a vaccine requirement.

Last week, Mr. Bayley spoke about these options, "There'll be really two pathways, one pathway for vaccinated crew and largely vaccinated guests that meet the threshold that they've defined. And that would mean that there wouldn't be a requirement for a simulated voyage etc, and there would be a different expectation on protocols and planning. So it's a faster route."

"And then for ships that wouldn't wouldn't meet that threshold for whatever reason, there would be a different timeline and a different set of protocols and requirements."

"So fundamentally that there's two pathways. It's not that simple, but that's a way of simplifying."

On March 1, 2021, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain reitterated no decision has been made yet on if Royal Caribbean will require its guests to be vaccinated in order to cruise.

Mr. Fain is a major support of the vaccines, and believes they are the fastest and best method to get Covid-19 under control.

"Whether we will require vaccines of all of our guests on all of our ships hasn't been decided yet, but we are prepared to go where the science leads us."

Rival cruise line Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) believes by requiring vaccines of every single person onboard its ships initially, in addition to comprehensive protocols including universal COVID-19 testing, is the key to way to get its ships back into service faster with approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Florida Governor doesn't think cruise lines should be able to require proof of Covid-19 vaccine

In:
Category: 
19Apr2021

Few politicians have been as outspokenly in favor of cruise ships being able to restart operations as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but he has drawn a line with restart plans.

Many cruise lines have proposed or announced plans to require adults, or even all cruise passengers, to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to sail in the short term.

Speaking to Fox News, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he does not think private business should be able to require a vaccine for its passengers.

"I'm very supportive of getting our cruise lines back up and running," Gov. DeSantis said in an interview. "We think they should be able to sail. But we also don't think that they should be able to require your personal health information in that regard."

Backing up his opinion is a new State of Florida Executive Order that prohibits Covid-19 vaccine passports (EO 21-81).

Section 2 of the Executive Order prohibits businesses from requiring their customers to "provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business."

Royal Caribbean has not officially decided if it will require its cruise ship passengers to get a vaccine as a matter of fleet wide policy, although it is requiring the vaccine for select ships that will be restarting cruises outside the United States this summer.

Part of that decision to require vaccines for adults on ships sailing from Israel, Bahamas, Bermuda or Cyrpus, also lays with the government of those countries, with whom Royal Caribbean has negotiated with to gain permission to sail from there.

On March 1, 2021, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain reitterated no decision has been made yet on if Royal Caribbean will require its guests to be vaccinated in order to cruise.

"So this raises the question of whether we will require vaccines on all of our sailings. The answer is, we don't know yet."

Mr. Fain is a major support of the vaccines, and believes they are the fastest and best method to get Covid-19 under control.

"Whether we will require vaccines of all of our guests on all of our ships hasn't been decided yet, but we are prepared to go where the science leads us."

Rival cruise line Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) believes by requiring vaccines of every single person onboard its ships initially, in addition to comprehensive protocols including universal COVID-19 testing, is the key to way to get its ships back into service faster with approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The Biden Administration said on April 9 they have no plans for a vaccine passport system.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki when asked about vaccine passports at a press conference April, 6, 2021 responded: "There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential."

Instead, the Biden Administration feels private businesses can best police the issue themselves, without government interference. 

Andy Slavitt, acting director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a White House press briefing on March 29, 2021, "unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of — of citizens. We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do."

Port Canaveral proposes idea of new cruise terminal

In:
08Aug2010

Port Canaveral CEO J. Stanley Payne wants to add a brand new multimillion dollar cruise terminal to Port Canaveral, Florida to help stimulate the growth of the cruise ship industry in the popular port.  

Royal Caribbean already home ports a few of their ships at Port Canaveral, including Freedom of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas.  

Payne believes that while no tenant is specifically interested in the terminal right now, by building a new terminal, it will catch the attention of the cruise industry and generate interest in adding ships here.  "Once cruise lines start seeing you as a port that can't grow, then you have a problem," Payne said.  Payne also pointed out the fact that Jacksonville and Miami are building or upgrading terminal spaces in their ports.

A new cruise terminal could cost between $40 million to $75 million, depending on the amenities port officials decide to include in the terminal. Port Canaveral's existing three terminals for cruise passengers handles the six ships.  The newest port is terminal number 8 and was built specifically for Disney in 1996, with a nearly complete new $22 million upgrade for the terminal that is needed for its two new ships that will call Port Canaveral home in 2011 and 2012.

The cruise industry is the port's No. 1 revenue generator and it has been responsible for millions of dollars in new investments in Brevard County. A study released earlier this year by Lancaster, Pa.-based Martin Associates, which specializes in analyzing the operations of ports throughout the world, said the port helps generate $1.1 billion in revenue across all of its businesses, and $48 million in state and local taxes.