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Texas Bans Vaccine Passports, Challenging Cruise Restart Plans

Texas bans vaccine passports challenging cruise lines
Carnival Cruise Line docked two cruise ships in Galveston last month preparing for the restart (Carnival Cruise Line)

Published Jun 9, 2021 4:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

With the legal case challenging the Centers for Disease Control’s restrictions on cruises sailing from U.S. ports due to go in front of a federal judge, Texas further complicated the situation by joining Florida in banning businesses from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations. The action goes against the CDC, which provided looser restrictions for cruise ships that have 95 percent of passengers and crew fully vaccinated and is accelerating the return for service for ships that require passengers to be vaccinated.

“Texas is open 100 percent,” Tweeted Governor Gregg Abbott on the evening of June 7. “Texans should have the freedom to go where they want without any limits, restrictions, or requirements. Today, I signed a law that prohibits any TX business or gov’t entity from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine information.”

 

 

The governor was expanding on a previous order that had barred state offices and agencies from requesting vaccination status information in order to provide services. The governor’s broader order rescinding the state-wide COVID-19 related restrictions, however, contains language saying “it does not preclude businesses and other establishments from requiring employees and customers to follow additional hygiene measures, including the wearing of a face covering.”

Texas’ action came the same day as Carnival Cruise Line said it would resume sailing with two cruise ships from Galveston in July, requiring all passengers to be vaccinated. Explaining the decision, Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said, “the current CDC requirements for cruising with a guest base that is unvaccinated will make it very difficult to deliver the experience our guests expect, especially given the large number of families with younger children who sail with us.  As a result, our alternative is to operate our ships from the U.S. during the month of July with vaccinated guests.”

Challenge by why he would permit the cruise line to require proof of vaccination from its passengers, Governor Abbott responded, “Texas is open 100 percent without any restrictions or limitations or requirements.”

Florida’s similar law also imposes a $5,000 penalty on any business that requests proof of vaccination. The cruise lines had quietly floated the idea that the cruise industry would receive an exemption on the grounds that the passengers were only passing through Florida while boarding their cruises and not staying in the state. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis firmly refuted the idea using it as an opportunity to again criticize the CDC’s actions and the economic harm it is causing Florida. Texas and Alaska both joined Florida in its lawsuit seeking to void the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order and framework to restart cruises from U.S. ports. The federal judge on June 10 will hear arguments on Florida’s motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the CDC.

Several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises, have announced plans to resume cruises during the summer without a vaccine requirement. Royal Caribbean plans to sail from both Florida and Texas starting in July, while its Celebrity Cruises brand is moving forward to start cruises from Port Everglades with a vaccination requirement. Carnival Cruise Line said that it remained in discussions with Florida and the CDC and would update its plans for cruises from Florida by the end of this week.