Florida may sue CDC over its cruise industry ‘conditional sailing order’

Mar 29, 2021

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a beef with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He says if the CDC doesn’t lift its “conditional sailing order” on cruise ships soon, allowing them to resume sailing out of U.S. ports this summer, his state will sue the government entity.

He made this assertion on Friday March 26 at Port Canaveral as he gathered with cruise industry executives from major lines, including Carnival, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean.

Ashley Moody, Florida’s attorney general, was also in attendance and is said to be exploring the state’s legal options in terms of launching a lawsuit against the CDC if it doesn’t allow the resumption of cruise-ship sailing this summer out of U.S. ports.

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DeSantis has a vested interest in the cruise industry since major homeports — such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and others — are based in the state. If you’ve ever sailed to the Bahamas, Caribbean or Mexico, you probably embarked from one of those ports. Millions of travelers pass through Florida’s ports each year with the sole purpose of boarding a cruise ship.

In October, the CDC relaxed its “no sail order” on the cruise industry and replaced it with a conditional sailing order. The order comprises several benchmarks the cruise lines must hit before resuming cruise operations that call on U.S. ports.

That’s why in recent days, several cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Crystal Cruises, have each announced plans to sail out of Bahamian and Caribbean ports this summer.

The conditional sail order is 40 pages long and outlines exactly what cruise lines need to do before welcoming passengers in the U.S. The three major steps include:

  • providing a plan that will keep ships’ crews safe and healthy
  • conducting a “simulated voyage” to test the ability of the cruise line to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 on its ships
  • certification that ships meet all the requirements in the conditional sail order

At the time the order was announced, the CDC said it “will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew members while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers.”

Related: CDC warns Americans not to travel

However, given the fast pace of vaccinations in the United States — as well as a ramp-up in COVID-19 testing capacity on land — some bystanders, including Gov. DeSantis, wonder if some of the tentpoles in the conditional sail order are now outdated.

The CDC has not released any comments regarding Gov. DeSantis’ threat to launch a lawsuit if it doesn’t allow cruise lines to resume sailing from U.S. ports this summer.

Featured image of Norwegian Epic at PortMiami courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

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