Another cruise line will require vaccines; DeSantis says no
SilverSea Cruises became the second major cruise line to announce that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for all passengers when global itineraries resume on June 5th.
The decision could spark a confrontation with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis if the luxury cruise line is due to depart from Port Everglades in December.
The DeSantis press office said Monday that its latest order not to require companies to request proof of vaccinated customers extends to cruise lines operated in Florida.
"The governor's executive order states that Florida companies are prohibited from requiring customers or customers to produce documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or recovery from transmission in order to gain access to the company, To get access to it or to provide services, "said press secretary Cody McCloud said via email. "Therefore, the Executive Order prohibits cruise lines from requiring vaccination records to operate in Florida."
SilverSea's announcement follows Norwegian Cruise Line's statement last week that full vaccinations would be required if the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowed sailing to resume in July. The cruise line is scheduled to depart from Port Miami in September.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings also operates Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceana Cruises.
SilverSea's requirement will take effect when the company embarks on its first cruise since the June 5th pandemic - a seven-day Galapagos voyage from Ecuador. No voyages from US ports are planned until August 29, a 26-day voyage from Anchorage, Alaska, to Japan.
Four departures from Port Everglades are planned for December on board the ships Silver Whisper, Silver Dawn and Silver Spirit. SilverSea is a luxury cruise line with fares that cost thousands of dollars.
Whether DeSantis actually has the authority to exclude cruise lines from the need for vaccinations could become the focus of a dispute between the cruise lines and the CDC.
The Coast Guard and CDC have exercised control over pandemic-related cruise-related activities in the port, but most decisions have been made by a "unified command" made up of the governments of the states, states and counties affiliated with the cruise lines work together, said Port Everglades spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy.
When asked about the DeSantis claim, Port Director Jonathan Daniels said via email, "We are working with cruise companies and through all local, state and federal rules and regulations to ensure a safe cruise restart."
However, attorneys familiar with government regulation and maritime law issues are questioning whether DeSantis' powers extend to cruise lines, which are overseas-registered companies operating foreign-flagged ships in predominantly international waters .
Dawn Myers, partner on Berger Singerman's government and regulatory team in Miami, said last week DeSantis likely has no authority under interstate, international or maritime law to exclude cruise lines from compulsory vaccination unless cruise lines only operate from one of them Florida harbor to another.
Jim Walker, a South Florida lawyer specializing in maritime law, accused DeSantis of "having his cake and wanting to eat it" by telling the CDC to allow cruise lines to resume operations and to ban cruise lines from being vaccinated. "Both of these issues are way outside the jurisdiction of a governor," he said recently.
DeSantis announced Thursday that Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a lawsuit against the CDC alleging it violated federal procedures by ordering cruise lines to obtain certification before they could be resumed. All US cruises have been suspended since March 2020 when numerous ships experienced COVID-19 outbreaks among passengers and crew.
Carnival and Royal Caribbean spokesmen said Monday that no decisions have been made regarding vaccination guidelines for travel in the United States.
Previously, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises announced that passengers 16 and over must be vaccinated for summer cruises departing from Israel between May and October.
Royal Caribbean Cruises depart from Nassau, Bahamas; and Bermuda will require vaccinations for passengers 18 years and older this summer. Younger passengers may cruise if they test negative for COVID-19.
With Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean's sister company, passengers under the age of 18 can also take Caribbean cruises from St. Maarten from June 5th.
"We haven't made a decision at this point to prescribe vaccines (when traveling to the US)," Carnival Corp. spokesman Roger Frizzell responded to questions about how his company plans to address the problem with its eight brands. These include Holland America, Costa, Cunard, Seabourn and Princess. "We will continue to monitor the evolving situation with vaccines around the world."
Major cruise lines have asked the CDC to come up with guidelines that would allow them to resume cruising from US ports this July. The Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group representing most of the world's major cruise lines, criticized updated guidelines released by the CDC in late March as "onerous" and "impractical" last week.
Cruise lines argue that the CDC guidelines, issued in October, are out of date because they were issued before vaccines were developed and fail to take into account the protections that the cruise lines themselves have since put in place.
According to the CLIA, the cruise industry has been treated unfairly compared to almost every other leisure industry that has been allowed to resume with preventive measures such as mask mandates and social distancing.
Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy appeared on WPLG's South Florida public affairs TV show this week and said the CDC has not yet given any guidance on test sails that the agency requires from cruise lines or what type of Giving vaccines will be required.
"So we really don't have the kind of detail, transparency, or commitment to CDC to start sailing this summer," she said.
When asked whether the CDC should require passengers to be vaccinated, Duffy said, “We don't believe that the US cruise industry should be treated any differently from other forms of travel, tourism or entertainment. At this point, people can get on a plane and fly outside of the US, take a cruise, and return to the US without a vaccine or passport. "
Jaime Katz, senior equity analyst at investment research firm Morningstar Inc., said most cruise lines have been careful "not to stick to a corner of the guidelines that have not yet been set."
DeSantis' assertion of authority over the cruise lines, she said, "adds an extra twist to the plot."
“He obviously believes the CDC has exceeded its limits. It will be interesting to see how the cruise lines react. "
Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean and Norwegian spokespersons did not answer questions about how DeSantis' claim could affect their COVID-19 prevention plans.
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