Early this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) directed Florida to sue the Biden administration in court to overturn the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Conditional Sailing Order” locking down the cruise industry. This welcome move is extremely personal for me and my family.
“To be clear, no federal law authorizes the CDC to indefinitely impose a nationwide shutdown of an entire industry,” DeSantis said in a statement on the lawsuit. “This lawsuit is necessary to protect Floridians from the federal government’s overreach and resulting economic harm to our state.”
My wife and I have enjoyed cruises immensely, because cruises combine travel with easy access to food and entertainment. I went on my first cruise for our honeymoon, but my wife and I have gone on cruises in the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico since then.
Yet the cruise lockdown during COVID-19 has dashed our vacation plans time and time again, and one case was particularly tragic.
After the first big wave of COVID came across the U.S., we hoped that lockdowns would ease. My wife and I bought tickets for a New England cruise that ended up in Canada — near Montreal. My wife’s grandmother lived in Montreal and we desperately wanted her to be able to meet our little daughter, Alanna.
Yet Canada banned travel from the U.S. and our cruise got canceled. My wife’s grandmother contracted COVID-19 and recovered, yet months after the cruise would have taken place, she tragically passed away of natural causes.
She never got to see our little girl, except remotely via video. My wife, daughter, and I have been unable to travel to Canada to pay our respects. I am, however, thankful that I got to meet her in person back in 2018.
After that cruise got canceled, my wife and I booked two more cruises with Royal Caribbean, which has special childcare availability for children under 2 years old. Both of those cruises also got canceled. Every week or so, my wife would check online to see if the vacation we had planned could actually come to pass.
Cruise lines, fed up with the United States’ unwillingness to allow sailing, have threatened to cut off American ports, exclusively sailing elsewhere. DeSantis’ lawsuit is extremely important for Florida’s economy and for the economies of other states, where cruises provide an economic boost as well as a vacation opportunity.
I understand the fears that some people have regarding cruises — after all, the Diamond Princess had a COVID-19 outbreak early in the pandemic, and 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members were forced to quarantine on the ship after a passenger tested positive for the virus. The virus spread to more than 700 people who had been on board the ship, killing more than a dozen.
Early on in the pandemic, it made sense to pause cruising until scientists could fully understand COVID-19 and address concerns. However, it is long past time for cruises to resume — and cruises can resume with precautions to mitigate the virus’s spread.
Between April 2020 and March 2021, an estimated 32 million people would have sailed on cruise ships around the globe. While some cruising has resumed in Europe and Asia, the lost business is crippling.
“Beginning in mid-March 2020 up until the end of March 2021, the estimated direct impact of the suspension of cruise operations in the USA will be a loss of $17 billion in direct spending and 114,675 American jobs, representing $5.5 billion in direct wages,” Christian Savelli, vice president of research and business analytics for the Cruise Lines International Association, told USA Today.
I’m honestly not sure if it would have been advisable for cruises to resume in September 2020 when my wife, my daughter, and I would have traveled up north to see my wife’s grandmother one last time. We would have taken the risk, given the information available at the time. (We later contracted COVID-19 in December and had extremely mild cases, as would be expected for patients in their early thirties.)
Our personal tragedy is just one of many, and my family has had it rather well during the pandemic, all things considered. Yet our story illustrates just how personal the shutdown of the cruise industry can be, and there are likely many other stories like it.