Last week, the Alaska cruise industry breathed a deep sigh of relief as Pres. Biden signed a law lifting the restrictions that were keeping foreign-flag cruise ships from making their usual Alaska cruises. Now, it appears that Florida's lawsuit against CDC might cancel the season all over again.
The new law lifts the rules as long as the ships involved have been approved by CDC under a 'conditional sailing order,' which includes health and safety regulations because of the pandemic—but Florida is now challenging CDC's legal right to issue any orders at all, including any that would comply with the new law.
Florida wants the conditional sailing order tossed out because it is the authority that CDC is using to determine when cruise ships may resume sailing from U.S. ports. It is requiring unpaid test sailings for ships that don't adopt a plan for vaccination of 98% of crew and 95% of passengers. Florida has persisted in a rule that makes it illegal for companies to ask if anyone has been vaccinated, a political move that is giving not only cruise lines conniptions as they attempt to resume operations.
The judge hearing the case ordered the two parties into mediation, but it's chancy to expect a good result from that. Florida is continuing to threaten $5000 per passenger fines if the question is asked, and CDC is continuing to state that resumption of cruising depends on ships being licensed under its authority.
And yes, CDC has upped the stakes with its reminder to the judge that if Florida wins the case, it will be stripped of the ability to issue certificates that will allow the Alaska cruises under the new law. Stay tuned!