Florida Seeks Court Injunction for Immediate Cruise Restart from U.S.

Florida asks for injunction to restart cruises from U.S. ports
Carnival Vista docked at PortMiami prior to the pause in cruise operations (Carnival Cruise Line)

Published Apr 23, 2021 8:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Pressure is continuing to build on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to respond to the calls from the cruise industry and government officials to take immediate actions to move toward the restoration of cruises from U.S. ports. While cruise industry executives sounded a positive tone, the state of Florida joined by Alaska is moving forward aggressively with its actions. Efforts, however, in the U.S. Congress met with resistance leaving the cruise industry no closer to resuming operations than it was a week ago.

Speaking to multiple audiences, cruise industry executives reported that they believed the CDC was listening to their issues. At the same time, they said constructive dialogues continued seeking definitive steps from the CDC and a timeline for those actions to restart cruises from U.S. ports. At the same time, an increasing number of port officials, including Galveston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, also said they were preparing for cruising to resume while calling on the CDC for actions.

Florida, however, on April 22 took a bolder step increasing the pressure on the federal government. After Alaska’s governor announced that his state was joining with Florida in its legal action seeking to void the CDC’s current Conditional Sailing Order and force an immediate resumption of cruising, Florida filed a motion with the district court in Tampa, Florida asking for an immediate injunction from the court rescinding the CDC’s current orders that are blocking cruises from restarting this summer. 

The state filed a motion saying that it believes the CDC is not acting in good faith and still does not plan to take actions in the near term to give the cruise lines the steps required to start sailing. "Without this court's intervention, Florida will lose millions, if not billions, of dollars," the state said according to a summary published by the legal trade Law 360. The filing continues by saying, "if companies like Carnival follow through on their threat to move operations abroad, the State of Florida may never be the same."

Florida is arguing to the court that it is “likely to succeed on the merits of the case,” and under the law, it is therefore entitled to the injunction due to irreparable harm and hardships created by the CDC’s actions. 

The federal government and the CDC have so far not filed a response to the court.

While the state case is moving forward, in the U.S. Senate, the act proposed by Senators Dan Sullivan, Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott was brought to the floor for a discussion and encountered opposition. Senator Patty Murry representing Washington state entered an objection to the act that prevented it from passing by consent.

“I understand the position of my colleagues from Alaska and Florida who want to see a return to cruising by July 4. I'm there with them. The cruise industry in my home state supports over 5,500 jobs and creates $900 million in annual local business revenue. Those jobs and that impact on the local economy have been severely disrupted. But we have to ensure the safety of our friends and our families on these cruises before they disembark,” said Senator Murray. “We must trust the science, and we must allow the CDC to continue its work to help us return to what we love as safely as possible. So, I will continue to work with CDC and the administration as they develop the next phase of their cruising guidance, but for now, I object.”

With no progress regarding operating cruises from U.S. ports, the industry has continued to schedule additional summer programs operating from homeports in the Caribbean as well as in Europe and Asia. Several other major brands are expected to make announcements about cruises for Americans available from non-U.S. ports. Notably absent so far is Carnival Cruise Line, which has said it prefers to sail from the U.S. but has said it might be forced to reposition ships. Other brands owned by Carnival Corporation have announced summer cruise programs in the Caribbean and Europe.