Judge may rule on Florida's cruise lawsuit as soon as next week

A ruling in a lawsuit filed by the state that looks to lift the CDC's COVID-19 restrictions on the cruise industry may come as soon as next week, a federal judge indicated Thursday.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is suing the CDC and asking a judge to issue a temporary injunction, allowing cruise lines to set sail without the strict CDC restrictions that have been in place since the start of the pandemic.

"I think the CDC regulations are way overly burdensome and the way they've been managing this throughout the entire process has almost been inexcusable," said Capt. John Murray, Port Canaveral's CEO, who has been traveling to federal court in Tampa to follow the case.

The federal government has said an injunction isn't necessary because cruises are on track to begin setting sail out of Florida ports this summer.

This was the first hearing since the two sides failed to reach an agreement in mediation.

"The best thing I heard today was the judge at the end saying he's going to present a ruling very soon," Murray said. "The case itself has driven the process along a little faster than it otherwise would have transpired. I'm not sure the CDC would be working as quickly as they are right now to get the industry back online."

More than a dozen cruises have asked for and received permission from the CDC to conduct either test or regular voyages, while meeting the agency's guideline that 95 percent of crew and passengers be vaccinated.

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Test cruises out of Port Canaveral will begin at the end of June. Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines will sail in July from Miami. Norwegian Cruises will sail out of Miami in August. Port Tampa, meanwhile, is showing cruises scheduled later this year.

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On Thursday, Judge Steven Merryday picked apart the federal government's claim that the CDC should have broad authority to maintain any guidelines it deems necessary.

He also, however, admonished Gov. Ron DeSantis for making comments about, what the judge said, should have been confidential. The governor said the two sides reached an "impasse;" Judge Merryday pointed out only a mediating judge can declare an impasse.