A Carnival cruise ship is docked at PortMiami, one of five Florida seaports where cruiselines operate. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Anxious to get one of Florida’s biggest industries afloat, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have introduced legislation to bypass sailing restrictions set in place by the federal government following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press release posted Tuesday, the two Florida senators and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, of Alaska, introduced the “Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (CRUISE) Act” which would work around current “conditional sail” orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that restrict the industry from operating.
The legislation is a part of a big push out of Florida to reopen the shuttered cruise industry, which was one of the first industries largely impacted by the then-emerging COVID-19 pandemic.
Both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody support a lawsuit against the CDC over restrictions on the cruising industry, arguing that the damages of shutting down have been so severe that the industry is on the “brink of financial ruin,” according to court documents.
The cruise industry Florida is huge, with ports scattered throughout Florida’s coastline, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa. And cruise ships are well-known in the industry, with names such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian which pack ships with hundreds of employees ranging from cooks to dancers. The Alaska cruises are also a big draw, which is why U.S. Sen. Sullivan got involved in.
American travelers are already booking voyages, in hopes that the cruise ships will sail in the next few months.
And should the legislation in Congress pass, it would compel the CDC to lift its conditional sail order by no later than July 4, though it’s not clear if the COVID pandemic will be waning at that time. As it stands now, Florida has been facing more contagious COVID mutations than any other state, and not all people have been vaccinated.
Advocates for the cruising industry, such as Rubio and Scott, argue that the CDC has unfairly prohibited cruise lines from reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while other industries, such as airlines, are largely operational.
In a press release on the legislation, Scott said that: “While many sectors of the economy have been safely operating for months under CDC guidelines, Floridians, and those across the nation that rely on the cruise industry for work, continue to wait for updated guidance from the CDC.”
The proposed legislation would require the CDC and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to issue recommendations for how the cruises could reopen while safely mitigating the spread of COVID-19 on the ships.
The three senators also want a “working group” of industry stakeholders and the U.S. secretaries of transportation, commerce, and homeland security to help build these recommendations.
Gov. DeSantis has been pushing for the reopening of the cruise industry, as it contributes significantly to the overall Florida economy. With much of the industry closed for about a year, thousands of employees no longer had jobs and the industry lost millions of dollars.
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