Federal appeals court blocks order lifting CDC’s COVID-19 rules on cruise ships

A federal appeals court has blocked a ruling that prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) from imposing guidelines for cruise lines to return to operation. A panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to stay the order that stated cruise lines were not bound to the CDC’s “conditional sailing order” following a lawsuit filed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Middle District of Florida granted a preliminary injunction last month to suspend the mandatory guidelines for cruise ships through Sunday, which allowed ships to depart from Florida with the CDC requirements remaining “as only a non-binding ‘consideration,’ ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline’ as in the case for other industries such as railroads and hotels.” The sailing order required cruise ships to ensure that at least 95% of crew and passengers were vaccinated or to commit to taking volunteers on a series of “test” cruises demonstrating how they would mitigate COVID-19 risks before resuming regular voyages with paying customers. Sunday’s ruling stayed the injunction, allowing the restrictions to remain in place.

Norwegian Cruise Lines filed an amicus brief in the case challenging a Florida law that prohibits cruise lines from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination. The cruise line is set to resume operations on Aug. 15 and said in the suit that the only way it could “maintain its protocols and operations as currently planned is by abandoning Florida altogether.” On June 27, the Celebrity Edge became the first cruise ship to set sail from the United States with paying customers, departing from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at 36% capacity with all crew members and at least 95% of passengers fully vaccinated.

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