It almost seems like a case of deja vu for cruise lines eager to get back to sailing. Another major state is taking a stand on cruise lines requiring vaccinations to sail, thereby potentially slowing a return of trips from the United States.
This time Texas — home to the Port of Galveston — is set to pass a law prohibiting businesses in the state from requiring proof of vaccination. And that news is making headlines the same day that Carnival said they plan to sail from the state with fully-vaccinated cruises.
A similar law is on the books in Florida, which has caused Norwegian Cruise Line to mention the potential of sailing from somewhere else. Other lines currently plan to sail from Florida with fully-vaccinated sailings, but it’s not clear how they will be able to do so given the law.
Texas Looks to Follow Florida in Banning Proof of Shot
In a tweet today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott responded to a user asking why Carnival is going to sail out of Galveston with a fully-vaccinated cruise when lines aren’t allowed to ask for proof of a shot in Florida.
Abbott responded that he was signing a law today that prohibits businesses in Texas from requiring vaccine information from customers:
I’m signing a law today that prohibits any business operating in Texas from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine information.
Texas is open 100% without any restrictions or limitations or requirements. https://t.co/ukPxNQ2pAt
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 7, 2021
The law in question is S.B. 968, which covers a number of issues regarding the pandemic and public health. Within the bill is language that expressly prohibits businesses from asking for proof of vaccination:
(c) A business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer ’s COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business. A business that fails to comply with this subsection is not eligible to receive a grant or enter into a contract payable with state funds.
(d) Notwithstanding any other law, each appropriate state agency shall ensure that businesses in this state comply with Subsection (c) and may require compliance with that subsection as a condition for a license, permit, or other state authorization necessary for conducting business in this state.
What’s not clear is if this will have any impact on cruise lines like Carnival.
The language says businesses that don’t comply can’t receive a grant or contract paid with state funds. That shouldn’t affect cruise companies. However, it also says that state agencies may require compliance to get a license, permit, or state authorization for the business. Might that cause a bigger issue?
Carnival’s Fully-Vaccinated Cruises From Galveston
This potential hurdle comes at a bad time for Carnival. This morning the line announced that it is adjusting sailings aboard Carnival Vista and Breeze to allow only fully-vaccinated passengers for now.
“These cruises are available for guests who have received their final dose of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination, in accordance with current guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” a press release said.
Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president also explained that given the difficulty in returning to sailing with both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests (such as children), the line was opting to require the shot of everyone onboard for the month of July.
Carnival currently plans to sail from Galveston on July 3, which would mark its first U.S. cruise since the health crisis started.
Easier CDC Rules for Return With Vaccinated Cruises
When requiring the shot of all passengers and crew, the CDC gives cruise lines an easier path to return, along with a more “normal” experience for passengers once aboard.
With fully-vaccinated sailings, cruise lines can skip simulated test cruises. These trips are required only if ships plan to sail with unvaccinated passengers, giving the line and the health agency a chance to make sure health protocols are working properly before paying passengers can board.
In addition, the CDC has loosened rules greatly for passengers on vaccinated cruises. Things like masks and social distancing are largely up to the cruise line and passengers don’t have to undergo testing before boarding (if the cruise line decides).
Again, it is yet to be seen if this bill being signed by the governor will slow the return of sailing from Texas.
It’s possible that plans to sail again would have to be delayed until a simulated voyage is conducted, possibly adding more time to a return in what has already been a long wait for eager cruise passengers. Or they might be largely unaffected given the language of the law.
Either way, it’s one more hurdle that cruise lines didn’t need.