The tide of the ongoing naval battle between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Norwegian Cruise Line turned again late Sunday when a federal judge ruled that the cruise operator does have legal authority to require all passengers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before boarding any its ships in Florida.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams in Miami granted Norwegian’s request for a preliminary injunction against a law, backed by the Republican governor, that would ban so-called “vaccine passports” and fine any business $5,000 for each time it asked a customer to prove he or she has been vaccinated. In her decision, Williams said Norwegian would likely succeed in a court trial with its argument that Florida’s so-called “vaccine passport” ban risks public health and infringes on the cruise line’s First Amendment rights.
The ruling means Norwegian can proceed with its first trip from Miami since the pandemic shut down the cruise industry in March 2020. The ship is scheduled to leave Miami on Aug. 16.
Confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Florida are at an all-time high as the delta variant surges around the nation and the world. On Sunday, approximately 1 in 4 hospital beds in Florida had a COVID-19 patient in it. Still DeSantis continues to oppose any public health measure, including mask mandates, that has been proven to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said in a statement Sunday, that the company welcomes Williams’ ruling. He said it “allows us to sail with 100% fully vaccinated guests and crew which we believe is the safest and most prudent way to resume cruise operations amid this global pandemic.