Local officials worry about possibility of cruise lines leaving Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With access to COVID-19 vaccines, cruise industry executives in Florida are ready to sail again. But with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ passport law preventing them from requiring vaccines, some are considering moving out of Florida.

“We’ve already announced that the first seven ships we’re standing up this summer are all outside of the US.,” Frank Del Rio, the chief executive officer of the Norwegian Cruise Line, told Fox News.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on Wednesday to allow simulated voyages with vaccinated volunteers as part of an application for a conditional sailing certificate. The cruise lines are trying to negotiate some of the terms with the CDC.

“It’s things that constrain access and constrain the possibility for experience,” said Arnold Donald, the chief executive officer of Carnival Corporation.

The cruise lines can bypass some of the CDC safety measures if the ships are sailing with 95% of passengers and 98% of crew members who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Florida law makes this requirement impossible.

Losing the cruise lines’ activity would have a lasting economic impact. Stewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert, estimates the industry in Florida is valued at $9 billion since the state has the three largest cruise ports in the world in Miami, Port Canaveral, and Port Everglades.

“Jobs would be lost, port cities would lose a tremendous amount of revenue. There’s a tremendous amount of infrastructure,” Chiron said.

Cruise lines have begun to announce that they’re going to be sailing from foreign ports, Chiron said. Officials in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties are calling for DeSantis to prevent this.

“Preventing private cruise companies from setting policies to keep customers and workers safe puts Floridians’ lives needlessly at risk, and is contrary to the free enterprise that makes this country great,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a statement released on Thursday.

“I know the governor feels very strongly about the cruise industry,” Broward County Mayor Steve Geller said. “That’s why he threatened to sue the federal government if they didn’t re-open the cruise industry.”

Geller said DeSantis has to “relax his order on the no proof of vaccine” because he can’t get in the way of a federal order that is meant to keep people safe during the pandemic.

“I urge the governor to stand more for the business community instead of his political issue,” Geller said, adding that DeSantis restriction “goes against what he says he stands for, which is letting the business community make decisions affecting the business community.”

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About the Authors:

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.