Celebrity Cruises Drops COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement, Handing Win to Florida Governor

June 23, 2021 Updated: June 23, 2021

Celebrity Cruises announced it will drop a requirement for passengers to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 for trips departing Florida, essentially handing a political victory for Gov. Ron DeSantis after he mandated that firms cannot implement “vaccine passport”-type systems in his state.

Cruise operators had grappled with DeSantis, a Republican, over his order banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. The firms pointed to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s restrictions on cruises that were published in October when asking DeSantis to rescind his order.

“Guests over 16 years old (over 12 for any sailing on or after August 1st) who decline or are unable to show proof of vaccination at boarding will be treated as unvaccinated and subject to additional protocols, restrictions, and costs for COVID-19 testing,” Celebrity Cruises now says on its website about sailing from Florida.

When departing from other states, “All guests age 16 and above must be fully vaccinated (at least two weeks prior to sail date). As of August 1, 2021, all guests age 12 and older must be fully vaccinated,” according to the firm’s website.

It’s not clear if the move was approved by the CDC. The Epoch Times has contacted the agency for comment.

Epoch Times Photo
In this drone image, the Celebrity Infinity Cruise ship, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, returns to Port Miami from a cruise in the Caribbean as the world deals with the coronavirus outbreak on March 14, 2020. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The development comes after a federal judge this month ruled that the CDC cannot enforce COVID-19-related controls on ships in Florida’s ports.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday wrote in a 124-page decision last week that Florida would be harmed if the CDC order, which the state said effectively blocked most cruises, were to continue.

The Tampa-based judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the CDC from enforcing the order pending further legal action on a broader Florida lawsuit.

“This order finds that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC’s conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to the CDC,” Merryday wrote.

The CDC first flatly halted cruise ships from sailing in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which had affected passengers and crew on numerous ships. Then the CDC on Oct. 30 of last year imposed the aforementioned four-phase conditional framework it said would allow the industry to gradually resume operations if certain thresholds were met.

DeSantis, meanwhile, issued an executive order in April that bars the concept of “vaccine passports” in the state and has argued that they create two classes of people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated. Such systems, he argued, would also violate Floridians’ privacy rights.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.