ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – A day after a federal judge heard arguments in Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction against federal restrictions that have idled the cruise industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed optimism that he would be successful in court and cruise ships would set sail again by the summer.
“If we are successful in the courts, I’m willing to bet anyone that people are going to want to cruise from the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during a Thursday news conference in Ormond Beach.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, backed by DeSantis, filed a lawsuit last month challenging limits imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moody argues that the CDC has violated a law known as the Administrative Procedure Act by issuing guidelines that have kept cruise ships from sailing.
“We had a great hearing I think, by and large, reports I heard in Federal Court yesterday,” DeSantis said. “We think that we got our points across, we think the judge was receptive. I mean, we’ll see what happens.”
There is also an ongoing fight over so-called vaccine passports.
Recently, DeSantis signed a bill that makes permanent a ban on COVID-19 vaccine “passports,” putting him at odds with at least one cruise line.
According to ABC News, Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio has said the new law could force the company to suspend Florida departures and move its ships since the company plans to require all future guests to be fully vaccinated.
“At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from, and we can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida,” Rio said last week.
The CDC said ships are able to sail for the first time since March 2020 if they can prove that at least 98% of the crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
DeSantis on Thursday said other cruise lines, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, are “ready to go.”
Carnival said in a statement to USA Today that it hopes to resume voyages on three ships from Florida and Texas, including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze from Galveston, and Carnival Horizon from Miami by this summer.
DeSantis has said the no-sail order is outdated and hurts the state as the industry generates billions for the economy and employs tens of thousands of Floridians.
The CDC, which updated its operations manual for cruise lines when they do resume sailing, said Wednesday that fully vaccinated cruise passengers can take off their masks outdoors if they are socially distanced.
“Cruise ships involve the movement of large numbers of people in settings where they are likely to have close contact with one another,” according to the CDC manual. “Close-contact environments facilitate transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses from person to person through exposure to respiratory droplets, aerosols, or contact with contaminated surfaces. Cruise ships may also be a means by which infected persons travel between geographic locations.”
More updates to the manual are expected soon.