Senators introduce a bill to restore cruise industry by July 4

A cruise ship docked in Alaskan waters
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A group of Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill to override the CDC and to restore the cruise industry.

By Michael McGrady, Maritime Direct Americas & Pacific Correspondent

WASHINGTON — A group of senior Republican senators announced that they had filed the CRUISE Act, which would override the power of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by permitting the cruise industry by July 4 of this year.

The Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (CRUISE) Act was introduced by Sens. Rick Scott (Florida), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), and Marco Rubio (Florida). Much of the CRUISE Act intends to repeal the CDC’s current no-sail order that restricts the cruise industry from sailing unless certain COVID-19 and safety standards are met. These standards include a reopening plan approved by the CDC, which accounts for passengers and crew vaccination and social distancing.

Although the CDC amended the no-sail order to permit sailing on an acceptable timeline, the industry has opposed the order claiming that it still delays cruise brands’ ability to resume expeditions and profitable operations.

As a result, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (on behalf of the state government and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis) sued the CDC and the Biden administration for the lack of guidance for reopening cruise line operations.

The CRUISE Act is now the latest entry in the ongoing debate over the CDC’s power to regulate public health and travel.

“Florida is a tourism state with thousands of jobs relying on the success of our ports, cruise lines, and maritime industries,” Scott said in a statement. “While many sectors of the economy have been safely operating for months under CDC guidelines, Floridians, and those across the nation that rely on the cruise industry for work, continue to wait for updated guidance from the CDC.”

“The benefits of cruise operations are integral to the economies of Florida’s port cities. Floridians and many other Americans who are employed by ports, cruise operators, or work in hospitality jobs near cruise terminals face an uncertain future because of the CDC’s unresponsiveness to requests for guidance by stakeholder groups,” said Sen. Rubio in the same press statement.

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Florida, is the primary sponsor of the CRUISE Act in the House of Representatives.

“I am proud to join my Senate colleagues and lead this fight in the House so that our ships can return to sea, our longshoremen can return to port, and Americans can start cruising again,” Rep. Salazar said. “This legislation will fix the CDC’s arbitrary guidelines and give clarity and fairness to the industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout Miami’s entire tourism economy.”

Sen. Sullivan, working on behalf of the Alaska cruise industry, is similarly concerned.

“The foot-dragging, mixed messages, and unresponsiveness of CDC leaders is totally unacceptable and ultimately endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Americans and the hundreds of small businesses across Alaska that rely on the tourism sector,” Sullivan said.

From the position of Sens. Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (Republican), the cruise industry in Alaska is also a crucial component of the state’s tourism sector. Maritime Direct reported extensively on how the Canadian government banned cruise ships through February 2022. That blow to the Alaska cruise industry essentially placed the state’s season on hold for another year. With Alaska at-large Rep. Don Young in the House, Sullivan and Murkowski introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act to grant a waiver to the existing Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between Washington state and Alaska.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a resolution from the state legislature urging Congress to exempt cruise ships from the PVSA while Canadian ports are closed to cruise liners carrying more than 100 people. Dunleavy also threatened to sue the CDC over their blocking of cruises through November of 2021, per the existing and amended Conditional Sail Order, via Attorney General Treg Taylor.

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