Mediation hits buffers in Floridian lawsuit over CDC cruise restrictions

The mediator in the lawsuit brought by the state of Florida seeking to force the immediate restart of cruises has informed the US District Court judge that Florida and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been unable to reach agreement. The case therefore has been sent back to the court to decide the issue.

Both sides have made new filings with the court renewing the argument over the CDC’s jurisdiction and actions under its current Conditional Sail Order and the framework by which cruise lines are permitted to apply for a return to service.

Florida, which was later joined by Alaska and Texas in the suit, contended that the CDC had overstepped its authority and was unfairly singling out the cruise industry, thus causing significant harm to the state of Florida.

Since the filing of the case the CDC has proceeded with its framework and granted approvals for the first cruises and simulated test cruises on the path to the restoration of cruises from US ports.

President Biden has signed into law the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which exempted large ships from US cabotage regulations, thus permitting 2021 summer cruises to Alaska while Canadian ports remain closed to US cruise ships.

The CDC is now asking the court to permit the filing of a supplemental briefing on the Alaska act and the potential impact a decision in the Florida case might have on the resumption of cruising in Alaska. The Congressional act says that foreign flag cruise ships can resume sailing to Alaska abiding by the rules and restrictions of the CDC. Lawyers for the CDC contend that if the court voids the Conditional Sail Order this would somehow put this summer’s Alaska cruises in jeopardy.

Florida has said that further briefing would only serve to delay a ruling on Florida’s motion for a preliminary injunction. Florida has claimed in its response to the court that each passing day that sees cruises barred from operating out of the state, Florida was suffering “irreparable harm”.

Florida’s lawyers contended that the act confirms Florida’s case in that the CDC required Congress’s authorization and that by not mentioning Florida in the act, “that Congress decided not to ratify the CDC’s conduct as to Florida.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that “unfortunately, the CDC has opted to continue its ridiculous and unlawful regulations that target a single industry by imposing vaccine requirements — something no other business or industry must do.”

DeSantis asserted that the CDC requirements were discriminating against families and children with its masking and vaccine mandates for cruises and were imposing burdensome requirements that are continuing to change and that are delaying the resumption of cruising.

DeSantis said that “while it is a positive sign to see the CDC begin to green light ‘conditional cruises’ following Florida’s lawsuit, there is still no set date upon which cruises can resume business operations. The CDC has no excuse for ruining two summers of sailing, and it is well past time to end the CDC’s desperate attempt to prolong its power trip over America. Floridians are ready for a real trip on our waters.”