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Federal court rules in favor of Florida cruise industry

By NATHAN MAYBERG - | Jul 30, 2021

nmayberg@breezenewspapers.com

After being largely sidelined for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Florida cruise industry is back online following a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals Eleventh Circuit to reverse its own earlier decision regarding Centers for Disease Control restrictions.

The reversal by the Eleventh Circuit Court followed an emergency appeal made by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody which was ultimately withdrawn after the reversal. The case revolved around the CDC’s no-sail orders which involve a set of requirements the cruise lines must meet before being allowed to resume operations.

In a statement lauding the court decision, the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis declared that the cruise industry could resume operations immediately after overturning the CDC’s regulations, which the governor declared as ” unlawful and discriminatory.”

 “I’m glad to see the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reverse its prior decision and free the cruise lines from unlawful CDC mandates, which effectively mothballed the industry for more than a year,” DeSantis stated. “The importance of this case extends beyond the cruise industry. From here on out a federal bureau will be on thin legal and constitutional ice if and when it attempts to exercise such sweeping authority that is not explicitly delineated by law.”

Moody, in her filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, stated that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has, for the better part of 16 months, shut down the entire nation’s cruise industry.” No ships were allowed to sail from March of 2020 through June of 2021. Since then, only five of the 65 cruise lines have been allowed to resume operations due to the restrictions, Moody stated.

The state had won a favorable ruling in federal district court in June over the restrictions but the CDC fought the decision and the U.S. Court of Appeals initially sided with the agency.

In her appeal to the Supreme Court, Moody stated that the agency’s conditional sailing order “sets up a gauntlet of preconditions that cruise lines must run before they may sail again. The Conditional Sailing Order purported to reserve to the CDC the power to issue “technical instructions”–which the CDC has wielded by posting an ever-changing array of requirements on its website, some of which purport to modify even central provisions of that Order, all without notice and comment.

The order, which was put into placed in October, establishes COVID-19 testing laboratories at cruise lines, requires self-funded experiments known as test voyages as well and mandates social-distancing requirements throughout ships, including in swimming pools and in bathrooms. The order also required ships to establish shoreside housing for quarantining passengers.

Moody said the order and its accompanying and ever-changing regulations threatened to dock the cruise industry in Florida for another season and cost the state millions of dollars in tax revenue as well as lost jobs.