LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – In Florida on Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed to win the state’s lawsuit against the CDC — while at the same time promising to “enforce Florida law” and fine cruise lines that require vaccinated passengers.
Two days after the CDC issued approval for the first real cruise from an American port in more than a year, DeSantis said he wasn’t budging on a new state law that authorizes a $5,000 fine — per passenger — against cruise lines that ask for proof of vaccination.
“We’re going to enforce Florida law,” said Gov. DeSantis when asked by WFLA’s Staci DaSilva whether he’s prepared to levy the fines. “In fact, I have no choice but to enforce it. I took an oath to enforce it. You don’t pass laws and then not enforce it against giant corporations. It doesn’t work that way. Everybody is equal under the law.”
This week, the CDC approved both test cruises and real cruises out of American ports starting in June. They’ll be the first ships to come or go from the U.S. since the CDC effectively shut down cruising in March 2020 with its No Sail Order.
In October, the CDC issued a Conditional Sail Order, providing cruise lines two different routes back to the seas: move through a 4-phase process that includes test cruises to prove their Covid-19 protocols work, or go directly to revenue-generating cruises by requiring nearly all crew and passengers to be vaccinated.
At the time, vaccines were not readily available, so no cruise lines were able to meet the guidelines. After several more guidelines were issued over the following months and still no ships sailed, the state of Florida filed a lawsuit against the CDC in early April.
“We’re [suing the CDC] because it obviously has hurt our state,” DeSantis said Friday in Lakeland. “But it’s a larger issue than just the cruises. You cannot have some bureaucracy — that does not have the legal authority to do this — claim an emergency and shut down commerce.”
DeSantis guaranteed Florida will win the case, which has been in court-ordered mediation this week and will continue next week.
“Maybe there will be a resolution,” DeSantis said. “Ultimately, we wanted to vindicate the state’s immediate interest with this [lawsuit]. But there is a larger point, and I am confident: we will win the case. We will win. We were right on the law. I think all the indications are that we will be. And we will absolutely be upheld in the 11th Circuit [Court of Appeals].”
Cruise ships are seen docked at PortMiami as the industry prepares to resume operations. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The governor’s office says the CDC is “requiring ships to violate state law” with its requirement for vaccinated passengers. Specifically, executive order 21-81 and SB 2006, the new law passed by the legislature based on his order.
The order is still in effect but has no enforcement mechanism. The new state law becomes effective on July 1 and authorizes the $5,000 fine.
Cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron, better known as “The Cruise Guy,” has taken nearly 300 cruises and has been an industry consultant for decades. He points out several other nations have allowed cruise ships to stop at their port without requiring vaccinations.
“Europe, Asia, South Pacific has been sailing for about 9 months,” said Chiron. “They’ve had over 450,000 people sail by this point with fewer than 50 cases of Covid. Royal Caribbean has been sailing out of Singapore since November with over 100,000 people and 0 cases of Covid.”
“It’s just time for the United States to get back in the game,” Chiron said.