Cruises departing Florida face £3,5000 fine threat for asking guests to be vaccinated

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The state of Florida could fine cruise lines $5,000 (approximately £3,500) per guest if they go ahead with asking customers to show evidence they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The fine would work in line with a new state-wide law that bans establishments including bars, restaurants, schools and other businesses from denying entry or services to customers who are not vaccinated.

The law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, means customers can not be asked about their vaccination history.

However, with many global cruise lines now required to check guests have been fully vaccinated before allowing them to travel it could pose a threat to the big names which sail out of Florida’s ports.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, cruise lines will only be permitted to sail under the condition 98 percent of crew and 95 per cent of passengers are vaccinated.

Cruise lines that often sail out of Florida include Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

DeSantis’ new law potentially stands in the way of all of these major cruise lines resuming in line with CDC guidelines.

The state governor signed the decree just five days after the CDC gave the green light to vaccinated passengers travelling onboard cruises after a no-sail ban of more than one year.

After he signed the bill in May, Mr DeSantis 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.”

There is some speculation the dispute will be taken to court after the governor said he would “not back down”.

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Cruise line officials have also thought of other ways they will be able to safely operate, but it could mean ditching Florida.

Norwegian cruise line CEO Frank Del Rio told NBC News: “We hope that this doesn’t become a legal football or a political football.

“But at the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders.

“And God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from.

“And we can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would have gone to Florida.”

However, the cruise boss noted that Florida is a “lucrative market” and said he is hopeful the issue will be resolved.

He added: “We hope that everyone is pushing in the same direction, which is we want to resume cruising in a safe manner.”

Speaking to the Washington Post, Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for the Florida governor said: “We’re interested to see how the CDC plans to help the cruise lines comply with Florida law.

“Hopefully they don’t unlawfully subject cruises to millions of dollars in fines.”

The argument between Mr DeSantis and the CDC is a stark contrast to last year when he fought in favour of the cruise industry.

In 2020, when the CDC initially banned cruises with more than 250 passengers, Mr DeSantis sued the federal government.

He argued it would be devastating for businesses and jobs in the state.

“We have tens of thousands of Floridians – not just in this county alone but throughout the state – who depend on the viability of our cruise industry for their livelihoods, for their jobs, for their ability to feed their families,” Mr DeSantis said at the time.

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