TAMPA, Fla. — Florida’s lawsuit over the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order for cruise lines went before a judge in federal court in Tampa Wednesday.
The state argues that the Conditional Sailing Order goes above and beyond the scope of the CDC, but the CDC pushed back. The CDC says they’ve outlined a plan to return to cruising, and that it’s entirely within the cruise line industry's hands to be able to set sail.
That Conditional Sailing Order would require cruise lines to either operate a simulated test voyage carrying volunteer passengers, or in order to bypass that, it would require 98 percent of crew and 95 percent of passengers to be fully vaccinated on the ship. The state argues this Conditional Sailing Order should be disposed of altogether; instead, arguing the industry has the ability to regulate themselves via the Healthy Sail Panel plan.
The CEO of Port Canaveral was watching the hearing. He said the people of Port Canaveral need to get back to work. He says Port Canaveral has lost $83 million of revenue just during the first 12 months of the pandemic. He argues that cruises can safely set sail and that the CDC’s orders are inconsistent.
“I can get in an Uber, go to the airport, change planes in Atlanta, fly to Las Vegas, go to a casino, play the tables every day, eat in the restaurants every day, never leave the hotel, get back on a plane, take another flight to Atlanta, get home, take another Uber, what’s the difference in that and going on a cruise ship, except that cruise ship’s a contained bubble. Everybody’s been tested before getting on,” said John Murray, CEO of Port Canaveral.
And another man who watched the hearing, an avid cruiser who flew in from Texas, argues the CDC’s order is impacting not just the cruise line industry, but regular people like him, too.
“I just laid out $12,000 for a family cruise that I actually had to reserve prior to COVID. The problem is, I had to put up a huge deposit to get the primo cabins, that sort of thing. The problem is, the cruise line wants you to fully pay for it before they’ll cancel. They’ve got a deadline. You lose your deposit if you don’t,” said Mark Young, who actually sued the CDC himself in June of 2020 over the No Sail Order that was in place at that time. That suit was dismissed.
On the other hand the CDC argues they’ve laid out a return to cruise plan and they argue that the fate of the cruise line industry is entirely within their hands, so long as they meet the guidelines.
The judge in this case did state the question, at what point does the CDC’s timeline for it’s orders become unreasonable?
That’s something he’ll mull over as he makes his ruling, and he says that he’ll do that as quickly as possible.