‘If there is a valid reason, then tell me:’ DeSantis challenges CDC cruise line restrictions

Industry leaders estimate nearly 80% of cruise line workers in Florida still unemployed

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis held a roundtable discussion on Florida’s cruise industry Friday morning at Port Canaveral.

DeSantis was joined by Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault P.E., as well as several cruise industry leaders and owners of businesses that supply cruise lines.

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The governor addressed the ongoing federal restrictions preventing the cruise industry from resuming operations in Florida.

“We were working last year to try to get them sailing by now and, for whatever reason, the CDC wouldn’t go there,” DeSantis said. “But we’re looking at making sure all these ships can sail in the summer. It’s really, really important.”

DeSantis pointed to the substantial losses reported by Port Canaveral in his push to get sailing back on track.

“If you look here at Port Canaveral, the second-leading cruise port behind Port Miami, it has reported an estimated loss of $86.7 million over the course of the pandemic. And again, there’s really not much they could have done about it, given what’s going on,” said DeSantis, pointing to the conditional sail order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the current inability of cruise lines to resume sailing from the port.

The CDC issued the conditional sail order in October of last year, calling for a phased approach to resuming cruise ship operations. You can read the complete order here.

DeSantis said he and the attorney general are looking at their legal options to push back against the CDC order, however, he added that they are not taking any legal action at this time.

“While there’s not been anything filed, I think it would be malpractice for us not to look at all available options to vindicate the interests of the state. We are not announcing any action at this time because we don’t believe it should be necessary,” DeSantis said. “Americans are still going to be taking cruises, they’re just going to be taking them from the Bahamas or Bermuda. And look, those are nice places, don’t get me wrong, but I want them sailing from Florida.”

The cruise industry leaders flanking the governor echoed his point that cruising has resumed in other parts of the world and Americans have traveled abroad to take part in them.

“It’s devastating. We have now started to take our ships, because we have to, and we’ve started to homeport them in other locations,” said Michael Bailey, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean. “We announced that we’re opening up in Israel, because the Israeli government reached out to us and we had a collaborative process, and we’re starting to cruise from Israel in June.”

“We have many of our sister brands that are sailing very successfully around the world,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Lines. “We need some movement, some direction.”

At the moment, the CDC’s conditional sail order is set to expire in November. The industry leaders said that cruise lines employ about 150,000 Floridians and estimated that 80%, or about 120,000, are still unemployed.

DeSantis stated that he would like to see cruises resume operations by the end of June.

“It should not be any later than the end of June, that is totally reasonable,” he said. “Look, the only way it won’t be in great shape is if you don’t think the vaccines work. I mean, that’s the only way, at this point, you could say — fast-forwarding a few months into the future — that somehow you think that this is not going to be even better than it is now.”

DeSantis announced earlier this week that any resident 18 or older will be eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine in Florida starting April 5. People 40 and older can get the vaccine starting Monday.

More than 5.3 million people in Florida have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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The latest daily report from the department of health shows there have been 2,027,429 cases of COVID-19 in the state.

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