U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams issued a preliminary injunction allowing Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises to require that guests submit proof that they've been vaccinated before being allowed to sail, including departures from Florida.
The ruling from the U.S. District Court in Southern Florida was a blow to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had signed an executive order forbidding businesses from requiring documentation of vaccine status. The state legislature subsequently converted the order into state law.
In her 60-page ruling, the judge said the state failed to provide convincing facts, evidence or legal precedence in making their case. On the other hand, she noted that "documentary proof of vaccination will expedite passengers' entry into virtually every single country and port" where the ships sail.
The ruling removes any doubt that NCL's first sailing from Florida, scheduled on Aug. 15 on the Norwegian Gem, will depart as planned from Miami with 100% vaccinated guest and crew.
"We want nothing more than to sail from Miami and the other fabulous Florida ports, and we welcome today's ruling that allows us to sail with 100% fully vaccinated guests and crew" said Frank Del Rio, CEO of parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH). He called health and safety "the number one priority, today, tomorrow and forever."
NCLH executive vice president and general counsel Daniel Farkas said that "while litigation is a strategic tool of last resort," it was employed "to do what we believe is right and in the best interest of the welfare of our guests, crew and communities we visit."
Earlier in the day in an interview with Travel Weekly, NCL CEO Harry Sommer had predicted the ruling, saying the judge had "tipped her hand" on Friday by saying that requiring a vaccine is not discriminatory.
And speaking to reporters aboard the Norwegian Encore, the line's first ship to sail from a U.S. port in 17 months, Sommer had used the ship to illustrate why NCL chose to pursue 100% vaccinated sailings even though they could sail with 95% vaccinated plus additional protocols, as other lines have done. "In a ship this size, with only 95% vaccinated, you could have 200 unvaccinated passengers and 100 unvaccinated crew. We won't be in that situation."