Florida governor Ron DeSantis may be walking back from a policy that puts Florida on a collision course with the restart of cruising – risking the estimated USD $9 billion dollars in jobs and revenues cruising brings to the number one cruise state.
Once one of the most vocal allies of a return to cruising, even instigating a longshot lawsuit against the CDC to force federal health officials to permit cruising to return without conditions, Florida governor Ron DeSantis suddenly effectively found himself opposing the return to cruising. At issue is a new Florida law, set to go into effect 01JUL, that bans businesses in the state from requiring verification of vaccination status from individuals.
That puts Florida law at odds with the primary condition imposed by the CDC that will permit cruise lines to begin sailing again in U.S. waters. As Open Jaw has reported, ships with 98% vaccinated crew and 95% vaccinated pax can forgo onerous ‘test’ sailings and leapfrog straight to revenue cruises. After months at anchor, the cruise lines and entire industry rejoiced at the fast track option for a return to sailing from American ports.
As Forbes reports, at the new law’s signing in May, DeSantis declared, “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.”
However, fully-vaccinated cruises appear to have the full support of cruise travellers, with a survey of nearly 3,000 Cruise Critic readers, revealing that 81 per cent would cruise if a vaccines were mandatory, with only 5 per cent saying it would stop them from cruising.
Forbes quotes Brian Castrucci, the president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, a private philanthropy that builds community partnerships for public health policy. “There is no inalienable constitutional right to cruise, so it should be within the cruise lines’ purview to make this decision.”
He also pointed out, “You know, it’s an unusual political stand for a Republican governor to limit what businesses can do. Clearly, the governor has painted himself into a corner on this one.”
DeSantis and his government now appear to have come to the same conclusion.
The report says that Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior VP of sales, trade support and service at Celebrity Cruises, told agents on a call late last week that in fact, Florida is collaborating with cruise lines on a workaround. “We’re ironing out a statement that will articulate how cruising will be different than [being] in the state,” she told agents.
Celebrity Edge is scheduled to become the first ship sailing out of an American port when it’s approved to resume cruising on 26JUN from Fort Lauderdale.
Forbes reports “a much bigger eye opener” on the actual stance of Florida’s government. It reveals a “May 20 letter sent from Florida’s health department telling Royal Caribbean and Celebrity they could go directly to the CDC for permission to sail. “The Department’s permission is not required for your company to resume operations,” wrote Dr. Scott A. Rivkees, the Florida Surgeon General. “To be clear, nothing in state law stands in the way of cruise ship operations.”
So while DeSantis continues face-saving declarations of commitment to his anti-vaccine-passport law, Florida is clearly not going to interfere in the resumption of cruising from the state’s ports.