Gov. announces Florida’s lawsuit against federal government, CDC over cruise restrictions

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference at PortMiami Thursday calling on the CDC to lift restrictions on the cruise industry.

MIAMI – Making good on a promise revealed last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday that he is moving forward with filing a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal government demanding that cruise ships be allowed to start sailing immediately.

“This is something that we believe we have every legal right to insist upon,” DeSantis said during a news conference at PortMiami. “We don’t believe the federal government has the right to mothball a major industry for over a year based on very little evidence and very little data.”

Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody said at the press conference that she had filed the lawsuit Thursday against the CDC, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Biden Administration demanding the no sail order be lifted.

Moody called the action a “heavy-handed federal overreach” adding that President Joe Biden’s administration is unfairly singling out and keeping the cruise industry docked “on the basis of outdated data.”

“Our litigation seeks to end this federal overreach and allow Floridians to safely get back to work and travel,” Moody said.

DeSantis’ conference focused mostly on what he said is the unemployment hardship that is being incurred by the order.

“Tens of thousands of Floridians depend on the viability of an open cruise industry for their livelihood. Today is the day for us to fight for them, fight for our friends and neighbors who just want to go back to work,” DeSantis said.

He said that cruise lines are resuming sailings from international ports such as the Bahamas and Bermuda, which puts Florida’s $9 billion economic engine in a continued state of jeopardy.

“The industry doesn’t need a bureaucratic overseer to ensure the safety of its customers,” he said.

In addressing the CDC’s decision to not lift the no sail order until November, DeSantis said: “If you are worried about Americans, well, they just will cruise off another coast. Instead of flying to Miami, spending money to stay in our hotels, spending money to eat in our restaurants before they get on the ship, they’re going to fly to the Bahamas,” DeSantis said.

(Watch the press conference below.)

The CDC has cited concerns over continued spread of the virus and dangerous new variants.

Former Miami-Dade County Mayor and now member of the U.S. Congress Carlos Gimenez (R-Miami) also spoke in favor of the lawsuit.

“They’re sailing in Asia, they’re sailing in Europe and the United States is actually the leader in vaccinate and vaccinations. It’s time to let these ships sail, it’s time to let these people get back to work,” Gimenez said.

DeSantis pointed to the large number of vaccinated Americans as a step toward safe sailing, but cruise companies requiring people to have shots before traveling. Last week he signed an executive order that restricts “vaccine passports,” identification that would prove that people have been vaccinated in order to gain entrance to public gathering places.

“You have a right to live your life in our society and get on a cruise ship or go to a movie theater. It’s not necessary to do,” he said referring to the vaccine passport. “If it’s something that you’re concerned about it, go and get vaccinated. It is a choice. Actually, we are helping the private sector because I don’t think most private businesses even want to get involved. . .”

[ALSO SEE: Florida Gov. signs executive order banning “vaccine passports”]

The travel industry, such as airlines and cruise lines, especially were in favor of the vaccine passports in an effort to help get consumers back on board as a way of reassurance that it was safe to return to normal pre-pandemic activities.

The announcement comes shortly after the CDC issued new guidance for the cruise ship industry.

The new instructions mention COVID-19 vaccinations, saying that the vaccines are a necessary step before passenger voyages can resume.

“COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations,” the CDC said in a news release. “As more people are fully vaccinated, the phased approach allows CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for resumption of cruise ship travel when it is safe to do so.”

The CDC first issued a no-sail order in March 2020, which has taken its toll on one of South Florida’s economic engines, the cruise industry.

The CDC’s no-sail order is currently in effect until Nov. 1.

About the Authors:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local