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Did Ron DeSantis just doom Florida’s cruise restart to failure?

PortandTerminal.com, September 26, 2020

For the cruise industry to restart it needs to convince the public that the ships are safe AND that they are sailing from “Healthy Ports”

MIAMI – The cruise industry has been working hard to convince the CDC and the public in general that it is ready to start safely cruising again.

Last Monday, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 95% of global ocean-going cruise capacity, announced the adoption of a set of health protocols to be implemented as part of a phased-in, controlled resumption of operations. 

Cruising out of US ports is currently banned through a No Sail Order from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until at least October 31.

CLIA’s hope is that by adopting these health protocols proposed by their Healthy Sail Panel that they can convince the CDC to lift its No Sail Order and get cruise companies back in business ASAP – ideally before the end of 2020.

On Friday though Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis may have unwittingly torpedoed the cruise industry’s chances of convincing the public that they can safely book a cruise vacation again – at least not out of Florida.

Florida bars and restaurants can reopen at full capacity

Bar in purple light glow.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses in Florida and banned local fines against people who refuse to wear masks as he seeks to reopen the state’s economy despite the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. DeSantis acknowledged that the pandemic is far from over, but he said the threat has eased and the time has come to reopen for business.

That’s bad news for the cruise industry because it will almost certainly reinforce the perception amongst vacationers that Florida is a dangerous, out of control, coronavirus hot-spot.

Coronavirus in Florida

Florida, with a population of 21.5 million is the third-largest state in the United States. Since January, Florida is also the third worst-hit state in America by the coronavirus — 14,022 deaths and almost 700,000 infections. Yesterday alone (September 26), Florida reported 2,795 new infections and 105 more deaths.

So yes, Florida is a hot-spot for coronavirus and is far from having the virus under control as DeSantis concedes. Quite the opposite. Gov. DeSantis’ lifting of sensible measures to control the spread of coronavirus are guaranteed to make things much worse.

The cruise industry in Florida

PortMiami seen here is the world’s number one cruise port by passenger count.

Florida is home to 3 of the world’s top-5 multiday cruise ports, with 59 percent of all embarkations in the United States taking place there in 2018.

The ports of Miami, Canaveral and Everglades rank number 1, 2 and 4 respectively as the world’s largest cruise ports by passenger count. Before the pandemic, PortMiami welcomed 6.8 million cruise passengers, a world record.

The cruise industry’s No Sail Order has hurt Florida. According to U.S. Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis E. Sola, Florida has lost $3.2 billion in economic activity and 49,500 local jobs paying approximately $2.3 billion in wages as a result of the suspension of cruising.

Cruising Needs Healthy Ports

To take a cruise you have to visit its home port to board and disembark from the ship. Many cruise passengers will book-end their cruises with a day or two at the home port spent in hotels, restaurants and bars.

Knowing the prevalence of coronavirus in Florida and the lack of control being placed on its spread, how keen will cruise passengers be in risking a cruise out of a Florida port?

Here’s a second question. If you were a health official, CDC or otherwise, how happy will you now be to see citizens from your state travel to Florida, expose themselves to the increased risk of infection there and travel home — possibly now infected and at risk of spreading the virus at home?

So yes. The cruise industry desperately needs to resume sailings and Florida is the cruise capital of America. But as of last Friday when the decision was taken to lift all restrictions on bars and restaurants, Florida is a less safe place for cruise passengers to visit.

But it doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom for the cruise industry.

There are other major cruise ports outside of Florida that cater to American passengers.

The Port of Nassau, for example, is ranked 5th largest cruise port in the world (after Florida’s Port of Everglades) and is just a short flight from the continental United States. By adopting strict measures in-line with CLIA’s Healthy Sail Panel health provisions, could they position themselves as the preferred “Healthy Port” to sail from as the industry struggles to restart?

Copyright © 2020 PortandTerminal.com

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