Judge denies CDC's request to keep COVID-19 cruise restrictions, cites 'use and misuse of governmental power'

Conditional Sailing Order to turn into nonbinding guidelines on July 18

A federal judge denied the CDC's request to keep COVID-19 restrictions on cruises in place in Florida past July 18, writing that the agency "can show no factor that outweighs the need to conclude an unwarranted and unprecedented exercise of governmental power."

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday originally ruled against the CDC last month, granting a preliminary injunction that will turn the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) into nonbinding guidelines on July 18. 

The CDC appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and requested a stay on Tuesday, but Merryday dismissed that motion on Wednesday. 


"Although CDC invariably garnishes the argument with dire prospects of ‘transmission’ of COVID-19 aboard a cruise vessel, these dark allusions dismiss state and local health authorities, the industry’s self-regulation, and the thorough and costly preparations and accommodations by all concerned to avoid ‘transmission’ and to confine and control the ‘transmission,’ if one occurs," Merryday wrote Wednesday. 

He continued, "More to the point, this action is not about what health precautions against COVID-19 are necessary or helpful aboard a cruise ship; this action is about the use and misuse of governmental power."

The Celebrity Edge is moored at Port Everglades, Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Celebrity Edge is the first cruise ship to leave a U.S. port since the coronavirus pandemic brought the industry to a 15-month standstill. (AP Photo/Ma

The CDC shut down cruises in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, then issued a CSO in October that gave cruise lines a strict phased approach to reopening. 

The court battle started in April when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sued the CDC, saying that the "lawsuit is necessary to protect Floridians from the federal government’s overreach and resulting economic harm to our state."

After Merryday's ruling that sided with Florida, the CSO will turn into just recommendations on July 18, and the CDC's appeal will be left up to the Eleventh Circuit. 


Cruises have already restarted in Florida, with Celebrity Edge taking off from Fort Lauderdale on June 26. A Royal Caribbean ship set sail from Miami on July 2 and a Carnival Cruise Line's ship set sail from Galveston, Texas on July 3.