The cruise line resumed its operations on Sunday – 18 months after being shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. All guests and staff are now required to be vaccinated.
CEO Frank Del Rio told Yahoo Finance that he wishes that other companies follow Norwegian’s lead and also imposed vaccine mandates. He said the lack of a nationwide vaccine mandate is a leadership failure.
“Our leadership has failed us,” Mr Del Rio said.
“Can you imagine if 700,000 people died of anything other than Covid, the outrage that there would be, what government would do to stop that? And this government, whether we’re talking about local, state or federal — and I’m not talking Republicans, I’m not talking Democrats, I’m talking government,” he added.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has had to go to court to fight state leaders in order to impose their own mandate.
Mr DeSantis banned vaccine passports in April, making companies and other entities unable to enforce vaccine mandates. The cruise line won a battle in federal court to be allowed to use vaccine passports, but the state of Florida is now appealing the decision.
“It’s beyond bizarre. It’s shameful,” Mr Del Rio told Yahoo. “I mean, come on, give it up. This is a pandemic we are talking about, people are dying every day, Florida now is the epicentre of the epicentre. What does it take for common sense to rule?”
The cruise line has also implemented a 74-point protocol to keep both guests and staff safe from the virus, but Mr Del Rio slammed the leadership at both the national and state level.
“Here’s a state that relies on tourism, it’s the number one industry. And the number one priority of any hospitality business is to keep their customers safe,” he said, adding that he was confused by how “the leadership in this country has not stood up to the realities of this pandemic, to require vaccinations”.
“It’s never going to go away, it’s going to become an endemic situation,” Mr Del Rio said of Covid-19. “Society has learned to live with this virus.”
In an email to The Independent, Mr DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw said: “Vaccines have been shown to protect most vaccinated people from severe illness and death. Vaccines do not prevent vaccinated people from contracting and spreading COVID-19.
“There is no scientific or logical argument for vaccine passports. The fact that an individual shows proof of immunization does not mean that an individual cannot spread COVID-19,” she added. “Moreover, vaccine passport requirements do not acknowledge the reality of infection-conferred immunity … The law prohibiting vaccine passports does not stop any company from taking other measures to protect public health, such as testing.”