The first CDC-approved fully vaccinated cruise will sail June 26 from Florida, but the state says it could violate the state's ban on vaccine passports

The first CDC-approved fully vaccinated cruise will sail June 26 from Florida, but the state says it could violate the state's ban on vaccine passports
Celebrity Edge ship
The Celebrity Edge cruise ship. Celebrity Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean's Celebrity Cruises will begin welcoming passengers on June 26 from Florida.

  • This announcement comes after over a year of no cruising from US waters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • However, Celebrity's proof of vaccination policy violates Florida's ban on vaccine passports, the state says.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Brighter days are ahead for a cruise industry that's been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic: Royal Caribbean's Celebrity Cruises will resume sailing next month from Florida, the cruise line announced on Wednesday.

"For the past 15 months our conversations with friends and loved ones about seeing the world have been accompanied by the phrase 'someday,'" Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity Cruises' president and CEO, said in a press release. And now, "someday is here," Lutoff-Perlo tweeted on Wednesday.

Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Edge will begin welcoming passengers from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 26 now that the CDC has "greenlit" the sailing, according to the cruise line. The Edge - which will be the first ship to sail from the US in over a year - will then bring passengers from Florida to the Caribbean on seven-night cruises.

Read more: Carnival and Royal Caribbean salaries revealed: From $32,000 to $383,000, here's how much the cruise industry's power players pay some of their employees

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' office has called Celebrity Cruises' policy "discriminatory"

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Orlando Regional Medical Center in April 2020. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

COVID-19 has rocked the cruise industry since the start of the pandemic. When COVID-19 first began to spread, cruise ships around the world became "superspreaders," leaving passengers infected, dead, or stranded.

Shortly after, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented a sweeping no-sail order, which was later replaced by the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO). And most recently, on May 5, the CDC updated the CSO to include necessary protocols for "simulated voyages." These trial voyages are meant to precede the COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application needed to resume sailing again.

But according to the updated CSO, cruise companies can bypass trial voyages if 95% of both passengers and crew are fully vaccinated.

This includes Celebrity Cruises, which will be requiring proof of vaccination from all crew and passengers over 16 years old. On August 1, this age requirement will drop to 12-years-old, which is consistent with its parent brand Royal Caribbean.

However, one person may be standing in the way of Celebrity's resumption sailing from Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Several major cruise lines - including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian - have already announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates. But in April, DeSantis issued an executive order banning vaccine passports and local businesses, such as cruise lines, from requiring proof of vaccination. And earlier this month, the state passed a new law again barring vaccine passports by July 1.

This now puts Florida on track for a standoff with major cruise lines over COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis' press secretary, says Celebrity's COVID-19 vaccine mandate "violates the spirit" of the executive order and contravenes the state's ban on vaccine passports. Any company that violates the ban could be fined $5,000 for every customer required to show proof of vaccination.

"Companies doing business in Florida, including Celebrity Cruises, should immediately cease to impose such discriminatory policies upon individuals," Pushaw told Insider in an email. "Allowing companies like Celebrity Cruises to require 'vaccine passports' for customers would mean tolerating discrimination by private businesses, which is unacceptable in Florida."

However, Celebrity is "committed" to its sweeping vaccine mandate "as it is a meaningful layer to ensure we make every effort to help keep safe our guests, crew, and the communities we visit," a spokesperson told Insider in an email.

According to the spokesperson, Celebrity Cruises is still working with the CDC and "local authorities in the US and destinations we visit" to "finalize" its safety protocols for cruises departing from the US.

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