Posted on Cruise Ship Law Blog / BlogAppellate Court’s Cruise Ship Crime Oversight

Page Updated 12/06/2021

Appellate Court’s Cruise Ship Crime Oversight


The Pandemic has affected some of the major industries in the US.

The cruise industry faced an even more severe crisis when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention brought forward a set of safety rules for cruise lines and their crew members to follow.

Has the Appellate Court Forgotten Something?

  • A decision in Favor of Cruise Lines
  • Conditional Sail Order for Cruise Ships
  • District Judge Steven Merryday and the CDC
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Others Are Set to Sail

The conditional sail order set forward by the CDC required the cruise ships to follow certain safety procedures to restart their operations.

This affected the entire industry indefinitely until the recent Federal Court hearing in June 2021.

A decision in Favor of Cruise Lines

During the hearing led by Federal judge Steven Merryday, the decision to revoke the conditional sail order was met with support from fellow judges.

The decision required the cruise lines to follow the conditional sail order until July 18. After that, the order would become simple, non-binding recommendations. However, this did not mean that the industry would not have any rules catering to the Pandemic.

The entire case would proceed as planned where the CDC had until July 2 to set forward a new but limited set of safety rules. The court decision came when Royal Caribbean was just about to start its cruise services under the CDC rules. They were the first cruise line to test the conditional sail order and set the foundations for others to follow.

This was a breakthrough, as no cruises left US ports since March 2020. Even Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Edge became the first cruise ship to have to pay passengers since March. It had scheduled its cruise to depart from Port Everglades on June 26.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody called this decision a huge victory for Florida and its people as their livelihoods depended on the cruise industry. Ashley stated that the federal government did not have the right to single out an industry and impose lockdown restrictions on it.

The decision by Steven Merryday also got support from Florida Governor Ron Desantis. They went on to blame the CDC for being wrong and imposing restrictions that even went beyond the federal government’s reach.

So, what was so bad about the restrictions imposed by the CDC on the cruise industry?

Conditional Sail Order for Cruise Ships

Just like how different states implemented restrictions on business activities, the CDC revealed the conditional sail order stating a four-phase strategy to restart the cruise industry.

The first phase of the order required cruise ships to ramp up the efforts of Covid-19 testing aboard their cruise ships. It also laid reporting requirements where cruise ships had to report weekly test results for all the crew members aboard the ship.

As the industry waited for instructions for the second phase, the CDC took five months to go onto phase 2 of its plan, requiring cruise ships to get into an agreement with the local health authorities and port of the cities they plan to visit.

The final stages of the plan gave cruise lines two options:

  1. Restart activities without the need for test cruises on the condition that 98% of the crew members and 95% of the passengers get vaccinated
  2. Conduct two-day test cruise while ensuring Covid-19 safety protocols

Governor Ron Desantis stated that this crime oversight could not continue. The cruise industry must start its services immediately as it can lead to the collapse of the Florida economy.

District Judge Steven Merryday and the CDC

District Judge Steven Merryday disagreed with CDC’s actions and said that the authority could not justify the safety protocols it wanted to put in place. It even agreed with the Governor’s decision to sue the CDC as the closure of the cruise industry meant substantial economic losses and livelihoods of many.

Merryday stated that the CDC has the right to implement reporting requirements on the cruise industry; however it can no,t ask cruise lines to have testing labs, ventilation systems, and other safety and health equipment onboard the ship.

Merryday compared CDC’s authoritative and absurd requirements to spreading AIDS by stating that shutting down cruise ships to avoid the spread of Covid-19 is just like banning sexual intercourse from preventing the spread of AIDS.

Caitlin Shockey, a CDC spokesperson, refused to speak on the decision made by Merryday.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Others Are Set to Sail

Many argued Merryday’s decision stating that cruise ships harbor an environment that can potentially spread the virus faster than any other business. However, cruise lines did not report such comments and have already gotten the go-ahead for test cruises and revenue cruises.

Cruise lines have a duty of care towards their passengers, and failure to do so can get them in trouble with the law. However, this is not the case as the companies use caveats in the law to escape it.

If you’ve already been on a cruise trip and have gotten hurt, our Los Angeles cruise ship attorneys can help protect your rights and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve!

If you’re traveling on a cruise trip during the Pandemic, contact Ehline Law and our Los Angeles cruise ship attorneys at (213) 596-9642 for more information on how you can protect yourself during the trip.

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