It’s Florida’s Governor Rick DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody against the CDC in federal court today. The decision from the U.S. District Judge will be massive for the cruise industry, and not just for Florida, as both Alaska and Texas joined the lawsuit in recent weeks.
Although there has been the usual legal-speak lately, the fact of the matter is that a favorable decision from the judge could mean we could see a far more favorable and speedy return to sailing.
Florida’s Cruise Ports Have Sat Empty for More Than a Year
AG Ashley Moody reiterated the point made so often by her and Governor DeSantis that Florida’s ports have been empty for far too long now. The three largest cruise ports globally, PortMiami, Port Canaveral, and Ft Lauderdale, typically see dozens of cruise ships coming and going each day. These ships provide a significant benefit to the local economy, providing jobs and billions in income each year.
Due to the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order (CSO), the time these ports sit empty is taking longer and longer. The CDC has made it clear they will not be deviating from the CSO. The order applies to any cruise ship that either operates in or plans to operate in U.S. waters.
In the meantime, other countries have allowed cruises to take place, in some cases since the end of July last year. Something AG Moody mentioned in a press briefing before the landmark lawsuit:
“Cruises are operating in other countries, and they’re doing so with little to no spread of the virus. We can do that in the United States. To think otherwise is putting the priority of other countries ahead of the United States.”
What is in the Lawsuit?
Attorney General Moody is looking for a preliminary injunction to block all the restrictions on the cruise ship industry.
The lawsuit against the federal government and the CDC calls the CSO “arbitrary and capricious” and asks the judge to “set aside the CDC’s unlawful actions and hold that cruises should be allowed to operate with reasonable safety protocols.”
For now, the CSO remains in place until November 1, 2021. With many cruise lines hoping to start operating in the middle of July, an injunction would be a welcome step for the cruise lines.
Governor DeSantis called out the CDC a few weeks:
“We have one of our major industries that has been idled by the federal government for over a year, the cruise-line industry, we need to get these cruise lines operating again.”
Support has been growing for the lawsuit in recent weeks. This has been the case in particular since the CDC released a new set of regulations it calls phase 2B and 3.
These regulations have been widely received with disbelief and anger from the cruise lines, while other states with major stakes in the cruise industry have recently joined the DeSantis lawsuit. Texas has joined after Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a motion:
“The pandemic showed us that the need for stable and predictable law has never been greater. Government policy should not have the ability to destroy industries and eliminate workforces with the stroke of a pen, the cruise industry needs clearly defined expectations for safe operations and protection from baseless COVID-related claims while the country is reaching new vaccination records.”
While there has been mention of cruise lines requiring passengers to be vaccinated, Gov. Ron Desantis banned “vaccine passports” in Florida. Moody said she’s not involved with that right now, instead she is focusing on the first step which is getting cruise restrictions lifted. Once that stage has been achieved, she’ll focus on how they’ll operate.
Where this will lead, we will hopefully know soon. If anything, the lawsuit will tell the CDC to give the cruise lines the same freedoms and rights given to casinos, amusement parks, and more sectors of the hospitality industry.