PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday urged the federal government and top health officials to lift an ongoing no-sail order by June to get the Sunshine State's "crippled" cruise ship industry back on track.
"We need to be able to get these cruise lines operating again," DeSantis said during a roundtable discusssion with cruise industry leaders at Port Canaveral. "In Florida, we have everything going on except the cruise lines because the federal government won't let the cruise lines sail."
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first issued its no-sail order at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 following coronavirus outbreaks on several ships.
The order, which has been extended until Nov. 1, prevents cruise ships from allowing passengers to embark and disembark from all U.S. ports.
"Cruise ship operators shall not commence or continue operations ... except as approved by USCG, in consultation with HHS/CDC personnel, until further notice," the order states.
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Despite the order, a number of cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have announced they're resuming sailings from international ports like The Bahamas and Bermuda. However, all passengers 18 and older must be vaccinated before boarding.
"You say they can't sail in the United States. People are still gonna be taking cruises," DeSantis said. "You'll have people fly to the Bahamas. They'll be sailing from the Bahamas. They'll be sailing from other places."
The governor would like to see U.S. sailings resume sometime over the summer, no later than the end of June, saying the no-sail order is costing Florida ports millions of dollars and countless jobs.
"The jobs are very, very important, and it's not just people that work for the cruise industry," DeSantis said. "This has a ripple effect throughout all kinds of small businesses, mom-and-pop operations, that service the cruise industry."
That timeline was echoed by Christine Duffy, the president of Carnival Cruise Line, which operates in 14 U.S. ports, the majority of which are in Florida.
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"Airlines, hotels, resorts, every part of the travel and tourism sector is preparing for summer travel," Duffy said. "Our ships are ready."
Earlier this month, DeSantis asked the Florida Legislature to approve $260 million from Florida's federal stimulus funding allotment to support sea ports throughout the Sunshine State.
"This money will help support, but it's not gonna be enough if we can't get the ships to sail," DeSantis said.
The CDC began taking steps to restart the cruise industry back in October when it issued a modified no-sail order that sets guidelines for how cruise lines test and screen crew members for COVID-19.
Earlier this week, the president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association urged the CDC to lift the no-sail order and "allow for the planning of a phased resumption of cruise operations from U.S. ports by the beginning of July."
The governor said that in addition to appealing to the CDC, he and Attorney General Ashley Moody have been discussing potential legal options as well.
"What we need is a way forward," DeSantis said. "We'll put a lot of people back to work in this state if we're able to do it."
"We need the time to be able to sail," Duffy said. "If we want to sail in June, we need to have some movement in the next couple of weeks."
DeSantis announced Thursday that all Floridians ages 18 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting on April 5, and all state residents 40 and older will be eligible on March 29.