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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.