'Playing a game of chicken': Cruise lines face off against Florida's 'pro-business governor' over vaccine passports

'Playing a game of chicken': Cruise lines face off against Florida's 'pro-business governor' over vaccine passports
Government of Florida / Public domain

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is going head-to-head and risking support of cruise line CEOs over a controversial law he recently signed to impose a statewide ban on COVID vaccine passports.

According to NBC News, cruise line operators argue that DeSantis' order will make it far more difficult for them to safely resume operations. With cruise liners being one of the strongest drivers for Florida's travel industry, DeSantis' war on passports could lead to more economic peril for the Sunshine State.

Like former President Donald Trump, DeSantis has largely ignored advice from experts on dealing with COVID. From mask mandates to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mitigation guidelines to decrease the spread of coronavirus DeSantis has pushed back against the government agency at nearly every turn.

Although the CDC did give cruise liners the greenlight to move forward with cruises over the summer, they are now faced with another challenge. With such large populations of people in close confined space for extended periods of time, cruise liners are requiring vaccinations for nearly every person on board their ships. However, that requirement may not be legal in Florida, thanks to the Republican governor.

The new Florida law purports to prohibit any form of discrimination against unvaccinated individuals. "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," DeSantis said of the new law.

Cruise line CEOS and experts are also voicing their concerns about the new law. Travel industry analyst Patrick Scholes noted that the new Florida law is exactly what cruiseliners do not need.

"It has been a year of migraines and kicks in the teeth for the cruise industry," Scholes said. "Now, they're finally getting ready to restart, and you have the governor of Florida basically playing a game of chicken with them."

During a recent phone call with investors and travel analysts, CEO Frank Del Rio also weighed in on DeSantis' controversial move. "Why is a pro-business governor standing in the way of one of the most important industries in the state from restarting?" the executive asked.

He also said, "We hope that this doesn't become a legal football or a political football. But at the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders. And God forbid we can't operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from. And we can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would have gone to Florida."

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