Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. CEO Frank Del Rio did not mince words when it came to his thoughts on the recent battle between his company and the state of Florida. In an interview with Yahoo! Finance, he called the fight “shameful.”
For months, Norwegian has battled with the Florida government regarding vaccine requirements. The company wants to sail with 100% of passengers and crew vaccinated. However, state law says that businesses can’t require proof of the shot.
Months ago, Del Rio even brought up the possibility of his company’s ships leaving Florida if things went that far. Most recently, the company instead filed suit against the state’s Surgeon General, seeking a ruling that would allow its cruises to require vaccination to sail.
Just days ago a federal judge sided with the cruise company, granting an emergency injunction that allowed NCL’s first ship to sail from Florida this past weekend while requiring proof of vaccination from passengers.
Del Rio was asked about his thoughts on the recent battle between the cruise company and the state in an interview:
Yahoo! Finance’s Brian Sozzi: Do you find it bizarre that you’ve had to fight Governor DeSantis and his administration in Florida to keep people healthy on your ships?
Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio: It’s beyond bizarre, Brian. It’s shameful. Here is a state that relies on tourism as its number one industry, and the number one priority of any hospitality business is to keep their customers safe.
And you would expect that government again would do everything possible to support that. Instead we had to go to court. And not only we went to court, and we won — and we won handedly — if you read the 59-page opinion by Judge Williams.
But now the state is appealing that ruling. They want to fight us again. I mean, come on. Give it up! This is a pandemic we’re talking about. People are dying every day. Florida now is the epicenter of the epicenter. What’s it take for common sense to rule? What does it take?
However, Del Rio’s criticism wasn’t just directed at a single person or administration. In the interview he also had harsh words for all levels of government during the health crisis.
“Our leadership has failed us,” Del Rio said, while specifically mentioning local, state, and federal levels.
“There’s a pandemic going on in this world. And how the leadership in this country has not stood up to the realities of this pandemic, to require vaccinations is beyond me. Can you imagine if 700,000 people in this country died of anything other than COVID? The outrage that there would be? What government would do to stop that?”
He then went on to vow that he would not fail Norwegian’s customers of crew. “We’re doing the right thing, and we hope others follow,” he said.
So far, other cruise lines have largely required vaccines for cruises outside of Florida, but not at the 100% rate required by Norwegian. Ships for Carnival sail with at least 95% of passengers vaccinated. Exemptions are allowed for a small number of passengers ineligible for the shot. Royal Caribbean requires the shot for passengers 12 and older.
In Florida, cruise lines have mostly opted for strongly recommending vaccination and implementing expensive testing fees and travel insurance requirements to sail unvaccinated.
Norwegian Gem, which departed Miami on August 15, marked the first ship to sail from Florida with 100% of passengers vaccinated, thanks to Norwegian’s courtroom victory.
The company plans to have all its fleet back sailing by April 2022.