‘Florida’s fighting back’: DeSantis demands cruises be able to sail, announces lawsuit against CDC, federal government

MIAMI, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a lawsuit against the federal government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demanding cruise ships to be able to sail from U.S. ports.

The CDC currently has a “conditional sail order” in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

DeSantis threatened legal action in recent weeks if the order wasn’t lifted and followed through announcing the lawsuit in a news conference in Miami on Thursday.

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“Today, Florida’s fighting back,” DeSantis said Thursday. “We’re filing a lawsuit against the federal government and the CDC, demanding that our cruise ships be reopened immediately.”

By suing the government, he’s taking a step cruise lines have been reluctant to take. And even if the state did win what lawyers said would be a difficult case, they’d need to untangle the mess surrounding vaccination requirements, which the governor has banned, but many cruise companies say they want.

Cruise companies have furloughed a good portion of their workforce, and supplies are sitting in warehouses.

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DeSantis said the order preventing cruises has cost many Floridians their jobs and continues to negatively impact the state’s economy.

The cruise lines said they are focused on working with the CDC to reopen cruises, but they are not addressing the lawsuit.

“We’re really at our wit’s end at this point,” said Monica Sebata, a former Cruiseport Destinations worker. “What people need is to connect, they need to get back to work.”

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Some successful test cruises have made some countries decide to reopen their ports. Still, cruise lines aren’t planning to set sail from those countries until June.

“If they decide it’s not wise for them to do it, then obviously they know better than the governor,” said Abraham Pizam, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

This is just one way the governor seems to be at odds with the industry he claims to be trying to help.

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Last week, DeSantis announced he was banning private businesses from requiring vaccines for customers.

But Norwegian Cruise Lines, which sailed out of Port Canaveral pre-COVID-19, is only allowing those vaccinated to board.

In the U.K., Royal Caribbean is set to start sailing in July, but only to those who get the shot.

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“I think the majority of them would agree that the damage if, God forbid, something happens and a lot of people get infected on one particular ship, they will suffer for many months to come,” Pizam said.

In a statement sent Thursday, Royal Caribbean wouldn’t say whether they supported the governor’s lawsuits.

“Vaccinations layered on top of the rigorous health and safety measures enable (us) to create a safe environment for cruising,” the company said in a prepared statement.

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Health and safety measures alone are for some people, Pizam says, just not enough for a real rebound.

“To build a cruise industry you need masses,” he said. “The cruise industry is built on masses.”

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.