ORMOND BEACH, Fla. — Calling Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings “not one of the bigger ones,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that if smaller cruise lines want to leave the state because of bans on vaccine requirements, their void will be filled.
Miami-based Norwegian is the third-largest cruise line in the world and has three ports of departure in Florida — Miami, Port Canaveral and Tampa. It also makes stops in Key West. But it hasn't operated in the U.S. since the federal government shut down all cruises last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government is getting ready to let cruises sail again, but only if nearly all passengers and crew are vaccinated against the virus. DeSantis, however, signed a bill banning business from requiring proof of vaccination, prompting Norwegian to say it might move Florida departures to other states or Caribbean ports.
“The major cruise lines, Norwegian's not one of the bigger ones, by the way ... have been operating in other parts of the world where there's no access to vaccine, much less the passengers required" to be vaccinated, DeSantis said during a news conference in Ormand Beach.
DeSantis later said that if one of the smaller cruise lines doesn't want to operate in Florida, “that niche will get filled.”
“We are the number one destination for people who want to come and take cruises,” 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.”
DeSantis is suing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the no-sail order. The CDC is set to let 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.
Norwegian didn't immediately return a call and emails seeking comment.