Let cruise ships sail again, DeSantis demands in lawsuit against CDC

Port Canaveral’s CEO said Thursday that he supports Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to sue the federal government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an effort to allow cruise ships to resume sailing from Florida’s seaports.

"It’s time to start making noise," Capt. John Murray told Fox 35. "I appreciate our Governor and Attorney General (Ashley Moody). It’s time to do something to get them to react because they seem to be failing to react in every way possible."

At a news conference in PortMiami, DeSantis said the lawsuit against the CDC, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Biden Administration is in response to a CDC no-sail order issued more than a year ago at the start of the pandemic that bans passenger-carrying cruise ships from leaving ports. That order was replaced in October by a conditional sail order that requires major cruise lines to follow numerous CDC guidelines before ships can sail again.

On April 2, the CDC announced that vaccinated people could travel safely in the U.S. without quarantining or testing, but issued new conditions for cruise lines that didn’t include a timetable for restarting cruises.

DeSantis said the CDC’s ban is outdated due to the development of COVID-19 vaccines and is sinking an industry that generates billions of dollars and employs tens of thousands of Floridians.

“We don't believe the federal government has the right to mothball a major industry for over a year based on very little evidence and very little data,” said DeSantis, who first hinted at legal action against the government during a March 26 roundtable at Port Canaveral’s Cruise Terminal 3.

DeSantis noted that the ban is costing the state business by forcing Americans to fly to ports in Europe or the Caribbean. This week, Norwegian Cruise Line, which operated cruises from Port Canaveral before the pandemic, said it plans to resume sailings in July from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, bypassing U.S. ports.

The shutdown has cost Port Canaveral, the second-busiest cruise port in the world, some $87.6 million in cruise-related revenue between March 2020 and February 2021. With cruises and cruise-related parking accounting for nearly 80 percent of its revenue, the Port was forced to cut nearly half of its workforce.

In March, DeSantis recommended that the Florida Legislature provide Florida’s seaports with nearly $260 million in relief funds from the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Murray said even if the lawsuit succeeds in getting cruises restarted, the cruise industry would need about three to four months to have ships crewed and ready to sail again.

This week, Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line, which operate from Port Canaveral, all extended their cruise cancellations through June.