In a two-to-one ruling, the U.S. appeals court put a hold on a lower court decision that would have seen the end of the Conditional Sailing Order. This ruling would have made the CSO a recommendation instead of a requirement for the cruise lines sailing from Florida.
The order from the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta, Georgia, came a mere 10 minutes before the court order from U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday would have taken effect. Although the fight is not over yet for the government organization, it’s a win for the CDC.
Last Minute Stay
If the U.S. courts of appeal had not ruled in favor of a stay for the lower court’s decision, the cruise lines would have been able to sail without having to abide by the requirements and protocols as have been set out in the CSO. These protocols would have been designated a recommendation if the 11th Circuit panel had not made the last-minute decision on Saturday on the CSO ruling going into effect on Sunday.
Only last month, the U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sided with the state of Florida and said the state had shown the CDC had exceeded its authority in adopting and implementing rules that determine how and when cruise ships can operate post-pandemic.
The justice department appealed the decision from the U.S. district court during early July, saying that the State of Florida had no basis to lift COVID-19 health and safety protocols developed by the CDC and the cruise industry.
CDC and DeSantis Remain Quiet
Neither the CDC nor the offices of Governor DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody issued any statements over the weekend. A reaction is surely coming over a ruling that will not have gone over well with DeSantis or Moody.
DeSantis stated earlier that the CDC had disregarded the freedom of Floridians to make decisions for their families, while the governor also believes the CSO is negatively impacting Florida’s economy. Saying the economy has suffered a decline in operating revenue of almost $300 million for the ports alone. The amount grows significantly when those dependent on the cruise industry are taken into account as well.
Whether the court case has any added value at this point seems to be the question that everyone is asking. So far, multiple cruise lines and cruise ships are operating successfully from Florida’s ports, a number that is set to grow significantly over the next few weeks.
Even if the cruise lines could disregard the CSO, a return to cruising would not necessarily be achievable at a much higher rate. With most cruise lines requiring quarantine periods and 100% vaccination levels for crew onboard, and crewing the ships proving to cost more time than expected, the current timelines are more due to the difficulties the cruise industry experiences here than the requirements from the CSO.
Situation Remains Fluid
Despite the increase in cruise traffic, the situation around Florida, in particular, remains fluid. Only last week, Norwegian Cruise line sued Florida for preventing the cruise line from resuming operations safely and soundly.
Norwegian is set to start operations from Miami on August 15 with Norwegian Gem. However, the cruise line is being held back by proof of vaccination ban in place in Florida because the cruise line mandates 100% vaccination levels for all guests and crew,
The fact that the U.S. court of appeals has now put a hold on the CSO ruling does not mean it has been thrown out altogether. The hold merely suggests the appeals court requires more time to go over the details of the case and could still argue for Florida in the end. The court has not yet provided any opinions on the case, which is expected to come in the days ahead.