CDC sail order keeping U.S. cruise ships docked as other countries set sail, Port Canaveral CEO says

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — Port Canaveral officials say they’re worried the CDC’s current guidance for cruises is costing Brevard County tourism dollars that may never return.

Port Director and CEO Captain John Murray expressed his concerns during an update for the Port Authority Board of Commissioners at their meeting Wednesday morning.

READ: Cruise industry jobs sail from Florida as port departures remain dormant

“I can’t wait for the day that I come up here and I start my presentation announcing a date on when we’re going to start cruising,” Murray began. “But today’s not that day.”

Right now, the path back to cruising runs through the CDC and its framework for conditional sailing order.

Murray says plenty of cruise ships are going back to work, they’re just not doing it in the United States.

“You’re looking at tourism dollars that are leaving our area, and are leaving our state, and our country,” said Paul Kellem of the International Longshoremen’s Association, a union that represents local cruise line workers. “We want those dollars back here in Florida...back in Brevard County.”

According to Capt. Murray, the Norwegian Cruise Line will begin sailing out of Athens Greece on July 25, and from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic this August.

READ: ‘Cause for celebration’: Visit Orlando says Central Florida tourism on the rebound

Royal Caribbean will begin sailing its “Anthem of the Seas” out of the United Kingdom beginning July 7. COVID-19 vaccines will be required.

“The biggest fear I have is that some of these ships will leave and never come back,” Captain Murray said.

However, Murray says with the CDC’s framework for conditional sailing order still firmly in place, no one can say when cruise ships will sail from Port Canaveral, or any other U.S. port.

“We’re working with the cruise lines directly to try and work through the rule book, and see if we can come up with reasonable proposals and present them to the CDC on a way forward,” Murray says.

Florida has filed a lawsuit against President Biden’s administration and the CDC to resume cruises, accusing them of shutting down a multi-billion dollar industry for more than a year.

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Last week, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a motion for a preliminary injunction calling the CDC’s four-phase reopening process “burdensome and obsolete.”

Moody notes that no cruise company has even started phase two test voyages. She’s asked a federal court to intervene and allow the 159,000 Floridians whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry to get back to work.

“It’s devastated people’s lives,” Kellem says. “We’re being patient. We’re being hopeful...We’re just waiting on the CDC to give us a date, because our workers are ready.”