Florida Says: “Time to Cruise” and Files Lawsuit Against CDC
Florida is home to the cruise industry, which was effectively shut down more than a year ago, with sailings having been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To prompt the restart of cruising and remove the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no-sail order, a lawsuit has been filed by the State of Florida in the U.S. District Court in Tampa against the CDC, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services. The suit is petitioning the court to “set aside the CDC’s unlawful actions and hold that cruises should be allowed to operate with reasonable safety protocols.”
Airlines are resuming service, hotels are re-opening, and other means of travel are rebounding. As cruise ships are still idle with no definitive direction on when sailings can resume from U.S. ports, Florida is hoping to give the cruise industry the same opportunity, to restart safely and permanently with health protocols in place. “We don’t believe the federal government has the right to mothball a major industry for over a year based on very little evidence and very little data,” DeSantis said in a news conference at the Port of Miami. “I think we have a good chance for success.”
Florida has staked out a position that is more confrontational than that espoused by the industry. In response to the lawsuit, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the governing body for the cruise industry, said “CLIA is grateful for Governor DeSantis’ support of the cruise community and we appreciate his efforts to restart cruising safely….Tens of thousands of Floridians rely on cruising for their livelihoods, including longshoremen, taxi drivers, travel agents, and tour operators, ports, and numerous suppliers and vendors that make the cruise industry work...Ultimately, the CDC and the entire U.S. cruise community want the same thing -- the responsible resumption of cruising from the U.S. this summer.”
Governor DeSantis, advocating for the economic impact felt by the shore-based businesses in the cruise industry, has taken a more aggressive stance than the lines themselves. When asked about the suit, here is what some of the major Florida based lines had to say:
From Carnival Corp.: “We are aware of the lawsuit and share the sense of urgency of getting Americans back to work. Our focus is trying to work with the CDC on a plan to resume cruise operations this summer.”
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings statement: “As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on third-party litigation. As we’ve outlined in our proposed plan to safely resume cruising, we look forward to partnering with the CDC to engage in meaningful discussions. We believe the time has come for cruising to resume from U.S. ports. Our proposed plan, including 100 percent vaccinations of guests and crew, universal testing, and multi-layered health and safety protocols, is consistent with the CDC’s updated travel guidance.”
Royal Caribbean Group’s response: “We are aware that there are many efforts underway at the state, federal and grassroots levels that can support us as we return to healthy and safe sailing from the United States. Vaccinations layered on top of the rigorous health and safety measures we are implementing enable us to create a safe environment for cruising. We strongly believe that the cruise industry can be part of President Biden’s stated goal for society to reopen by July 4.”
Even in the political sphere, there’s controversy around Florida’s lawsuit. Daniella Levine Cava, Mayor of Miami-Dade, has indicated she does not support the suit and is concerned about the potential for eroding the relationship between the cruise industry, shore-side communities, and the CDC. In a statement, she states: “The tens of thousands of jobs in our community supported by the cruise industry are too important to be jeopardized by politics...We are encouraged by recent conversations with the CDC laying out a roadmap for a safe return to sailing, including recent signs pointing to a hopeful July restart, and will continue our dialogue with the CDC and our industry partners to get cruises back in the water.”
Our Take: General Manager of Cruiseline.com, Jamie Cash, commented “we’re in favor of the industry and regulators doing what’s necessary to ensure a swift, safe, and lasting return to the ocean.” Whether Florida’s actions here advance that goal will take some time to play out, and we’ll continue to report on this story as it develops.
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