UPDATE: Court Sides with Florida in Suit Against CDC’s Protocols for the Cruise Industry

Cruise ships docked at Port Everglades in Florida. - Photo by Canva

(UPDATED: JULY 26, 2021) On Friday, July 23, a federal appeals court reversed its ruling and let stand a lower court order prohibiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from enforcing coronavirus-related cruise ship rules in Florida. This decision is a win for the State of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis, over its ongoing legislation against the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order and how it is enforced in the state for cruise ships.  

According to a report by Reuters, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's office said the state is pleased the appeals court has lifted "the prior order allowing the preliminary injunction to be in place."

On July 17, a panel of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 2-1, to stay an order issued in June by Florida blocking the CDC’s Conditional Order. Friday’s reversal will now supersede this order and reverse this decision. 

Back in April Governor DeSantis filed a suit against the CDC which petitioned the court to, “set aside the CDC’s unlawful actions and hold that cruises should be allowed to operate with reasonable safety protocols.” In June, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sided in favor of Gov. DeSantis with a 124-page decision that stated how Florida would be harmed if the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order continues. Judge Merryday granted a preliminary injunction that prevented the CDC from enforcing the CSO, thus allowing cruise ships sailing from Florida to be exempt from these protocols. 

Cruise ship operations have resumed sailing from the U.S., with ships at varying levels of approvals by the CDC to sail with paying guests. Under the conditional sailing order, cruise lines that can ensure at least 95% of passengers and nearly all crew were vaccinated can bypass simulated voyages and move more quickly to resuming commercial trips.

Read More: When Will Cruise Lines Sail Again

The first ship to resume out of Florida was Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge which resumed sailing from Fort Lauderdale on June 26, 2021, with 95% vaccinated guests and crew. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Horizon and Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas resumed passenger operations sailing from Florida ports after approvals on their test cruises from the CDC, allowing them to sail carrying unvaccinated and vaccinated guests with restrictions. 

What does this mean if I have a cruise booked sailing from Florida?

If you are already booked on a cruise from Florida, it's likely this decision will not change much at this moment. Across the board, cruise lines are continually shifting their policies to follow CDC and local guidelines. We recommend before cruising keeping in close touch with your cruise line as well as your travel advisor to ensure you are up to date with all health and safety protocol procedures before getting onboard. 

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