One week after Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' CEO said that it may move ships out of Florida if the state prevents it from requiring proof of vaccination from passengers, Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled down on his commitment to what he calls "medical privacy."
NCLH chief Frank Del Rio said that DeSantis' April 2 executive order -- now state law-- to ban the use of digital health passports or forbid businesses to prohibit entry based on vaccination status, which is part of NCLH's return to service plan, "is an issue. We can't ignore it."
"[If] we can't operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from," Del Rio said. "And we can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would have gone to Florida. We certainly hope it doesn't come to that. Everyone wants to operate out of Florida. It's a very lucrative market."
Speaking in Ormond Beach, Fla., Thursday, DeSantis said, "Our state policy is our state policy."
"What we want is the cruise lines to be open and able to make decisions about how they're going to handle a lot of this stuff that, obviously, is within the context of Florida policy that respects the medical privacy of all Floridians," DeSantis said.
DeSantis, who also said that "Norwegian is not one of the big [cruise lines]," said that if any line didn't want to sail from Florida, another would take its spot.
"We have a whole bunch of people who are itching to do business in the state of Florida," he later added.
DeSantis also assailed the CDC's recent guidance stipulating that if cruise ships can show that 95% of passengers and 98% of crew are vaccinated, they can launch cruises more quickly, reiterating his earlier statements that cruise ships operate safely in other parts of the world without vaccine mandates.
"We are challenging the CDC's authority to do what they're doing," he said of Florida's lawsuit against the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order that prevents cruise ships from sailing from U.S. ports, a suit that was joined by both Alaska and Texas. "They mothballed the industry for over a year that's exceeding their authority."
"The problem is the CDC," he said. "The problem is not Florida."