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‘Our tourism is still handicapped,' Gov. Ron DeSantis believes feds should let cruising resume

Gov. Ron DeSantis believes Florida’s economic recovery from COVID-19 could be better if the federal government would let cruise ship passengers decide if they want to take their chances on the open seas.

After giving his State of the State address on Tuesday, DeSantis predicted Florida’s unemployment rate will dip below 6 percent when January numbers are released on March 15 and he said the economy would get a further boost if cruise ships were again operating at state ports.

“Our tourism is still handicapped,” DeSantis told reporters. “They’re not letting the cruise ships sail. We don’t have the flights from Brazil and Europe like we normally would. So there’s a whole host of things that can happen very quickly, that will help the state do even better.”

DeSantis said he worked with the Trump administration to get cruise ships sailing again. But he was unable to alter federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for cruise operations.

“My view would be we have all these different tools now, vaccines, testing, antibody treatments. Let people make decisions for themselves about what they want to do,” DeSantis said. “If you want to go on a cruise, do it. If you don’t, that’s fine. No one’s saying you have to do it. But to just not let these folks work for all these months. We need to get them back to work.”

Under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, cruise lines must meet COVID-19 safety standards that include running test cruises before passengers can be allowed on board.

Michael Rubin, Florida Ports Council vice president of governmental affairs, has called the list of requirements “onerous” and said the pandemic has impacted about 170,000 jobs tied to the state’s ports.

Carnival Cruise Line cruises are expected to be canceled at least through the end of May. In a video last week, Carnival President Christine Duffy said the company has 16 ships in U.S. waters “so that we can get back to cruising just as soon as we are able.”