Florida Gov. DeSantis’ lawsuit to force the federal government to allow cruising in the U.S. gained much attention and enthusiastic reactions from his supporters and some loyal cruisers.
What did the cruise industry itself have to say about it?
Royal Caribbean Group’s response: “We are aware that there are many efforts underway at the state, federal and grassroots levels that can support us as we return to healthy and safe sailing from the United States. Vaccinations layered on top of the rigorous health and safety measures we are implementing enable us to create a safe environment for cruising. We strongly believe that the cruise industry can be part of President Biden’s stated goal for society to reopen by July 4.”
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings statement: “As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on third-party litigation. As we’ve outlined in our proposed plan to safely resume cruising, we look forward to partnering with the CDC to engage in meaningful discussions. We believe the time has come for cruising to resume from U.S. ports. Our proposed plan, including 100 percent vaccinations of guests and crew, universal testing and multi-layered health and safety protocols, is consistent with the CDC’s updated travel guidance.”
From Carnival Corp.: “We are aware of the lawsuit and share the sense of urgency of getting Americans back to work. Our focus is trying to work with the CDC on a plan to resume cruise operations this summer.”
Sounds like proof of COVID-19 vaccinations is a major part of the return of cruising in the U.S. – and elsewhere – as is working jointly with the CDC. Most cruise lines now starting offshore sailings are requiring proof of full vaccination from 100 percent of passengers and crew members.
However, DeSantis is opposed to vaccine passports and even issued an executive order opposing them. His ban on vaccine proof would apply to cruise ships, according to a story by NBC6 Miami.
Don’t forget that anyone can threaten a lawsuit or even proceed with filing one, as DeSantis officially did on April 8. But that doesn’t mean it has any merit.
“It’s a political stunt, and it’s not viable. DeSantis doesn’t care that it’s going to be laughed out of court. By the time it gets dismissed his base will have moved on,” Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University told the Miami Herald.
“I think it’s got negligible viability approaching zero,” Larry Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization’s center on global health law, told the Miami Herald. “Under no circumstance could I see a judge striking down a regulation that applies to cruise ships and the safety of its passengers because its passengers are going to be introducing infectious diseases back into the U.S. if they get infected on the ship. The U.S. has a very strong interest and power to stop that.”
Still, it’s not hard to see what’s motivating DeSantis. He wants to be seen as doing whatever he can to help the cruise industry, which has been shut down for over a year, and all the workers who depend on it for their livelihood.
“To be clear, no federal law authorizes the CDC to indefinitely impose a nationwide shutdown of an entire industry,” DeSantis said in a press release. “This lawsuit is necessary to protect Floridians from the federal government’s overreach and resulting economic harm to our state.”
During the first six months of the shutdown, losses in Florida due to the cruise shutdown totaled $3.2 billion in economic activity, including 49,500 jobs paying $2.3 billion in wages, according to a September 2020 report from the Federal Maritime Commission cited by DeSantis. To date, over 6,000 former cruise industry employees have filed for state unemployment, and Florida’s seaports have suffered a decline in operating revenue of almost $300 million – a figure projected to increase to nearly $400 million in July 2021, according to statistics cited by the governor.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said it is “grateful” for the DeSantis’ support and his efforts to restart cruising. “Tens of thousands of Floridians rely on cruising for their livelihoods, including longshoremen, taxi drivers, travel agents and tour operators, ports, and numerous suppliers and vendors that make the cruise industry work. Ultimately, CLIA and the entire cruise community — from longshoremen to ports to suppliers and vendors, to mayors of cruise ports, to travel agents and many other small businesses and independent business owners — remain focused on dialogue with the CDC and the administration to pursue a workable path to cruising by the beginning of July.”