After threatening to bypass Florida ports, Norwegian Cruise sues state over vaccine passport ban

Norwegian says state’s ban on vaccine verification poses "imminent, substantial, irreparable harms" to the company.
The Norwegian Jewel at Long Beach, CA, Jan. 2021

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is suing Florida for imposing a law that bans companies doing business in the state from requiring customers' proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The cruise line in May threatened to stop docking ships in Florida and announced its intentions to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for the industry. Norwegian says the decision to require proof of vaccination is a consensus of experts, the desires of passengers and the company's commitment to the CDC.

The company filed the lawsuit Tuesday against state Surgeon General and Head of the Florida Department of Health Scott Rivkees. The suit claim's Florida's ban on vaccine verification "poses imminent, substantial, irreparable harms" to the company.

Norwegian Cruise Line "is duty-bound to protect the health and safety of its personnel and passengers, as NCLH can and will by requiring proof of vaccinations, yet NCLH cannot afford to expose itself to prosecution by Florida and crushing penalties of up to $5,000 per passenger, as it would by requiring vaccine documentation in the present posture," the lawsuit states.

The company says the "impossible dilemma" forces it to either neglect health and safety and the operative federal legal framework or neglect Florida law. However, the CDC cruise ship guidelines remain only suggestions and not law. 

The office of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis says the company has made a "disappointing and unlawful choice to join the CDC in discriminating against children and other individuals who cannot be vaccinated or who have opted not to be vaccinated for reasons of health, religion, or conscience."