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DeSantis Fight With Cruise Lines Over Vaccines “Political Buffoonery”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has told cruise line companies that vaccines are the fastest track to resuming operations in the United States. It said that with 95 percent of passengers and crew vaccinated, lines do not have to run test cruises before they can take paying passengers out. Cruising has been banned from U.S. ports since March of 2020.

But Florida, home to the largest operators and busiest cruise ports in the world, has passed a law saying those companies are not allowed to ask passengers for proof of vaccination status.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis sued the CDC last month over the ban and has continued to challenge the agency’s authority. After Celebrity Cruises announced this week that it had approval to sail in late June with vaccinated passengers, a representative for the governor warned of potentially “millions of dollars in fines” for violating the law.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has threatened to pull ships from the state if its ships are not allowed to require vaccinations.

Legal experts are betting on the cruise lines in this confrontation — and calling out Florida’s governor for political posturing.

“Political grandstanding 100 percent,” Miami-based maritime attorney Mike Winkleman said. “This is not driven from a motivation of safety. If the motivation were safety, you would say, ‘Of course everyone has to be vaccinated.’ It’s kowtowing to a small minority that are a really vocal base for him.”

Wendy Parmet, director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University, said the federal government has the authority to regulate international commerce, or who comes into and out of the country. And federal law, she said, trumps state law when there’s a conflict — though an agency’s actions can be challenged in court.

“But the idea that the federal government in general doesn’t have the authority to set the conditions for cruise ships and that Florida somehow has more authority over who comes in and out of the ports, that’s really an odd one,” she said.

Jim Walker, a maritime attorney who runs the Cruise Law News blog, agreed that the state does not have jurisdiction to regulate the cruise lines and is blunt in his assessment of DeSantis’s position.

Walker called the vaccine law “singularly the greatest impediment to the resumption of cruising in the state of Florida.”

“To see DeSantis come out and to pull this stunt to me just reeks of political buffoonery,” he said.



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