Norwegian Cruise Line line sues Florida over COVID-19 vaccine passport ban


Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Florida’s surgeon general in an effort to prevent the state from carrying out its so-called vaccine passport ban barring businesses from requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination. 

In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the Miami-headquartered cruise line argued that the state’s prohibition on vaccine requirements violate the First Amendment by blocking communications between a business and customers, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment by limiting the ability of a company to keep its employees and customers safe. 

The company also accused the Sunshine State of improperly disrupting businesses’ interests and interstate and international commerce without just cause. 

“One anomalous, misguided intrusion threatens to spoil N.C.L.H.’s careful planning and force it to cancel or hobble upcoming cruises, thereby imperiling and impairing passengers’ experiences and inflicting irreparable harm of vast dimensions,” the cruise line wrote in the lawsuit. 

Norwegian said in the court filing that the legal action taken against Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees was “a last resort.” 

The Hill has reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment on the lawsuit. 

The company had previously pushed back on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) executive order prohibiting businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, with CEO Frank Del Rio reportedly saying during a May earnings call that the cruise line could take its business elsewhere if Florida moved forward in implementing the order. 

DeSantis had said that the ban was necessary, arguing in March, “It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply participate in normal society.” 

In addition to preventing businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, the executive order officially prohibits government entities from issuing “vaccine passports, vaccine passes, or other standardized documentation for the purpose of certifying an individual’s COVID-19 vaccine status to a third party.” 

The legal battle comes as federal health agencies have also been struggling to implement specific requirements on ships as they look to return to sailing following the pandemic pause on cruise travel. 

Last month, a federal judge ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) coronavirus-era sailing orders were an overreach of power, issuing a preliminary injunction temporarily barring the CDC from enforcing the guidelines that said cruise lines had to commit to a phased approach of implementing health and safety restrictions before they could begin sailing. 

However, the CDC last week appealed the judge’s order, arguing that the preliminary injunction “creates a substantial risk that cruise ships will exacerbate the introduction and spread of the virus in the United States.” 

–Updated on July 14 at 10:15 a.m.

Tags civil lawsuit coronavirus pandemic Cruise line Florida legal battle Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Ron DeSantis vaccine passport
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