A federal judge on Sunday granted Norwegian Cruise Line a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit against Florida’s ban on vaccine passports, saying the travel giant can mandate passengers and crew be vaccinated against COVID-19 on upcoming trips.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams said in her ruling the state had failed to provide evidence that the ban was legally enforceable, a major blow to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has vehemently opposed vaccine and mask mandates despite a surge in new coronavirus infections nationwide.
“Amid myriad, rapidly changing requirements regarding quarantining and testing, there is one constant that facilitates cruise line customers’ access to advertised ports of call: documentary proof of vaccination will expedite passengers’ entry into virtually every single country and port where Plaintiffs intend to sail,” Williams wrote in her ruling.
Norwegian, which is set to sail its first cruise out of Miami on Aug. 15 in more than 500 days, welcomed the news.
“This order will now allow the company to operate in the safest way possible with 100% vaccination of all guests and crew when sailing from Florida ports,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said. “The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our number one priority, today, tomorrow and forever. It’s not a slogan or a tagline, we fiercely mean it and our commitment to these principles is demonstrated by the lengths our company has gone through to provide the safest possible cruise experience from Florida.”
DeSantis in April signed an executive order that barred companies from requiring so-called vaccine passports, or documents that prove people have been inoculated against the coronavirus. Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature later approved a measure in support of DeSantis and said it would fine any companies that violated the ban.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings sued in July, saying it could not “safely and soundly” resume operations without requiring passengers be vaccinated.
“[The company is] in an impossible dilemma as it prepares to set sail from Florida: NCLH will find itself either on the wrong side of health and safety and the operative federal legal framework, or else on the wrong side of Florida law,” it said in a court filing last month.
The company added that every port of call its ships visit has a 100% compliance policy in place mandating vaccination of guests and crew, except Florida.