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Florida to Sue CDC to Allow Cruises to Resume U.S. Sailings, Industry Asks to Be Treated Like Airlines

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  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday the state will file a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demanding cruise ships be allowed to resume sailing immediately.
  • Royal Caribbean announced Thursday that it will extend the suspension of some of its trips leaving from U.S. ports.
  • Disney Cruise Line will also be suspending its U.S. trips through June.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that the state will file a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demanding cruise ships be allowed to resume sailing immediately.

"On behalf of the tens of thousands of Floridians whose livelihoods depends on the viability of an open cruise industry, today Florida's fighting back," he announced in a press conference. "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."

DeSantis called the CDC's decision to delay the opening of the U.S. cruise industry "irrational" and said he believes that this lawsuit will have a "good chance for success."

The CDC was not immediately available for comment.

In the first 6 months of the pandemic, Florida lost $3.2 billion from the cruise industry shutdown, including almost 50,000 jobs paying $2.3 billion in wages, according to a September 2020 report from the Federal Maritime Commission. Since the CDC shut down the U.S. cruise industry last year, the state's seaports have seen a decline in operating revenue of almost $300 million, and that figure is expected to reach nearly $400 million in July, the Florida Department of Transportation told CNBC.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the media about the cruise industry during a press conference at PortMiami on April 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the media about the cruise industry during a press conference at PortMiami on April 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

The governor signed an executive order on Friday banning so-called vaccine passports, which will also apply to the cruise industry, saying that businesses and government agencies cannot require customers or patrons to show proof of vaccination.

In October, the CDC, in its Framework for Conditional Sailing order, said research showed that Covid spread more easily on cruise ships than in other environments. The agency cited, among other research, a study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine that found that the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise spread at a rate that was four times higher, averaging one person spreading it to 15 people, than in its original epicenter in Wuhan, China, where it averaged one person spreading it to four people.

Cruise lines extend trip suspensions

Royal Caribbean announced Thursday that it will be extending the suspension of some of its trips leaving from U.S. ports.

Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises trips will be suspended until June 30, according to a press release. However, trips leaving from new home ports in other areas of the world are still operating on schedule.

The Silversea extensions exclude Silver Moon, Silver Origin and Silver Explorer.

"Safety is the first priority, and we know that cruising can be safe, as we have seen in Europe and Asia," said Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO, in a press release. He remains optimistic about the second half of this year, citing President Joe Biden's promise for society to return to normal by July 4.

Disney Cruise Line also announced on Monday that it will be further suspending its U.S. trips through June. This will affect its Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder sailings.

Industry asks to be treated like airlines

Royal Caribbean has carried over 100,000 guests on its ships outside the U.S. since the pandemic and has only seen 10 Covid cases, Fain said on "CBS This Morning" on Thursday. He said he "would like to be treated in a very similar way to the airlines and other forms of transportation."

Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, expressed a similar sentiment in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday. He said cruise lines would "like to be treated the same as other sectors and travel and tourism and entertainment."

While airlines are able to fly across the world during the pandemic, the cruise industry, which had over 100,000 American jobs pre-Covid, has faced about a year without any trips from its U.S. ports.

"The irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations to take a cruise, but cannot board a ship in the U.S.," the Cruise Lines International Association said in a statement on Monday, calling for the CDC to lift its conditional sail order, which outlines a phased return to U.S. cruise operations with no specified date.

Last week, the CDC released technical instructions for cruise ships, including increasing the frequency of Covid case reporting from weekly to daily, establishing a plan for all staff members to be vaccinated and implementing routine testing. However, this update did not specify a date for cruise lines to return to operation in the U.S.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Arnold Donald is CEO of Carnival Corporation.

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