Major outbreaks on the Diamond Princess and other cruise liners in 2020 were our first glimpse into the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s now been over a year since cruise ships have risen their anchors and those in the industry are eager to dip their toe back in. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not as enthusiastic.

CDC officials have established a set of directives known as the Conditional Sail Order in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. One of these rules state passengers must show proof of vaccination when boarding the ship. The order was enforced until recently Florida District Judge, Steven Merryday, ruled in a suit brought by Florida that these CDC procedures would be seen as mere guidelines rather than a requirement for cruise liners. The Tampa-based judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the CDC from enforcing the Sail Order pending further legal action on a broader Florida lawsuit.

Judge Merryday’s ruling has concerned both state officials and the CDC because now Floridian cruise liners will have to “take the passenger’s word for it” when it comes to vaccinations. Our very own Seattle maritime attorney at BOATLAW, LLP, Nick Neidzwski, commented on the situation in a Reuters video.

As a Seattle maritime lawyer, attorney Neidzwski states that there were conflicting messages from many groups near the beginning of the pandemic. However, both national and international entities including the CDC have reached more of a consensus on how to approach COVID-19 since. He states that because of this knowledge and consensus, there’s no excuse to ignore the precautions set by the CDC. So far, it appears that cruise liners in the Seattle and Washington area have followed the Conditional Sail Order set by the CDC without any opposition.

Many believe Florida will not have a choice to ignore the CDC Sail Order much longer thanks to the dormant commerce clause. Essentially, this means states can’t regulate in ways that interfere with the right of Congress to make decisions about safe and secure national and international travel.

We all hope that the hard working crewmembers of the cruise line industry can soon safely return to work, and that passengers can again safely enjoy cruises. However, it’s important to remember that cruise accidents and injuries are not uncommon. If you’re struggling with an injury or a death of a loved one from a cruise ship, you have less than 6 months after the date of injury or death to provide written notice of a claim, and less than 1 year after the date of injury or death to file a lawsuit. We suggest you call BOATLAW, LLP. With over 40 years of combined experience, our attorneys can assist you.