By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Disney Cruise Line on Tuesday joined other lines that dock in Florida in planning to require COVID-19 vaccinations for most passengers ages 12 or older traveling to the Bahamas.
The announcement came after Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis last week said cruise ships will only be allowed to enter ports, including those on private islands used by cruise lines, if all crew members and passengers eligible for vaccines have been fully vaccinated.
Minnis’ order runs from Sept. 3 to Nov. 1.
Exceptions will be made for adults with medical conditions that prohibit being vaccinated.
The ships Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream sail from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas.
“Guests must provide proof of vaccination by uploading their vaccination card to the Safe Passage by Inspire website no later than 24 hours before their sailing,” Disney Cruise Line said on its website Tuesday. “Guests who choose not to provide proof of vaccination to meet the requirements of The Bahamas will not be permitted to board the ship.”
Disney will require passengers under age 12 — who are not eligible to be vaccinated — to provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests taken within a week of the sail dates and to take second tests prior to boarding.
The company will allow passengers who have purchased tickets for cruises to the Bahamas during the period covered by Minnis’ order to change or cancel plans without “Disney-imposed cancellation fees.”
Carnival Cruise Line made a similar decision on Sunday. Celebrity and Royal Caribbean cruise lines also announced such moves shortly after the order from the Bahamas.
“Effective Aug. 28 through October, for departures from all Atlantic and Gulf homeports, only children under 12 and adults with a medical condition that prohibits their vaccination are exempt from vaccination requirements to sail,” Carnival said Sunday. “Carnival is advising guests of this update, and any guests that have received an exemption applicable through October have been informed of this change and that exemptions beyond these two categories are rescinded.”
Carnival, like other cruise lines, was following a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline of having 95 percent of passengers vaccinated.
The announcements came as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration continues to battle in court with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings over whether the company should be able to require passengers to show documentation that they have been vaccinated — an issue known as requiring “vaccine passports.”
DeSantis signed a law this spring to prevent businesses, including cruise lines, from requiring vaccine passports. But Norwegian filed a lawsuit challenging the ban, as it wanted to require passengers to prove they have been vaccinated.
A federal district judge this month sided with Norwegian and granted a preliminary injunction against the ban. The state has challenged that ruling at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Appearing on Yahoo Finance last week, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings President and CEO Frank Del Rio called it “beyond bizarre” and “shameful” that his company has had to fight DeSantis to keep people healthy.
“Here’s a state that relies on tourism. It’s his number one industry. And the number one priority of any hospitality business is to keep their customers safe. I mean, that’s de rigueur,” Del Rio said. “You would expect that that government, again, would do everything possible to support that. Instead, we had to go to court.”
Minnis’ order will require the captain or master of any cruise ship to provide “a crew and passenger manifest to the port medical officer” to receive permission to enter a Bahamas port, including a private stop.