On May 3, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed legislation that would ban vaccine passports in his state.
Upon signing, the governor said, “In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected, and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision,” NBC News reported.
According to the Miami Herald, under the new law, any companies, schools and government entities conducting business in the state will be fined $5,000 each time they ask a customer to furnish proof of vaccination. The law will go into effect on July 1.
Royal Caribbean International, a company that operates numerous cruises out of ports in Florida, announced last month that it will resume service one day later, on July 2.
One of its requirements was that all passengers aged 18 or older must be vaccinated.
Obviously, this requirement runs afoul of the new law.
Royal Caribbean argued that because such large numbers of people are confined to a limited space on cruises, it was only fair that it be granted an exception to this law.
DeSantis refused to back down. At a May 28 news conference, he told reporters, “We are going to enforce Florida law. You don’t say ‘pass laws’ and then not enforce it against giant corporations. That doesn’t work that way,” according to WPLG-TV.
On Friday, the cruise line handed the governor a big win, agreeing to comply with the law.
“Guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible,” Royal Caribbean said in a Friday news release. “Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date.”
“The about-face is an apparent submission to @GovRonDeSantis , who has insisted that there will be no exception made for cruise companies to a newly passed Florida law that fines companies $5,000 each time they ask a patron to provide proof of vaccination.” pic.twitter.com/ya3EfVAvKz
— Tim Swain (@SwainForSenate) June 5, 2021
Michael Bayley, the company’s president and CEO, said in a statement, “This is it. Vacationers can finally plan to take their precious time off this summer and truly get away after what has been a challenging time for everyone. I would like to sincerely thank our guests and travel partners for their incredible patience and understanding during this very difficult period.
“Thanks in large part to the successful rollout of vaccines, the world of adventure is beginning to open up, and we are all excited to start delivering great vacations to our guests, who have increasingly told us they are getting vaccinated.”
Bayley thanked DeSantis as well as county and local officials “for their steadfast support of our industry and for providing access to vaccines to the thousands of crew on our ships off the eastern seaboard. This act of understanding and humanity has been deeply appreciated, and we are grateful for their support, which is enabling the health and safety of our guests, crew members and the communities we visit.”
He said that “90% of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise.”
All crew members have been vaccinated, according to the Herald.
The Herald also reported that a Celebrity Cruises ship is scheduled to sail out of Port Everglades on June 26, five days before the Florida law takes effect. (Celebrity Cruises is owned by Royal Caribbean International.)
Celebrity Cruises requires all passengers age 16 and older to be vaccinated, although it says, “Where local government regulations differ, we will comply with local requirements.”
The Herald said the company plans to maintain the vaccination requirement on its seven-night Caribbean cruises from Port Everglades.
That should be OK for the June 26 sailing, but after July 1, all bets are off.
It’s probably not a good idea to underestimate DeSantis. In fact, Celebrity may find it’s a very expensive idea.
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