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Judge Sides With Florida In Lawsuit Against CDC Over Cruise Regulations

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Whilst their travel updates are appreciated by travelers the world over, it’s safe to say the CDC has few admirers left in the cruise industry. Frustrated by restrictions that kept cruises at bay for months, cruise lines and politicians alike have voiced their displease at the CDC’s handling of the pandemic.
A few months ago, the state of Florida even took the CDC to court due to policies they found to be unfair – and, just yesterday, the court ruled in Florida’s favor. Here’s everything you need to know about this story, and what effect it could have on travel.

Judge Sides With Florida In CDC Lawsuit

Florida’s CDC Lawsuit – Recap

Often described as the US’s cruising capital due to the sheer number of passengers and cruises departing from its ports, Florida had the most to lose when it came to the CDC’s restrictive guidelines, most notably the “conditional sailing order” that once prohibited the sailing of cruises in the country and now forces them to adhere to a strict set of guidelines. Fueled by the desire to do right by the people of his state, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis filed a lawsuit against the CDC.

carnival cruise miami

His argument stated that wider testing and vaccination meant that the cruise industry was no more dangerous than other forms of transport that had already been permitted to restart – in greater numbers than cruises.  DeSantis also pointed out the fact that Florida alone had lost hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the CDC’s actions. Now, months after the suit was filed, it seems DeSantis was vindicated after all.

miami cruise ship

Court Rules in Florida’s Favor – What This Means For Travelers

On Friday, a federal judge ruled in favor of DeSantis and Florida’s legal challenges, marking another twist in the CDC’s sailing saga. DeSantis hailed the decision as a “major victory,” before adding that “The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it,” and claiming they were trying to sink the state’s cruise industry. 

carnival cruise ship port florida

A section of the CDC’s conditional sailing order states that operators can sail quickly if 95% of crew and passengers are vaccinated, whilst ships that wish to sail without such conditions must first take passengers on volunteer test cruises, which cruise lines would have to put on for free. However, on Friday the court ruled that from July 18th, the conditional sail order will become a “non-binding ‘consideration,’ ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline’” as far sailing from Florida is concerned.

cruise ship miami skyline

Speaking about the verdict, Florida’s attorney general Ashley Moody (R) said:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the hardworking Floridians whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry. The federal government does not, nor should it ever, have the authority to single out and lock down an entire industry indefinitely.”

Royal Caribbean Announces Vaccines Are Optional For Texas and Florida Cruises

The ruling means that, from July 18th, cruises will not need to follow the guidelines outlined in the CDC’s conditional sail order in order to depart, which would see unvaccinated passengers enjoy the same rights afforded to vaccinated passengers. It could also serve as a blueprint or inspiration for other states to follow, leading to more lawsuits down the line.  

Whilst the CDC has the option to appeal the ruling made by judge Steven Merryday, he also ruled that they must revisit mediation in order to find a solution. Merryday also ceded that the CDC could find a modification that allowed it to hold on to public health authority in some way. Whilst Florida may have won this battle with the CDC, the war may yet be far from over.

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