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Major cruise ship company may avoid Florida if state doesn't permit Covid-19 vaccination checks, CEO says

(CNN) — Florida's new law prohibiting businesses from asking whether employees or customers have been vaccinated against Covid-19 may take a toll on its cruise business.

The CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. said Thursday it could cause the company to suspend Florida departures and move its ships elsewhere.

"At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and God forbid we can't operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from, and we can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida," CEO Frank Del Rio said during the company's quarterly earnings call.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive last month banning the use of Covid-19 passports in the state. The order prohibited any government entity from issuing vaccine passports and blocks businesses from requiring any such documentation. Senate Bill 2006 was signed into law Monday making that executive order official.

"In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision," DeSantis said.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it will not allow cruise lines to resume normal operations unless at least 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers have been vaccinated.

Del Rio says he hopes the CDC mandate will override the governor's action when it comes to the cruise industry.

"It is a classic state versus federal government issue," said Del Rio. "Lawyers believe that federal law applies." He added that the company has been in talks with the governor's office but did not specify what was discussed.

DeSantis had earlier cited freedom and privacy concerns as the primary basis for his executive order, arguing that the implementation and enforcement of vaccine passports would "create two classes of citizens based on vaccinations."

His order had noted that many Floridians have not yet had the opportunity to obtain a vaccine, while some may have infection-acquired immunity, and other people may be unable to get a Covid-19 vaccine because of health, religious or other reasons.

"Individual Covid-19 vaccination records are private health information and should not be shared by a mandate," DeSantis' executive order had read.

But, Del Rio's company plans to stick to the CDC's vaccination guidelines. "At least in the beginning, 100% of our guests and our crew will be vaccinated," Del Rio said. "I think everyone should be wanting to start cruising in the safest possible manner."

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. operates three cruise lines: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Representatives for the company and DeSantis did not immediately return messages from CNN for comment on Thursday night.

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