Florida has no plans to exempt cruise lines from its law that forbids businesses from asking customers for proof of vaccination, and cruise ships in violation of the law could be fined $5,000 per passenger who is asked to provide such proof, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis' office.
The statement comes one day after Celebrity Cruises became the first line to get CDC approval to resume big-ship cruising from U.S. waters, with the Celebrity Edge slated to depart from Fort Lauderdale on June 26 on a seven-day Caribbean sailing.
In an email, DeSantis press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said that the CDC's vaccine guidance for cruise lines was "coercive" and pushing lines to violate Florida state law.
"The CDC has no legal authority to set any sort of requirements to cruise," she said. "Moreover, the CDC went on record admitting that the federal government chose not to make a legal requirement for vaccine passports. Now they provide coercive guidance, in the absence of any federal law or congressional authorization. In short, the CDC is pushing cruise ships to violate Florida law, in order to comply with CDC 'guidance' that is not legally binding."
Pushaw said the office cannot comment on the specifics of Celebrity's restart because the state is in mediation with the CDC.
"We hope to reach an outcome whereby all cruise lines will be able to set sail in compliance with Florida law," she said.
As per an April 2 law that was first put in place as an executive order by DeSantis, Florida does not allow businesses to ask for proof of vaccination, which is a central component of cruise line resumption plans.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) brands, for example, require all passengers to be vaccinated, while others, like Royal Caribbean International, have said that anyone eligible for a vaccine will have to be inoculated while those who are not, such as children under 12, must have a negative PCR test.
Celebrity is able to restart without a test sailing because it has promised that 95% of passengers and crew on the Edge will be vaccinated.
When asked about the law, Royal Caribbean Group said, "we continue to work with local and state governments to facilitate a return to service by July with fully vaccinated crew and guests who are eligible for vaccinations."
NCLH chief Frank Del Rio said earlier this month that the law "is an issue" and said that if the company's ships can't operate from the state they'd launch elsewhere. DeSantis brushed off those comments, saying that if NCLH didn't want to sail from Florida, another line would take its spot.
"We have a whole bunch of people who are itching to do business in the state of Florida," he added.