Florida Judge Sides with Norwegian Cruise Line in Vaccine Fight

In a big win for not just Norwegian Cruise Line, but the industry in general, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ruled that the state of Florida “fails to provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate” for banning vaccine passports. This means that Norwegian can require all passengers on board their ships to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 without fear of repercussion. 

In her 60-page ruling, Judge Williams cited the world-wide rules and regulation for international travel. 

“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,” she wrote.

In a statement following the ruling, NCLH President and CEO Frank Del Rio cited his company’s commitment to passenger health and wellness. 

“The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our No. 1 priority, today, tomorrow and forever,” Del Rio said. “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. We want nothing more than to sail from Miami, the Cruise Capital of the World, and from the other fabulous Florida ports and we welcome today’s ruling that allows us to sail with 100% fully vaccinated guests and crew, which we believe is the safest and most prudent way to resume cruise operations amid this global pandemic.”

The news comes as Norwegian Gem is preparing to set sail on August 15th from PortMiami, the company’s first sailing from a Florida port since the pandemic began. 

Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine Editor-in-Chief Bill Panoff called the ruling “a big plus for Norwegian and more importantly for the cruise industry”. 

No word yet on whether Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s administration has been vocal about preventing businesses from requiring mask and vaccine mandates, will take the fight to a higher court.