If Florida wins this lawsuit, it could spell the end to Alaska cruises this summer

Jun 2, 2021

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A Florida win in a lawsuit aimed at speeding the return of cruising in Florida could have the unintended consequence of bringing an end to big-ship cruising in Alaska for the year.

At least, that’s the argument that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put forward today in a filing with the U.S. District Court handling the case.

The CDC, which is a defendant in the Florida lawsuit, suggested in the filing that a Florida win in the case would force every major cruise line that recently announced plans to restart cruises in Alaska this summer to cancel those plans.

A court ruling in favor of Florida “would … end cruising in Alaska for the season,” federal attorneys representing the CDC wrote.

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The attorneys noted that the restart to Alaska cruises that cruise lines have announced in recent weeks is dependent on a recent law signed by President Joe Biden that only is effective if a Conditional Sailing Order issued by the CDC remains in effect.

Issued in October, the Conditional Sailing Order sets rules and guidelines for cruise lines that want to resume sailings in U.S. waters.

Florida’s lawsuit, pushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is seeking to have the Conditional Sailing Order deemed unlawful. If that happens, the federal attorneys are arguing that cruising in Alaska this summer cannot proceed.

The law signed by President Biden — the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act — temporarily permits “covered cruise ships” to sail in Alaska this summer, where a “covered cruise ship” is defined as one that “has been issued, operates in accordance with and retains a COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate of the CDC” and operates in accordance with that certificate, the CDC noted in its filing.

In other words, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act only allows for a cruising restart in Alaska this summer if the ships involved get a Conditional Sailing Certificate from the CDC. If the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order is deemed unlawful, that won’t be happening.

The judge in the case, Steven Merryday, heard arguments from attorneys for the CDC and Florida on May 12 and ordered them to try to come up with a resolution out of court through mediation.

The CDC has blocked nearly all cruise vessels from sailing in Alaska since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic in March of 2020. The only cruise vessels that have been able to operate in Alaska this year are those that carry fewer than 250 passengers and crew. Such vessels are exempt from CDC regulation.

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Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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