Celebrity Cruises has a workaround for DeSantis’ passport ban for vaccines, sort of

Tick tac. As cruise lines move full steam ahead with plans to leave U.S. ports this summer, it’s clear they are still working out some not-so-minor details. Admittedly, they are in a very difficult situation when it comes to crossings from Florida, which is home to the three busiest cruise ports in the United States.

For cruise passengers, their impossible mission is to figure out how to follow both the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) – which recommends that 98% of a ship’s crew and 95% of passengers be vaccinated before they travel. go to sea – and avoid violating a Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ highly publicized law which prohibits companies in his state from checking the immunization status of individuals.

the first ship to leave Florida in 15 months is Celebrity Edge, Who go depart Fort Lauderdale on June 26 for a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise. This is just the beginning. By midsummer, nine of the cruise line’s 15 ships will be operating from Florida and other ports.

In a call with travel agents on Tuesday, Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales, business support and service at Celebrity Cruises, explained how Celebrity plans to thread the needle to stay on the safe side of guidelines. of the CDC and Florida law, according to a scoop in the unofficial Royal Caribbean blog, which is not affiliated with the cruise line. Forbes also obtained a recording of the June 8 appeal.

For context, this is the second such call in two weeks where Ritzenthaler presented a possible workaround to travel counselors. Forbes previously obtained a recording of a May 27 call where Ritzenthaler told agents that the DeSantis administration and major cruise lines had discussed a possible exemption from Florida law for cruise lines. A spokesperson for DeSantis denied that the governor had ever considered such an exemption and told reporters that Forbes had Ritzenthaler’s “Misinterpreted” Comments of this call.

Throughout Tuesday’s 46-minute call, Ritzenthaler described the CDC’s guidelines and repeatedly reiterated that 95% of passengers on all Celebrity ships would be fully vaccinated. “We will require full vaccination documentation from all eligible guests,” Ritzenthaler said. “It’s for everyone, but Florida is a little different, okay? “

“Florida – because we honor the government, we honor DeSantis – we will always go out with 100% of our crew and 95% of our guests vaccinated. But in Florida, we won’t ask you to show proof of vaccination because we’re doing it exactly the right way, ”Ritzenthaler said.

“Our President and CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, just prior to this call, said, ‘Dondra, reassure every travel counselor on this call that we will be sailing with 95% of our guests vaccinated,” said Ritzenthaler, who did did not explain in detail how Celebrity would accomplish this feat, except to suggest that instead of checking passenger vaccination records at port on embarkation day, Celebrity would manage the ratio of vaccinated / unvaccinated guests during the process. reservation.

“Guys, the way we’re going to do this is we’re going to handle the navigation, right? She told the hundreds of call agents. “We will make sure to open certain categories of cabins. We are closing certain categories of cabins. We will make sure that 95% of our guests are vaccinated. ”

This would mean that only five percent of a ship’s inventory for any navigation would be made available to unvaccinated passengers.

At the end of the call, Ritzenthaler responded to a question from a travel advisor asking for further clarification on how the cruise line would meet the 95% vaccination threshold. “It’s not something you have to worry about,” Ritzenthaler reiterated. “We will manage this. We have codes, we have, you know, if we’re going to close cabin categories or open cabin categories, we’re going to make sure it’s up to us, not you.

Some cruise industry watchers see these machinations as the unfortunate result of Florida’s politicization of vaccine audits. “Celebrity engages in a convoluted process to avoid appearing to be inquiring about the immunization status of its clients,” said Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer who heads the popular Cruise Law News Blog. “The question here is whether Governor DeSantis will claim that Celebrity violated the intent and the spirit of the law. If he doesn’t, as I think he won’t, it will prove that this was a political coup to appeal to his base.

Forbes contacted a Celebrity Cruises spokesperson for more information and received the following statement: “We are working to finalize our health and safety measures for cruises departing from US ports, including Florida, in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local and state authorities as well than the destinations we visit. We are encouraged by the ongoing dialogue and the health and safety of the crews, guests and the communities we visit remain our top priority. ”

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