Norwegian Cruise Line Will Abandon Florida if State's COVID Vaccine Law Not Reversed

Norwegian Cruise Line said in a lawsuit that it may end up "abandoning Florida" if the state refuses to reverse its COVID-19 vaccine law that prevents cruise companies from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination in order to board.

The company, officially known as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings or NCLH, says it plans to restart cruises from Florida ports on Aug. 15, but would not be able to sail from Florida unless a judge reverses the law. Norwegian requires all passengers to be vaccinated.

"The result would be a devastating, unrecoverable loss for everyone—not only for NCLH's business but also for tens of thousands of passengers, employees, and stakeholders who all benefit from NCLH resuming safe operations as planned," the lawsuit says.

If the law is not overturned, Norwegian said that it may have to abandon boarding from Florida in an effort to maintain the safety of passengers and employees from the COVID-19 virus.

"The only way NCLH could maintain its protocols and operations as currently planned is by abandoning Florida altogether," the lawsuit reads.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line has said it may have to abandon Florida altogether if the new law that bans cruise lines from requiring proof of vaccination for all passengers is not overturned. Here, a docked Norwegian Gem cruise ship is seen at the Port of Miami in Florida on April 14, 2021. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Miami federal court, contends that the law jeopardizes safe operation of cruise ships by increasing risk of contracting the virus.

Norwegian wants a judge to lift the ban by Aug. 6. The law imposes a fine of $5,000 each time a cruise line mandates that a passenger provide vaccination proof. Norwegian claims it violates federal law and several constitutional rights.

The lawsuit names as a defendant Florida's surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, who is head of the state Health Department. Rivkees is an appointee of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose spokeswoman said the cruise line's policy discriminates against children under 12 and others who are not vaccinated.

DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw noted in an email that Florida recently won a lawsuit challenging several cruise industry regulations imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Florida already fought and won its case so that Norwegian and all other cruise lines can invite and serve all Americans on its vessels," Pushaw said. "But apparently Norwegian prefers the shackles of the CDC to the freedom offered by Florida."

The CDC is appealing that earlier decision by a Tampa federal judge.

Other cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have already begun voyages from Florida with a variety of policies regarding COVID-19 vaccination.

NCLH Ship
Norwegian Cruise Lines require that their passengers show proof of vaccination before boarding. Here, a fishing boat passes the Norwegian Bliss anchored in the English Channel on October 22, 2020, in Weymouth. Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images