The Cunard cruise ship Queen Elizabeth sails through Cook Inlet Thursday, May 16, 2019, for a port call in Anchorage. Federal officials say a lawsuit in Florida could block cruise ships from visiting Alaska in summer 2021. (AP Photo / Mark Thiessen)

CDC: Florida lawsuit imperils summer cruises to Alaska

CDC lawyers say injunction win would “end cruising in Alaska for the season.”

U.S. officials say Florida’s lawsuit against the federal government over conditions for cruise lines to resume sailing could threaten plans to restart cruising in Alaska.

Florida sued the Biden administration to throw out requirements, called a conditional sailing order, that were imposed on cruise lines before they can sail in U.S. water for the first time since March 2020.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that Congress effectively ratified the conditional sailing order when it passed a law last month to let large cruise ships resume trips from Washington state to Alaska this summer.

[Visitor numbers are on the rebound, but hotel vacancies remain high]

If Florida wins an injunction blocking the CDC order, it would “end cruising in Alaska for the season,” lawyers for the agency say because the bill pushed by Alaska’s Republican congressional delegation hinges on the CDC order being in effect. Several cruise lines have announced plans to sail to Alaska with vaccinated crew members and passengers starting in a few weeks.

Alaska estimates that cruising contributes $3 billion a year to the state economy. Alaska and Texas, another state with a sizeable cruising industry, sided with Florida early in the case.

Alaska’s attorney general’s office complained in a court filing this week about the CDC’s “constantly-morphing orders, restrictions and guidance” for large cruise ships.

Federal lawyers also said in a filing this week that granting Florida’s wish to block the CDC’s regulation of the cruising restart would undermine public confidence in cruising, “particularly in the state of Florida, which is publicly battling with the industry over its own laws.”

That was a reference to concern among cruise lines that a state law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would prohibit the companies from requiring that passengers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The federal judge overseeing Florida’s lawsuit against the Biden administration ordered both sides into mediation, which has failed to end the standoff.

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