Cruises work around Florida law with separate areas for unvaccinated people

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This story came out a while ago but I’m just reading about it now and it was news to me. We’ve heard that Norwegian Cruise Lines is suing the state of Florida for their governor Ron DeSantis’s murderous laws prohibiting businesses from requiring customers to be vaccinated. Cruise lines want to make sure they can begin sailing again and so they’ve developed a workaround for cruises out of Florida. They’re placing passengers over 16 who either haven’t been vaccinated or who refuse to disclose their vaccinated status into separate areas and blocking their access to certain excursions and indoor activities. These unvaccinated passengers are also required to pay extra for several coronavirus tests throughout their trip. Of course these people are complaining about it. Oh well. Here’s more, from Bloomberg news.

Royal Caribbean’s 4,275-passenger Freedom of the Seas has restarted sailings from Miami to the Bahamas with two classes of passengers on board—those who’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19, and those who have not. Jabbed guests, identified with special wristbands, get full run of the ship; those unprotected from the virus won’t even be able to walk into the sushi bar, casino, or spa.

Freedom is the first ship to depart the U.S. without a vaccination requirement, and it’s also the first to depart from the nation’s cruise capital of Miami. For all the city’s influence on the cruising industry, it’s also proved to be a difficult place to restart business, given that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has barred businesses from requiring vaccine cards.

“The cruise experience benefits from being impromptu,” says Jukka Laitamaki, a tourism marketing expert and professor at the NYU School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality. Cruisers are typically free to hang out where they want, do what they want to do, and make friends. But unvaccinated cruisers on Freedom will find much of that restricted.

“It is the cruise lines’ worst nightmare to have to have separate areas for the vaccinated and unvaccinated,” Laitamaki says.

Royal Caribbean’s list of restrictions for Freedom, issued in mid-June, is a long one. It applies to all sailings on the ship in July—and likely to four other ships the line plans to launch from Florida this summer, with capacities of up to 6,680 passengers.

Those with a hole punched in their SeaPass—indicating that they haven’t been jabbed or declined to show a vaccine card—will be segregated to one deck of the main dining room and will be banned from some of the better, more intimate for-a-fee dining venues. (That includes families with unvaccinated kids, too, so long as they’re sticking together.) Off limits will be the popular maritime-themed Schooner Bar pub and Viking Crown nightclub, the casino, art auctions, and the indoor Solarium pool and bar. Gatherings such as the 1970s-themed party will be open only to vaccinated guests. If you aren’t immunized and want to see a show, you’ll sit in a segregated area in the back of the theater. And you can only use the gym during specified hours.

At least for now, mask wearing is required indoors (but not outdoors) of everyone on board Freedom when not eating or drinking—though some venues that are only open to vaccinated guests will be able to nix the rule.

The trip will cost more for unvaccinated guests, too. Anyone over the age of 12 who doesn’t voluntarily show proof of vaccine will have to provide a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken within three days of departure. They’ll also have to pay for a second test at the pier and a third upon disembarking on the last day—totaling $136 or $178 per person, depending on the sailing.

[From Bloomberg]

Royal also makes unvaccinated passengers get travel insurance. In their first cruise, just 7% of the passengers were not vaccinated and most were children. I wish the cruise lines could restrict passengers to only those who are vaccinated and their children, but until then this sounds like a sensible workaround. If people want to cruise again they should get vaccinated. There is a very easy workaround to this and yet these people are still going on cruise ships, vectors of diseases and viruses, without being vaccinated.

Meanwhile legal experts say that businesses do have the right to ask customers and especially workers their vaccination status. There’s a meme which claims HIPAA prevents this but it’s not true, HIPAA doesn’t apply to vaccination status. USA Today writes “Businesses can ask patrons and employees whether they have been vaccinated. And people can then choose whether they want to answer or forego that service.” Exactly. I also hope this means that DeSantis gets smacked down by a judge.

— Alex Cole (@acnewsitics) July 20, 2021

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