Decision To Be Made in Florida Vs. CDC Lawsuit For Cruise Restart

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Judge Steven Merryday, the judge in charge of the lawsuit that Florida has filed against the Centers for Disease Control, has said he expects to be making a decision soon on the outcome of the trial, according to Mynews13.

Florida has challenged the CDC on the Conditional Sail Order and the vaccination proof passengers have to provide to sail on a number of cruise ships.

Governor DeSantis has said for many weeks now the CDC is holding the cruise industry back with its requirements. At the same time, the CDC says it is entirely in its right to make demands of passengers onboard cruise ships to ensure a safe environment.

State of Florida and CDC return to federal court

Legal representatives for both parties appeared in front of Judge Steven Merryday on Thursday for a second injunction hearing. The Governor’s office had declared the talks the two sides had been in to be in an impasse only last week.

Judge Merryday confronted the state attorney about the statement released last week saying a mediator in the case had declared it at an impasse. Mediation proceedings are always confidential; the judge, therefore, made it clear that any more leaks from either side will be investigated.

The attorney from the state called the statement from the office of the Governor a misunderstanding. As for cruises, there have not been any conclusions or decisions made so far, although Judge Merryday did say he would expect a ruling to follow soon.

CDC Entrance Sign
Photo Credit: Raed Mansour (Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0)

Confusion Reigns As Conflicting Statements are Delivered

The lawsuit from the state of Florida has been full of conflicting and confusing statements from all sides, while it remains unclear if the law on vaccinations counts for the cruise lines or not. A similar law in Texas seemed not to affect cruise ships, yet Florida has not made any statements that would free up cruise lines.

On May 27, Celebrity Cruises spokesperson Dondra Ritzenthaler said in a webinar the DeSantis administration and major cruise lines had discussed a possible exemption to the Florida law for cruise lines. This was later denied again by a DeSantis spokesperson, who said the Governor had never considered an exemption.

Governor Ron DeSantis
Photo Credit: YES Market Media /

However, Ritzenthaler repeated the same this week during a call with travel agents, saying the ship will sail with 95% vaccinated guests no matter what:

“We will require documentation of full vaccination from all guests who are eligible. This is for everybody, but Florida is a little bit different, okay? Florida — because we honor the government, we honor DeSantis — we will still go out with 100% of our crew and 95% of our guests vaccinated. But in Florida, we will not require you to have to show proof of vaccination, because we are doing this exactly the right way,”

Ritzenthaler did not clarify how the cruise line expects to achieve this. Again, it makes clear that a cruise restart is becoming more and more a political game in which the cruise lines are caught up. While the guidelines set out by the CDC are becoming a grey area where cruise lines try to please both sides.

As it stands, whatever the outcome, it will be watched intently by the cruise industry and the Governor’s office. Whether the cruise lines will want to comply with no vaccine cruises from Florida remains to be seen. Especially as Celebrity Cruises already experienced COVID infections onboard Celebrity Millenium this week. While guests were vaccinated, did not show any symptoms, and were quarantined, this will not be a situation the cruise lines will want onboard a cruise without vaccinated guests.

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