Florida to feds: Allow cruise ships to operate or we’ll sue

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA (AP) — Florida Govervor Ron DeSantis ripped into the federal government’s continued pandemic ban on cruise ships using United States (US) ports, threatening on Friday to file a lawsuit if one of the state’s biggest tourism sectors is not allowed to resume operations soon.

Appearing at Port Canaveral with leaders from Carnival, Norwegian, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, DeSantis and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said they are exploring the state’s legal options if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not allow US-based cruising to resume by summer.

The state is the nation’s cruise capital with three of the world’s busiest ports: Miami, Port Canaveral near Kennedy Space Center, and Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale. Millions typically cruise from Florida each year and the industry generates billions for the state’s economy.

DeSantis said the continued ban is only hurting Florida with no effect on the pandemic as cruising is resuming elsewhere in the world and Americans are flying to the nearby Bahamas to board ships.

“Is it OK for the government to just idle an industry for a year?” the Republican governor said. He said people now need to decide for themselves what they are willing to risk.

The CDC shut down the cruise industry a year ago when several coronavirus outbreaks were tied to ships worldwide. DeSantis and industry leaders argued on Friday that with widespread testing and vaccines becoming more available, the danger is now no worse than air and train travel, which are open. Cruising has resumed with restrictions and protocols in much of the world with the industry leaders saying there have been no new outbreaks tied to their ships.

The CDC did not immediately respond to an email on Friday seeking comment. It issued guidelines in October that require cruise ships conduct mock voyages to test procedures and have onboard testing labs before passengers would be allowed, but no further guidance has been issued, leaving the ban effectively in place.

Republican Moody said if a lawsuit is filed, it would challenge the ban as based on medical information that is out-of-date and no longer valid.

A surfer eyes the Disney Cruise Line ships ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Dream’ on the horizon as they sit stationary off of Cocoa Beach, Florida. PHOTO: AP