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DeSantis: Florida Will Fill Void If Norwegian Moves Cruises

Ron DeSantis
DeSantis: “These cruise lines are ready to go — Royal Caribbean, Carnival — they want to go, they’re going to be able to do it. We’re ready.”

The governor said Norwegian is not "one of the bigger" cruise lines and that other people are "itching to do business" in the state.

Saying Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is “not one of the bigger” cruise lines, Gov. Ron DeSantis said if it wants to leave the state over a new Florida law banning COVID-19 “passports,” the void will be filled.

Norwegian’s CEO has said the company might move departures out of Florida over the law, which prohibits businesses from asking for proof of coronavirus vaccinations.

If one of the smaller cruise lines doesn’t want to operate in Florida, the governor said “that niche will get filled,” noting Florida is the “No. 1 destination for people who want to come and take cruises.”

"We have a whole bunch of people who are itching to do business in the state of Florida," he said Thursday at a news conference in Ormond Beach.

Miami-based Norwegian is the third largest cruise line in the world and has ports of departure in Miami, Port Canaveral and Tampa. It also makes stops in Key West.

In an effort to get the cruise business moving, the state is suing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over a federal no-sail order issued during the pandemic.

"We are challenging the CDC's authority to do what they're doing,” DeSantis said. “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."

Arguments in the case were heard this week in U.S. District Court in Tampa, but the judge has not yet made a ruling.

“We had a great hearing. I think, by and large, the reports I heard in federal court,” DeSantis said. "We think we got our points across. We think the judge was receptive."

Recently, the CDC issued a conditional order to allow cruises sail again if 98% of the crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated and ships take other measures to limit the risk of transmitting the virus.

“The major … cruise lines have been operating in other parts of the world where there's no access to vaccine, much less the passengers required. And in areas where COVID is more prevalent than it is in the United States right now," DeSantis said.

“These cruise lines are ready to go — Royal Caribbean, Carnival — they want to go, they’re going to be able to do it. We’re ready.”

Information from the Associated Press and The Florida Channel was used in this report.

I’m the online producer for Health News Florida, a collaboration of public radio stations and NPR that delivers news about health care issues.
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