Florida Threatens Legal Action to Restart Cruise Industry

Florida calls for restart of cruising
Port Canaveral was Florida's second busiest cruise port prior to the pandemic (Port Canaveral)

Published Mar 29, 2021 2:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

Responding to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement that it did not intend to lift the current restrictions preventing the resumption of US Cruises, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Floridians that earn their living related to cruises cannot wait till November. The governor said Florida would explore its legal options and possibly sue the federal government to get cruising restarted.

“The cruise industry is essential to our state’s economy and keeping it shut down until November would be devastating to the men and women who rely on the cruise lines to provide for themselves and their families,” said Governor DeSantis. “I urge the CDC to immediately rescind this baseless no-sail order to allow Floridians in this industry to get back to work.”

Governor DeSantis was speaking to the media after a conference conducted at Port Canaveral to discuss the status of the cruise industry and the impact of the industry’s pause on the state. Attending the conference with the governor were Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault. They were meeting with cruise industry executives and employees to highlight the contribution of the cruise industry to the economy.



The governor said that the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the cruise industry are part of a larger struggle facing the entire travel industry. He cited figures that as of the end of 2020, the travel industry as a whole had $1.1 trillion in losses, a 42 percent drop from 2019. A popular tourist destination, Florida has experienced wide-ranging indirect impacts according to the government officials who pointed to everything airports and ground transportation to hotels, restaurants, and tourist destinations. 

“Decreased passenger activity due to the pandemic is estimated to have cost the state 169,000 jobs and nearly $23 billion in economic activity through 2020,” Doug Wheeler, President and CEO of the Florida Ports Council said recently. The nonprofit trade group estimates that in total Florida’s 15 deep water seaports, many of which participate in the cruise industry, support nearly 900,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute $117 billion in economic value to the state of Florida, accounting for approximately 13 percent of Florida’s gross domestic product.

At the roundtable, Governor DeSantis called on the CDC to rescind its no-sail order, which last week the CDC said based on current conditions will remain in place until November 1, 2021. The governor said that the federal government has provided guidance to all other passenger transportation modes and other industries; however, it has failed to issue guidance for the cruise industry to assist in its recovery.

“The rationale for keeping US cruises shuttered through the foreseeable future is based on outdated data and guidelines put in place before we had a COVID-19 vaccine,” contended Attorney General Ashley Moody. “The federal government is acting outside its authority in singling out and docking the cruise industry while other tourism-based businesses continue to operate in accordance with health guidelines.”

As a state, Florida has been moving forward to fully reopen and restore businesses. Governor DeSantis says he is following an open for business policy. Florida has been making progress with the roll-out of its vaccine programs having reached as many as 70 percent of senior citizens and today the state lowered the age of availability for the vaccine to 40 years and above. Starting next week, Florida plans to make the vaccines available to all adults in the state regardless of age. This comes as Florida continues to average nearly 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported daily. Florida has seen a rise in the number of cases in the past two weeks from an average of 4,500 in mid-March. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Florida has recorded over two million COVID-19 cases and 33,000 deaths.