Florida’s fight to restart cruise industry heads to federal court

Attorneys are making their case before a federal judge as to why Florida’s cruise line industry should set sail again following Attorney General Ashley Moody’s lawsuit filed last month against the CDC’s restrictions.

The hearing is taking place Wednesday in Tampa. If the judge ends up granting an injunction, then the industry could get back into business sooner than later.

Florida’s cruise line industry has been locked down for more than a year. The Florida Ports Council estimates the state has lost 169,000 jobs and nearly $23 billion in economic activity.

"This is so very important because if this administration does not allow our cruises to begin operating again, we are at real risk of losing those cruise lines," Moody previously said.  

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According to a 21-page lawsuit filed by Moody last month, the CDC overstepped its legal authority in shutting the cruise industry down and by not giving clear guidance to reopen.

Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice disagree. They’re expected to argue that the CDC is well within its rights to protect Americans from an industry that "demonstrated that cruise ships are uniquely suited to spread COVID-19."  

They’ve cited several incidents of outbreaks from early in the pandemic, but as state attorneys are likely to point out today, major cruise lines have operated in Asia and in Europe over the last few months.  

Soon, cruises will set sail from Caribbean ports, but won’t make a stop in the U.S. It’s a workaround that Americans can take advantage of by getting on a flight to another country, boarding a cruise ship, enjoying their vacation abroad, and returning home without quarantining.  

"Cruises are operating in other countries," Moody argued, "and they are doing so with little to no spread. We can do that in the United States."

Since Florida's lawsuit was filed, Texas and Alaska have also joined the suit.

It's not clear how many cruise lines would return to the state if allowed. Last week, the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line threatened to skip Florida's ports over Gov. Ron DeSantis's vaccine passport ban.