Cruise giant Norwegian sues Florida's top surgeon over the state's vaccine passport ban. The ban stops it protecting customers from COVID-19, it said.

Cruise giant Norwegian sues Florida's top surgeon over the state's vaccine passport ban. The ban stops it protecting customers from COVID-19, it said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a COVID-19 vaccine passport ban into law in May. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Cruise giant Norwegian has sued Florida's top surgeon over the state's vaccine passport ban.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) said the ban stopped it from protecting staff and customers.
  • NCLH, which owns Oceania and Regent, wants to verify all passengers are vaccinated, it said.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) has sued Florida's surgeon general over a state law banning companies from demanding that customers show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The $10 billion company - which owns cruise giants Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises - asked the court to grant a preliminary injunction against the ban, per the court filing on Tuesday.

The ban stopped the company from protecting its staff and customers, it said.

NCLH said in the suit, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, that "transmission of information about COVID-19 vaccines" was "a matter of life and death," and that it intended to verify that 100% of its crew and passengers were fully vaccinated once it resumed sailing from August 15.

The ban "inexplicably precludes this business from protecting the health and safety of its employees and customers against the extraordinary backdrop of a deadly pandemic," it said. "NCLH is duty-bound to protect the health and safety of its personnel and passengers, as NCLH can and will by requiring proof of vaccinations"


The company is suing Dr. Scott Rivkees, the Florida's surgeon general, because he has the authority to enforce the ban, it said in the filing.

Read more: Norwegian Cruises' CEO is eyeing acquisitions thanks to an $8 billion war chest raised during the pandemic. Here are the 6 companies it could pick up, per experts

Florida's law, known as the vaccine passport ban, could result in "crushing penalties" of up to $5,000 per passenger, plus state fines, the company said in the filing.

Norwegian's CEO Frank Del Rio had previously threatened to pull NCLH ships from Florida's ports after state Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill in May, according to comments Del Rio made on a company earnings call, per AP.

"Florida has no valid interest in banning NCLH from requiring that willing, desirous passengers provide it with potentially life-saving information about their vaccination status," the company said in Tuesday's filing.


"Every other industry in Florida has safely reopened while still respecting the right of every Floridian to make their own medical choice when it comes to vaccinations," DeSantis' Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told Insider in an emailed statement.

"Apparently Norwegian prefers the shackles of the CDC to the freedom offered by Florida," Pushaw added.

A Florida judge also blocked a request from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to maintain COVID-19 restrictions on Florida cruise ships past July 18, when they are set to become nonbinding guidelines.

In October 2020, the CDC introduced stringent rules for the cruise industry to be able to restart voyages under its Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) - including a requirement that ships can only set sail normally when at least 95% of people on board are fully vaccinated, according to a CSO update in May.

Early in the pandemic, cruise ships served as incubators for the disease, leading to passenger deaths. A CDC no-sail order issued in March 2020 halted cruises and led to record losses for the industry.


NCLH did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.