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Florida cruise decision: double-edged sword

 

Florida has apparently won its case against the Centers for Disease Control rules for resuming sailing by cruise lines as a Federal judge in Tampa agreed that the agency lacked authority to hold cruise lines to such stringent rules.

In the process, it may have badly damaged prospects for a cruise season in Alaska, as well as shaken confidence in cruise safety for many potential cruise customers. The ruling, which is on hold until July 18, would remove the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order entirely, leaving no Covid regulations in place.

The judge did give CDC until July 2 to come up with a less restrictive framework and also ordered the parties to continue mediation. It is also likely that lawyers for the agency will appeal, which could further delay implementation.

Since Alaska cruises are dependent on a recently-passed exemption from an 1886 law that prevents foreign-flagged passenger ships from sailing directly between U.S. ports and which is only granted as long as the Conditional Sailing Order is in effect, the ruling could mean the end of this summer's cruises to Alaska, since all major cruise ships fly foreign flags, and Canada's ports, their usual start or port of call are closed to all cruise ships.

The other major effect may hit the cruise lines in other ways. As last year's beginning-of-pandemic outbreaks reminded, cruise ships are among the easiest places for viral infections to spread and the hardest to control it in. For many people, eager to cruise, knowing that ships would sail either with vaccinated passengers or strict rules is an important piece of the decision to cruise again, and the cruise lines could lose bookings if they can't guarantee that. And since Florida's law against requiring proof of vaccination makes that impossible, bookings could drop, or operators could shift to ports where they can ask.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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