DeSantis disses Norwegian cruise line over threat to leave Florida

South Florida Sun Sentinel

May 13, 2021 4:10 PM

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Gem sits at PortMiami, awaiting a return to service.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem sits at PortMiami, awaiting a return to service. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)

One week after Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings threatened to deploy its ships outside Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis dubbed the company as a smaller operator that could easily be replaced.

Speaking at a bill signing ceremony in Ormond Beach, the governor made the remark in response to a question about whether he’d consider rolling back his order that prohibits businesses in Florida from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations from customers and employees.

“This is an example of a kind of fake narrative,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “The major cruise lines — and Norwegian is not one of the bigger ones, by the way — have been operating in other parts of the world where there is no access to vaccines … and in areas where the COVID is more prevalent than in the United States right now. I can tell you cruise lines are ready and willing and able to sail from the state of Florida. We are the No. 1 destination for people who want to come and take cruises.”

Norwegian, which owns three cruise lines, is the industry’s third-largest operator worldwide behind Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Group. All are based in Miami-Dade County.

A Norwegian spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All of the cruise companies are trying to resume operations under the direction of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after more than a yearlong suspension caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But DeSantis argues that the federal agency is not moving fast enough and the state has sued to stop the agency’s role in a federal court in Tampa.

On Tuesday, a judge heard arguments from Justice Department lawyers who asserted that the state has no authority to dictate how the CDC orchestrates the cruise lines’ return to service.

Lawyers from the state Attorney General’s Office said the CDC has exceeded its authority and should be ordered to allow the companies to start sailing from Florida’s ports, including PortMiami, Broward County’s Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and the Port of Tampa.

DeSantis made it clear Wednesday the state will not budge from the ban.

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The governor added that he received reports that the state’s arguments were “well-received” by the federal judge in Tampa, who has yet to rule on the state’s bid to sideline the CDC.

“We had a great hearing. We think we got our points across,” he said. “We think the judge was receptive. We’ll see what happens.”

“We are challenging the CDC’s authority to do what they’re doing,” Desantis added. “They mothballed the industry for over a year. That was never the intent of anything Congress has ever enacted. That was them exceeding their authority.

“Now they say you can only sail if you have 98% of the passengers that are vaccinated, and ‘oh, by the way, if you’re sunbathing you have to make sure they’re wearing a mask.’ Are you kidding me? That is an absolute farce.”

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