The lawsuit and related motion for preliminary injunction against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources filed by the state of Florida (which Alaska and Texas have joined) have, in my opinion, virtually no chance of success.

A preview of how the federal judge, Steven D. Merryday, views the issues will come as early as tomorrow morning when the federal court in Tampa convenes a hearing on Florida’s motion for preliminary injunction. The issue has been fully briefed by the parties. The federal judge presiding over the case will decide the initial issue of whether the state of Florida is entitled to the extraordinary relief it seeks – that a federal health agency should somehow immediately be stripped of its traditional duty to place health restrictions on the international cruise industry which is trying to resume operations during the ongoing deadly pandemic.

My review of the CDC’s memorandum in opposition to Florida’s motion for preliminary injunction, which you can read here, indicates that there is little chance that the federal court will rule that the CDC’s authority should be limited by Florida, much less on an emergency basis as Florida requests.  As the CDC’s memorandum explains, “the United States remains in the midst of a once-in-a century pandemic that has killed over half a million Americans  and three million people worldwide. (According to John’s Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center as of today there have been over 582,000 deaths in the U.S. and over 3,307,000 deaths in the world due to COVID-19).  Early in the pandemic, several deadly outbreaks were clustered on cruise ships, like the Diamond Princess in Japan, and the Grand Princess in the San Francisco Bay. These outbreaks required vast expenditures of government resources to evacuate, quarantine, isolate, house, and treat passengers. These experiences demonstrated that cruise ships are uniquely suited to spread COVID-19, likely due to their close quarters for passengers and crew for prolonged periods, and other factors.”

No Cruise Lines Have Intervened in the Lawsuit, Nor Have They Submitted The Necessary Agreements with Port, Medical or Housing Authorities

As the CDC points out, none of the cruise lines have sought to intervene in the pending lawsuit. All of the cruise lines are working in partnership with the CDC through the phased approach to resuming cruising. Currently, the industry is in Phase 2(a), in which “cruise ship operators build additional testing capacity and negotiate agreements with port and local health authorities in each jurisdiction in which they intend to dock to ensure that these local authorities agree that any outbreaks can be safely managed.” Although the CDC’s initial conditional sailing order dated October 30, 2020 required the cruise lines to submit proof of agreements with port, medical and housing authorities to provide accommodations and medical treatment in the event that cruise passengers become infected by or exposed to the virus, no cruise lines to date have complied with this requirement. As the CDC explains:

“The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that cruise operators have pre-arranged with port authorities how operations and outbreaks will be handled during the pandemic – e.g., that if a cruise line’s outbreak plan is to shunt thousands of potentially infected passengers onto a small community in Alaska that does not have housing or medical facilities, the cruise line must have the local authority’s consent to do so and must have made arrangements for adequate housing and care.

The CDC cites three primary reasons why the Court should deny Florida’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

1.   The State of Florida (and Alaska and Texas) Lack Legal Standing 

First, the state of Florida lacks legal “standing” to bring the lawsuit in the first place.

As we pointed out in our article titled “Governor DeSantis’ Lawsuit Against the CDC – “A Craven Political Stunt Pandering to Cruise Lines,” the losses incurred by the cruise lines due to the pandemic and the halting of cruise ships are not losses incurred by the state of Florida. In every lawsuit, the person or entity who brings the lawsuit must have actually suffered the harm in order to have legal standing.  In other words, you can’t sue if your neighbor is injured. Here, there’s no basis for a state to assert a  legal case by referring to the financial losses of corporations which chose not to incorporate in Florida but incorporate outside of the state in places like Panama (Carnival), Liberia, Africa (Royal Caribbean) or Bermuda (NCL) and register their ships in Panama and the Bahamas in order to avoid all U.S. wage and labor laws.

The only losses which Florida has possibly incurred are “reemployment assistance benefits” which Florida says are $20,000,000 paid to “6,464 former cruise industry employees” and, arguably, lost tax revenue associated with cruise ship operations estimated to be $82 million. These alleged and speculative figures are largely “de minimis” figures in any event, considering that Governor DeSantis “has recommended a Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget of $96.6 billion.”

” . . . Florida speculates that lost tax revenue associated with cruise ship operations might be $82 million. Johnston Decl. ¶ 5.12 But in a state with a Chief Executive that has recommended a Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget of $96.6 billion, the amount at issue is roughly 0.085% of the state’s budget.”

2.   Florida Unreasonably Delayed Claiming That The CDC’s Order Irreparable Harmed It 

Secondly, the state of Florida unreasonably delayed seeking to prohibit the CDC from restricting cruise operations.  The CDC argues that Florida “sat on its supposed rights for well over a year while cruise ship operations were restricted. It cannot now establish that irreparable harm would be prevented by letting cruise ships resume operations slightly more quickly than CDC believes is necessary to protect the public’s health.” The idea of a preliminary injunction is premised on the need for speedy and urgent action to “protect a party’s rights before a case can be resolved on its merits.”  Florida seeks to preliminarily enjoin the CDC from enforcing its conditional sailing order, but it “offers no explanation why it waited nearly six months after the temporary emergency order was issued” (October 1, 2020) to seek judicial review.

The CDC makes a compelling case that Florida not only waited too long to bring legal action, but it failed to establish that it suffered actual “irreparable harm” which would justify the “extraordinary and drastic remedy” of a preliminary injunction,

3.   Florida Can’t Establish A Likelihood That it Will Prevail On the Merits

Thirdly, it is entirely questionable that Florida can establish a “likelihood of success on the merits of its claims.” Considering that the CDC has the authority and responsibility of enacting protocols which are reasonably designed to fight this pandemic which has infected 32,756,000 U.S. citizens and killed over 582,000 Americans, this is an area traditionally reserved for health decisions at the discretion of the federal government. Long before cruise ships sailed, the federal government has exercised jurisdiction in protecting Americans from international viruses coming ashore by ships.

Obviously, local state and city health inspectors do not have jurisdiction to board and inspect vessels engaged in international sailings. This is exclusively the jurisdiction reserved to federal agencies like the CDC. The lawsuit and motion represent a rank attempt by state politicians, who have demonstrated contempt for the federal government and who have refused to comply with the CDC’s health protocols, to replace the experience and scientific reasoning of experienced CDC officials with their own politically influenced opinions which potentially adversely affect the lives and health of U.S. citizens.

The Federal Government Has Traditionally Protected the U.S. Public Health

The Public Health Service Act (“PHSA”) has long been shown to consolidate and codify the federal government’s “basic authority to make regulations to prevent the spread of [communicable] disease into this country or between the States.” The Federal statute authorizes the CDC “to make and enforce such regulations as in [the Secretary’s] judgment are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession.”

The CDC points out that there is a long history of  the federal government combating the spread of communicable disease, including the regulation of vessels in interstate and international travel. Congress enacted the first federal quarantine law in 1796. Following a subsequent yellow fever outbreak, Congress replaced this federal act with a federal inspection system for maritime quarantines. Nearly a hundred years later, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to adopt additional regulations to prevent the introduction of disease into the United States or across state lines where the Secretary considered state or local regulation inadequate.

The lawsuit makes the extraordinary allegation the federal statutes and regulations do not empower the CDC to “make or enforce regulations that suspend the operations of cruise ships . . . ” Of course, this is a preposterous assertion. Over the years, the CDC has entered “no sail orders” when hundreds of passengers and crew became ill with norovirus or other gastrointestinal illnesses. Back in 2011, one of the most notable incidents involved the CDC shutting down the Celebrity Mercury (since sold) which was sailing out of Charleston, South Carolina. After three consecutive norovirus outbreaks which sickened literally thousands of guests and crew members, the CDC finally prohibited the cruise ship from sailing and further harming the public by entering a strict “no sail” order.

Cruise Ships Are Uniquely Different Than Other Industries

Florida argues that the CDC supposedly treats the cruise industry differently from other other industries.  But the CDC has proven “that cruise ships are unique.” The CDC’s prior orders “found markedly higher transmission rates on board cruise ships than exist in other settings; crew and passengers live onboard for prolonged periods of time in enclosed spaces in which social distancing is challenging at best . . .”

A common comment left on our Cruise Law News Facebook page is that the CDC “treats travel by airplane differently than by cruise ship.” But there is a world of difference. There’s no comparison between the potential viral exposure during a short flight from Atlanta to Miami (less than 2  hours) or from New York (less than 3 hours) with the fresh air via airplane ventilation systems which include HEPA filters where you travel with just 100 other passengers or less – versus a week long cruise to the Caribbean (168 hours) with thousands of passengers and crew members from around the world congregating while eating and drinking in bars and restaurants and visiting ports with few local people vaccinated.

The CDC filed a declaration of a senior CDC official, Captain Aimee Treffiletti, who “explains that contract tracing required for cruise passengers in early 2020 was far greater than that for air passengers during the same time frame, and that cruise ships have unique conditions on board that exacerbate transmission.” Treffiletti Decl. ¶¶ 21-22, 76. Florida argues “that a cruise ship is like an airplane or a hotel, but offers nothing in support of that opinion. according to the CDC which concludes  that “the data contradicts (the) unfounded claim  . . .”

Captain Treffiletti also established that contrary to CLIA’s false claim that there have been less than 50 COVID-19 cases on cruise ships sailing from Europe since the pandemic, there actually have been over 200 COVID cases, as we discussed last week (77% more than CLIA admits).

Hearing Tomorrow – Stay Tuned

Judge Merryday will entertain oral argument tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. There does not appear to be a way to listen to the argument remotely. The issues for the trial court’s determination are all fully briefed by the parties; there will be no live testimony, just argument by the lawyers.

My prediction? Hard core cruise fans and the usual travel writers and cruise bloggers will howl in protest, claiming that the judge is somehow biased against the cruise industry, when he denies Florida’s request to interfere with the CDC’s health protocols.

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Photo credits: Top – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Carnival Cruise Line ships – Jim Walker; Ambulance attending to Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas – Robert Madison Walker.

The cruise industry continues to misrepresent its experiences with COVID-19 while sailing in Europe and in Asia (primarily Singapore). The cruise industry’s trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), initially released patently false information that there have been less than fifty (50) cases of COVID-19 on sailing outside of the U.S. involving over 400,000 cruise passengers.

In truth, there have been at least two hundred and sixteen (216) cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships sailing from European ports.  We explained this in our article titled Cruise Lines Continue to Misrepresent Number of Positive COVID-19 Cases During Cruises Outside of the U.S. (there were 214 cases at this time). Since the article, there were two more COVID-19 cases involving NYK Cruises and Costa cruise ships (bringing the total to 216).

Several cruise executives have continued to perpetuate the false information started by CLIA and often add in other dubious claims (such as: a NCL cruise ship is allegedly the “safest place on earth” because of the cruise line’s “ironclad” health and safety protocols” via NCL’s CEO Frank Del Rio, right). Numerous travel agents, travel writers and cruise bloggers, in turn, have added to the misleading narrative. We have carefully documented each COVID-19 case on a ocean and river cruise sailing from a port outside of the U.S. since the U.S. cruise industry stopped sailing last March. We have documented at least 216 cases so far (and continuing), whereas the U.S. based cruise lines acknowledge only less than twenty-five percent (actually around only 23%) of this total.

Cruise Lines Have a History of Lying to U.S. Federal Agencies and the U.S. Department of Justice

Anyone who has followed the history of cruise lines knows that their propensity for honesty is suspect at best. Major cruise lines like Carnival Corporation and the Royal Caribbean Group have been convicted of felonies for not only violating national and international pollution laws and regulations but for lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Justice on numerous occasions, including while on criminal probation. So the question arises, why are the cruise lines continuing to lie in face of such easily verified information to the contrary?

Are cruise lines trying to minimize the true number of infections in an effort to convince their customers that they have protocols in order to market the alleged safety of cruising and entice the average cruiser? Or is the cruise industry simply trying to bamboozle the CDC?

Declaration of CDC Captain Aimee Treffiletti

Whatever the motivation, it’s clear that the CDC is well aware of the cruise industry’s actual history of COVID-19 involved in sailing outside of the U.S. A review of the court record in the litigation filed by the state of Florida against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Health and Human Resources Department clearly leads to this conclusion. The CDC recently filed a declaration of Aimee Treffiletti, captain of the CDC’s Global Migration Task Force’s maritime unit, into the court record to be considered next week by the federal district court judge who will be deciding the issue of whether to enter a preliminary injunction against the CDC as requested by the state of Florida.

The declaration tracks the history of outbreaks which continues to plague cruise ships in Europe, both with river cruises as well as large ocean sailing ships operated by MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, TUI Group/Mein Schiff, AIDA, SeaDream, and Hurtigruten.

I am re-printing Captain Treffiletti’s relevant comments in her declaration verbatim below. She addresses the accurate number of COVID-19 cases in European sailing which total over 200 cases, which we have discussed in detail in our prior articles. She also discounts the cruise line’s alleged success in Asia, which is largely limited to sailing from the country of Singapore which has virtually no COVID-19 cases of local transmission in the first place. In light of the U.S. data of over 582,000 COVID-related cases and over 32,698,000 cases in the U.S. at this time, she writes, obviously enough, that “this is not an equivalent comparison to cruising in the United States.”

Captain Treffiletti also addresses the cruise industry’s claim to  have successfully prevented the introduction and transmission of the deadly virus and into Europe by pointing out that public health authorities in Europe also do not routinely collect laboratory testing of disembarking passengers or crew and further follow-up with there persons post-cruise.

Here are the CDC’s observations and opinions regarding the  cruise lines’ actual experiences in Europe and Asia (paragraph headings mine):

Sailings from Singapore

“While some cruise ship operators have claimed to have successfully engaged in cruising with hundreds of thousands of passengers in foreign markets, including Asia, with no or only limited transmission of COVID-19, this is not an equivalent comparison to cruising in the United States. Many of these claims are based on the country of Singapore—a small island nation with a consistently low prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection and federal authority over its travel industry. Since November 2020, Singapore has experienced only a handful of locally transmitted new cases each day (between zero and five cases/day). Its cruise voyages have been open only to Singapore residents on itineraries that only port within Singapore and at a reduced capacity . . .”

River Cruises in Europe

“Similarly, some cruise ship operators have claimed to have successfully engaged in cruising in the Europe. However, these cruises have not been without incident. From September to November 2020, media sources reported several outbreaks occurred on European river cruise ships where approximately 100 persons were infected, including 8 travelers on CroisiEurope’s Vasco da Gama cruise ship in September, 60 passengers on the MS Swiss Crystal and 13 travelers on the MS Vista Serenity in October, and 10 crew members on the MS Thurgau Chopin in November. Many other river cruise voyages in Europe were cancelled due to the threat of COVID-19.”

Ocean Cruises From Europe

“From July 2020 to February 2021, outbreaks were reported on European nonriver cruise ships with over 100 persons infected, including 71 travelers on Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen (below), 10 crew on AIDA cruise line, and 5 crew on the Mein Schiff 1 in July; three travelers on the MS Finnmarken in September; 13
travelers on the Le Jacques-Cartier, 8  on the Costa Diadema (left), and 1 on the MSC Grandiosa in October. In February of this year, four guests tested positive for COVID on the Mein Schiff 2.”

Limited COVID Data Collection in Europe

“Furthermore, while the cruise industry has claimed to have successfully prevented the introduction and transmission of COVID-19 on board and into communities in Europe, this claim cannot be substantiated without results from laboratory testing of disembarking passengers or crew and further follow-up with travelers post-cruise. Such testing and follow-up do not occur in these foreign markets. Local and national public health authorities in Europe also do not routinely collect or mandate collection of these data. Unlike in the United States, which has federally-mandated requirements on cruise ships to report illness and death to CDC staffed Quarantine Stations at major ports of entry, European countries do not have similar systems in place to track cruise ship-related cases or outbreaks. Based on this lack of testing and data collection, potential failures in cruise ship industry protocols and practices cannot be reliability recognized because cases can only be identified within a community and not linked to a cruise ship exposure.”

More Outbreaks to Come – Ready, Set & Infect?

If and when cruising resume from U.S. ports, there will many other COVID-19 outbreaks, particularly if the cruise lines continue to fight the authority and jurisdiction of the CDC.  Unlike in Europe, where there is no obligation of cruise lines to report shipboard viral outbreaks, and the public depends primarily on media reports, there is a clear obligation of cruise companies to report shipboard disease outbreaks to the CDC here in the U.S. Nonetheless, we will continue to closely follow the outbreaks and report them here when they occur.

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Photo credits: MSC Grandiosa – By kees torn – Vertrek, CC BY-SA 2.0 commons / wikimedia; Frank Del Rio – FOX NEWS’ Neil Cavuto; Costa Diadema – Z Thomas – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia; MS Roald Amundsen – Hurtigruten.

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases outside of U.S. based sailings since the cruise industry in North America shut down is now two-hundred and sixteen, after the Costa Smeralda experienced a positive case yesterday.

A Guest Aboard the Costa Smeralda Tests Positive for COVID-19

The Italian newspaper Savona News reported that a passenger aboard the Costa Smeralda tested positive for COVID-19 after it departed from Savona on May 1st with 1613 passengers, a little more than a quarter of its capacity. The newspaper says that unspecified measures “were taken immediately to contain the contagion. The traveler was placed in solitary confinement.”

The Savana News explained that COVID-19 tests were carried out in the middle of the cruise, in addition to the to those already provided before boarding. The cruise line also tracked the infected passenger’s contacts on board. These contacts were also placed in isolation and subjected to a further test as well, which was negative.

The cruise guest who tested positive, in agreement with the health authorities, will be disembarked in the port of Civitavecchia (near Rome) and then returned home by “protected transport.”

The Costa Smeralda left the northwestern port of Savona with great fanfare on May 1st  after being landbound since December  when the Italian government banned cruises during the holiday season due to the coronavirus crisis. Only Italians are permitted on the cruise which will call only at Italian ports (Civitavecchia, Naples, Messina, Cagliari and La Spezia).

There Have Been At Least 216 Positive COVID-19 Cases Outside of the U.S. Since the No Sail Order, Primarily in Europe

This positive COVID case brings the total of coronavirus cases on cruise ships outside of the U.S. to 216 since cruising was suspended from U.S. ports last year. The positive cases have come primarily from sailings in Europe. (You can read sources for this calculation here and here). The cases involved MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, TUI Group/Mein Schiff, AIDA, SeaDream, Hurtigruten and a number of smaller river cruise ships.

Unfortunately, the cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), has persistently misrepresented the number of COVID cases outside of the U.S. CLIA claims that out of 400,000 passengers, there have been fewer than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships which have sailed from Europe and parts of Asia since last summer. In truth, CLIA has revealed only less than 25% of the actual number of cruise-related COVID cases, although the public probably does not care that the true number is 216 and not just 50.

Eight Prior Costa COVID-19 Cases 

In October of 2020, eight Costa Cruises guests tested positive for COVID-19 during two cruises on the Costa Diadema. As USA TODAY reported, the Costa cruise ship departed from Genoa on September 28th and ended its voyage on October 12th. The ship then departed on a second 14-day cruise with many of the same passengers on board from the previous cruise and returned to Genoa 10 days earlier than intended.

There was COVID-19 on the ship during both cruises notwithstanding Costa’s so-called “strenuous” protocols which promise a “totally safe cruise. An Italian newspaper, Il Secolo XIX, reported that seven passengers were tested on Monday and were positive for the virus. Carnival told USA TODAY that “following excursions in Greek islands, they were tested again before returning to Italy, and seven preliminarily tested positive.” The guests were then retested in facilities in Palermo, again found to be positive for the virus, and then isolated ashore.

Another guest, a French national, later became ill on the Costa Diadema and a test taken on the ship was also positive for COVID-19. The passenger was then disembarked from the ship and transported to a hospital in Naples where the patient’s doctor characterized his condition in conflicting terms. Although one newspaper account in Italy indicated that the guest had a fever and other “mild” symptoms, the passenger was described in other accounts to be in a “serious” and “worrying” condition.

Meanwhile in the U.S.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the details of its conditional sailing order to eliminate the requirement for test simulated cruises provided that at least 95% of guests and at least 98% of crew members are fully vaccinated. After weeks of pressure from the cruise lines and their fans, travel publications and cruise bloggers, attempts at  legislation to disempower the CDC and a lawsuit filed by the state of Florida in an attempt to compel the CDC to drop its protocols to fight the pandemic, the local cruise industry is now preparing to try and resume sailings as early as this summer.

The Miami Herald explains that cruise lines will need to abide by CDC guidelines regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing. All passengers and crew members must be tested for COVID-19 during embarkation and debarkation. Fully vaccinated people will be required to take a rapid antigen test; those who aren’t vaccinated will need a PCR test.

For test cruises, cruise lines are required to end a the cruise if 1.5% of the passengers contract COVID-19 or 1% of crew members are detected with the virus. (The CDC hasn’t determined the threshold for ending non-test cruises yet). For a cruise with 4,000 passengers aboard for example, there must be at least 60 passengers with COVID-19 before the cruise is required to end early. This requirement is necessary after several cruise ships with COVID-positive passengers and crew were unable to dock at certain ports last year.

A major stumbling block for the cruise lines remain their unwillingness to comply with the CDC’s requirement that they submit evidence that they have made agreements with ports and local health authorities and housing entities in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak on their cruise ships. This requirement was part of the conditional sailing order last October.

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Photo credit: Costa Smeralda – HenSti – (cropped) CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia; Costa’s “Totally Safe” advertising – Costa Cruises.

As U.S. based cruise companies like Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines announce their intentions of resuming operations this summer, countries where many crew members reside are facing unprecedented increases in the number of coronavirus cases.

Over 40% of crew members hired by cruise lines reside in countries such as India and the Philippines. One one day this weekend,  India, which provides around a quarter of seafarers for the cruise industry, recorded more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time. The country faces a catastrophic second wave of the virus which is overwhelming hospitals and causing families to desperately search for oxygen. The U.S. media shows the public waiting in long lines outside of hospitals in dire stress. India is resorting to makeshift funeral pyres as crematoriums and morgues are unable to handle the number of deaths caused by the virus. Unlike the U.S., India’s vaccination efforts have been hampered by shortages of vaccines.

The number of daily COVID-19 cases in India has climbed to over 400,000 after ten consecutive days of more than 300,000 daily cases.

Read the LA Times’ Photo essay: How India’s COVID-19 crisis leaves a trail of death and misery.

President Joe Biden on Friday imposed new travel restrictions on India in light of the epidemic, barring most non-U.S. citizens from entering the United States. The new travel restrictions, which take effect tomorrow, are on the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC states that fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to India.

But even before the new travel restrictions were announced, Royal Caribbean decided to temporarily suspend all assignments for its crew from India and also halted hiring in that country amid the surge of COVID-19 cases there, according to a report by Crew Center.

The popular cruise site stated that around 300 Indian crew members assigned to join Anthem of the Seas today, were canceled. Indian crew were also supposed to join Adventure of the Seas. Some of them are already in St Marten and will not be allowed to embark the ship.

Seatrade Cruise News reported that Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley downplayed the impact, calling the situation in India as “unfortunate.”

CEO Bayley acknowledged that a ‘”significant volume of employees” come from India, but added that “we have large populations from many other countries around the world” and ‘[we’re] pretty confident this will work out in the coming months.”

The Philippines, also facing a coronavirus infection spike, is extending an already month-long lockdown by two weeks as the country’s infection rate starts to slightly decrease but remains alarmingly high. President Duterte said he is extending the lockdown by two weeks through May 14th.

President Duterte is “warning mayors and village chiefs that they face jail if they don’t prevent gatherings and other events that violate the pandemic restrictions,” according to ABC News.

A crew member (who wishes to remain anonymous) contacted me over the weekend questioning the discrepancy of Filipino crew members traveling to work on cruise ships while their country remains on lockdown. She stated that:

“The president of the Philippines made his decision – back to lockdown – while children under 18 are housebound – and those over 60 cannot leave the house unless essential. Masks, face-shields, etc., etc. – but in Manila they are sending seamen off to the ships????”

Meanwhile Florida Governor Ron DeSantis today suspended all local COVID-19 emergency mandates effective immediately and is issuing an executive order to outlaw all local COVID-19 emergency mandates in Florida effective July 1st. He recently initiated a lawsuit against the CDC in an effort to compel the federal agency to drop its conditional sail order (in which the CDC strongly recommends that cruise line guests and crew members receive COVID vaccinations) while also signing a law purporting to ban cruise line and other businesses in Florida from requiring their customers or employees to be vaccinated.

The lawsuit filed by the state of Florida and the posturing by Governor DeSantis and some of the cruise executives (like NCL’s Frank Del Rio) and their constant bad-mouthing of the CDC  seems rather frivolous compared to the desperate situation unfolding in places like India where many thousands of crew members are struggling to keep their families safe and alive.

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Photo credit: Top – ABHISHEK/UPI/ALAMY via The Times‘ India’s Covid death toll is revealed in its crematoriums; Middle – DANISH SIDDIQUI / REUTERS via BBC News‘ India coronavirus: Round-the-clock mass cremations.

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Yesterday, Japan’s Nippon Yusen subsidiary NYK Cruises Company (Nippon Yusen Kaisha) stated that a passenger on its cruise ship Asuka II tested positive for coronavirus. The passenger, who was in his 60’s, boarded the cruise ship in Yokohama with around 300 other guests last Thursday.

Media reports state that the ship had unspecified “safety measures” in place. All passengers reportedly tested negative prior to the cruise. The  cruise ship conducted another round of tests during boarding on Thursday, a NYK spokesperson explained to the Japanese press.

The Japan News reported that “the man was confirmed to be infected with the virus Friday, the day after the cruise ship left port. The man and his wife, who had close contact with him, were kept in separate rooms for quarantine, while other passengers stayed in their own rooms. The cruise was canceled, and the crew distributed bento meals to the passengers by hanging them on the doorknobs of the cabins.”

The infected passenger had “felt discomfort in his throat” after boarding. He was originally isolated in his cabin, NYK said in a statement.

The Japan Times reported that the infected man and a female family member (reportedly the only “close contact”), who tested negative, are from Tokyo. He reportedly disembarked from the cruise ship along with all other passengers and headed for Tokyo.

The ship had been scheduled to stop at two ports and return to Yokohama on May 5th. NYK canceled the remainder of the cruise.

At least one newspaper refers to this incident resembling a case of “deja vu” and “an unfortunate case of life coming full circle.” Last February, 3,700 people were quarantined on Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess cruise ship which eventually docked in Yokohama amid a coronavirus outbreak. Over 700 passengers contracted Covid-19 and 14 people died of the virus.

According to the Japan Times, Fukashi Sakamoto, president of NYK Line, apologized for the incident. “We were able to respond promptly because we had learned lessons from the Diamond Princess,” Sakamoto told reporters in Yokohama.

This positive COVID case brings the total of coronavirus cases on cruise ships outside of the U.S. to 215 since cruising was suspended from U.S. ports last year (You can read sources for this calculation here). The cases involved MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, TUI Group/Mein Schiff, AIDA, SeaDream, Hurtigruten and a number of smaller river cruise ships.

Unfortunately, the cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), has persistently misrepresented the number of COVID cases outside of the U.S. CLIA claims that out of 400,000 passengers, there have been fewer than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships which have sailed from Europe and parts of Asia since last summer. In truth, CLIA has revealed only less than 25% of the actual number of cruise-related COVID cases, although the public probably does not care that the true number is 215 and not just 50.

Consider reading Cruise Lines Continue to Misrepresent Number of Positive COVID-19 Cases During Cruises Outside of the U.S.

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Photo credit: Asuka II – top – 663highland, CC BY 2.5, commons / wikimedia; middle –  KYODO via Japan Times.

A week ago, we reported that the Israeli Ministry of Health has not yet approved Royal Caribbean’s heath and safety protocols regarding the cruise line’s plans to begin sailing from Haifa. This was originally reported in the Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom.

Royal Caribbean previously announced its intention to begin sailing the Odyssey of the Seas on two and three night cruises from Haifa, Israel to Limassol, Cyprus starting in June. The company is scheduled to begin three and four night cruises to Rhodes and Mykonos, Greece starting in September. Yet, the cruise line has not obtained the necessary approvals from the host country’s health ministry, according to several news stations in Israel.

The local press in Israel (Ynet) reports that the Odyssey has arrived in Haifa to prepare for its first voyage from that port which is expected to depart on June 2nd. According to Royal Caribbean representatives, the ship arrived at the port of Haifa yesterday for the purpose of “equipping” the ship with provisions. The cruise line said that “this will be an opportunity for the crew of the ship and the port of Haifa to get to know each other, since this is the first time that Odyssey of the seas has entered the port of Haifa.” Royal Caribbean did not disclose to the newspaper that the crew is quarantining,  according to crew members on the ship.

Ynet further learned that because the ship’s crew has not yet been vaccinated, one of the goals of the cruise line “is to vaccinate the entire crew . . .  before receiving the passengers.” The newspaper in Israel states “at the same time, the sailing corporation has not yet received approval from the Israeli Ministry of Health and it is not yet clear whether they will succeed in the vaccination mission in time – before the first guests arrive in June.”

As we reported last week, the Israeli Ministry of Health informed several media outlets (Israel Hayom and Channel 12 News TV) that and the chances of approving the shipping company’s health protocols “are very low.” Meanwhile, the cruise line is continuing to market the cruise from Haifa as a certainty.

Another international newspaper, Globes, denies that the crew is being vaccinated in Israel:

“The fact that the ship is setting sail and returning in three weeks time had led to speculation that the crew are being vaccinated in Israel. But the Ministry of Health denies this. ‘The Ministry has not approved the vaccination of the crew and will not vaccinate them.’ For its part Royal Caribbean insists that it will meet all Ministry of Health regulations. Globes has been told that Ministry of Health officials will board the ship to ensure that all regulations are being met.”

If this account is correct, the question remains: are the crew members on the Odyssey fully vaccinated and, if not, when and where will they become vaccinated?

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Photo Credits: Odyssey of the Seas – Royal Caribbean via Israel Hayom; News anchor – Channel 12 News TV.

The arrival of Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas, in Israel was marred by news that a crew member ended his life as the ship was sailing toward Haifa earlier this week, according to several crew members who wish to remain anonymous.  The cruise ship’s master announced the crew member’s death yesterday via the ship intercom system. The ship employee’s name and details of death were not disclosed.

The unnamed crew member, who is reportedly from India, went overboard from the Odyssey of the Seas Tuesday night as the Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailed south of Cyprus en route to Haifa. The sole newspaper covering the sad event is a newspaper in Cyprus – KNEWS, the English edition of Kathimerini Cyprus, which publish an article this morning titled Cyprus Halts Search For Sailor Lost at Ssea – Cypriot Authorities Fail to Locate Crew Member in the Water After Falling Overboard From Haifa-Bound Cruise Ship.

KNEW reports that “a crew member on a cruise ship bound for Haifa was last seen Tuesday night, according to the captain of the vessel, who said the sailor was last seen when the vessel was some 20 nautical miles south of Cape Gata on the southern coast of Cyprus.”

The search and rescue efforts by Cyprus’ Joint Rescue Coordination Center were unsuccessful and stopped today. The rescue center was first notified yesterday (Wednesday) shortly before noon.

The newspaper in Cyprus, where the Odyssey of the Seas will visit when it begins cruises from Israel in June, did not identify the name of the cruise ship or that it was operated by Royal Caribbean. It is not uncommon for governmental agencies and newspaper in countries which have commercial relationships with cruise lines to refuse to identify the name of the cruise line or cruise ship in cases of crew suicides to avoid embarrassing their business partners.

Two dozen Royal Caribbean ship employees have gone overboard over the past ten years. A couple of years ago, I wrote about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean cruise ships without explanation. During a period of less than four years between 2009 and 2013, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and subsidiary Celebrity) cruise ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less.

The majority of the crew members appeared to have ended their lives intentionally and/or they disappeared mysteriously. The last Royal Caribbean crew member to go overboard was a 27 year old ship employee from Poland. Closed-circuit camera on the cruise ship showed him jumping from the Jewel of the Seas off of the coast of Greece last May.

A 35 year-old crew member from India went overboard from the Rhapsody of the Seas in September of 2019.

A  Royal Caribbean crew member went overboard from the Majesty of the Seas in January of 2019.

A young Celebrity Cruises officer hung himself on the Celebrity Millennium, on December 6, 2018.

Another Royal Caribbean crew member, a performer, age 20, of the United Kingdom, went overboard from the Harmony of the Seas the day after Christmas of 2018.

A Royal Caribbean crew member disappeared from the Adventure of the Seas at the end of November of last year.

A crew member went overboard from the Celebrity Reflection in October of 2018.

A Royal Caribbean crew member went overboard in an apparent suicide from the Vision of the Seas in December of 2017.

A Royal Caribbean crew member went overboard from the Liberty of the Seas in April of 2017.

A Royal Caribbean crew member went overboard from the Independence of the Seas in August of 2014.

A Celebrity crew member disappeared at sea from the Celebrity Constellation in January of 2014.

In all, at least twenty-four (24) crew members went overboard from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships from 2009 to the present. Most cases involved suicides. Yet, Royal Caribbean does not employ mental health counselors on its fleet of cruise ships.

I previously described this sad state of affairs in an article titled Misery Machines and Crew Member Suicides.

Condolences to this unidentified crew member’s family and friends as well as his teammates who he left behind.

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Photo Credits: Odyssey of the Seas – Ynet newspaper; Helicopter search – Cyprus Joint Rescue Coordination Center via KNEWS.

 

A reader of this blog who lives in the state of Baja California Sur Mexico sent me two newspaper articles about water pollution reportedly from cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation. The articles were published last week from BSCNoticias. The first article titled “Black Stains Appear in the Bay of La Paz, Due to Fuel from Cruise Ships.”

The article continues: “. . . in a video uploaded to social media, a woman shows a transparent jar” with a disgusting “sample from the sea” which the article says is from the ships in the bay. The reader who contacted me further indicates that there are seven cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation in the bay – three cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises in the area (Grand Princess, Majestic Princess, and Ruby Princess), as well as four ships operated by HAL (Koningsdam, Zuiderdam, Westerdam, and Noordam).

A second article discusses the fact that up to to eight cruise ships are permitted to anchor in LaPaz Bay. Each ship pays Mexico a fee of around 270,000 pesos (approximately $13,500 each).

The director of the local port administration defends the cruise lines saying that the ships allegedly follow “strict environmental standards” and “they do it in a very correct and very wise way.”

Carnival Corporation’s ships are under court supervised criminal probation here in federal court in Miami for widespread air and water pollution.

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Image Credits: Ships in bay – Memin Ojeda via bcsnoticias.

Are Royal Caribbean’s cruises from Israel in Danger? Perhaps so according to a newspaper in Israel.

The Israel Hayom newspaper reports that the Israeli Ministry of Health has not yet approved the cruise line’s heath and safety protocols. In an article published on April 4, 2021 titled Israel’s Pampering Cruises are in Danger, the newspaper writes that:

“Some of the requirements of the shipping companies are unacceptable to Ministry of Health personnel and the chances of approving them are very low, which can lead to a change in the way cruises work – or in extreme cases cancellations, which is less likely to happen at the moment.”

The newspaper further explains that although the Royal Caribbean cruises (on the Odyssey of the Seas of the Seas) are expected to sail from Israel starting in less than two months, Israel’s “Ministry of Health has not yet approved the operation of the cruises.” It is “unclear whether holidaymakers will be able to board it.” The newspaper says that there has not yet been an official response from Royal Caribbean or other shipping companies.

According to Israel Havom:

  • Some crew members arriving in Israel have not actually yet been vaccinated, although the company has ensured that they are fully vaccinated.
  • The Ministry of Health has not yet approved all the requirements of the cruise line, including sending guests on shore excursions and other tours.
  • According to Royal Caribbean’s agent in Israel, “cruises are for Israelis only with a certificate of vaccination. The cruise ship will sail only to destinations that are already open to Israelis, such as Greece or Cyprus.

Royal Caribbean is advertising two and three night cruises from Haifa, Israel to Limassol, Cyprus starting in June and three and four night cruises to Rhodes and Mykonos, Greece starting in September. “Bookings (are) restricted to residents of Israel, guests over 16 require COVID-19 vaccine.”

This story was covered by Channel 12 News TV which stated that Israel’s Ministry of Health is warning against cruises. The television news station also mentioned that last year, coronavirus sickened Israeli citizens who traveled on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The Israeli press covered the COVID19 cases of Israel passengers who were infected on the Princess cruise ship in February of 2020 and later returned to Israel. Israel Hoyam reported that the first known case of an Israeli with the deadly contagion was on the Diamond Princess. Fifteen Israeli citizens traveled on the Diamond Princess leading to several of them becoming infection with COVID.

You can follow Israel Hayom on Twitter.

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Image Credits: Top and bottom – screen grabs Channel 12; Odyssey of the Seas – Royal Caribbean via Israel Hayom.

 

 

You do not have to be a lawyer steeped in constitutional law to understand that Governor DeSantis’ lawsuit filed yesterday on behalf of the State of Florida against the U.S. federal government and the Centers for Disease Control may lack a legal basis.

Legal scholars could cite a litany of law review articles explaining in great detail why a state governor cannot sue the federal government regarding how a federal health agency manages a deadly international epidemic which affects matters of international businesses involving foreign flagged cruise ship operated by foreign incorporated companies.

No Legal Basis for a State to Sue the Federal Government Managing An International Plague

The Miami Herald lightly touched upon the absence of  legal basis of the ill-conceived litigation in its article titled DeSantis Sues CDC to Get Cruises restarted. Experts Call It a ‘Political Stunt.’ The Miami Herald wrote:

“I think it’s got negligible viability approaching zero,” said Larry Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization’s center on global health law. “Under no circumstance could I see a judge striking down a regulation that applies to cruise ships and the safety of its passengers because its passengers are going to be introducing infectious diseases back into the U.S. if they get infected on the ship. The U.S. has a very strong interest and power to stop that.”

Then there’s the issue of standing. While cruise companies may be able to successfully argue they are victims of the federal government’s regulations, the governor is unlikely to be able to make the same argument.

“It’s a political stunt, and it’s not viable,” said Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University. “DeSantis doesn’t care that it’s gong to be laughed out of court. By the time it gets dismissed his base will have moved on.”

I looked into the legal issues briefly but will defer to the legal scholars for the painful legal mumbo jumbo. Constitutional expert and Professor Tara Leigh Grove of William & Mary Law Schools wrote a law review article a few years ago which delved into great depth regarding the issue – “When Can A State Sue the United States.” After forty-eight  pages of detailed legal analysis, the legal scholar concluded simply that states do not have a special interest in overseeing the manner in which legal agencies implement federal law.

A State Cannot Oversee How the CDC Implements Federal Health and Safety Regulations

Of course, that is exactly what the lawsuit alleges: that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to comply with federal law, namely the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) which governs the process by which federal agencies develop and issue regulations.  The lawsuit further criticizes how the CDC applied 42 USC 264 (Regulations to Control Communicable Diseases) and the corresponding Code of Federal Regulations, 42 CFR 70.2 (Measures in the Event of Inadequate Local Control).

The lawsuit makes the extraordinary allegation these federal statutes and regulations do not empower the CDC to “make or enforce regulations that suspend the operations of cruise ships . . . ” Of course, this is an utterly ridiculous assertion. Over the years, the CDC has entered “no sail orders” when hundreds of passengers and crew became ill with norovirus or other gastrointestinal illnesses. Back in 2011, one of the most notable incidents involved the CDC shutting down the Celebrity Mercury (since sold) which was sailing out of Charleston, South Carolina. After three consecutive norovirus outbreaks which sickened literally thousands of guests and crew members, the CDC finally prohibited the cruise ship from sailing and further harming the public.

Centers for Disease Control: “Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!”

Obviously, local state and city health inspectors do not have jurisdiction to board and inspect vessels engaged in international sailings. This is exclusively the jurisdiction reserved to federal agencies like the CDC.

Florida Has No Standing to Assert Claims By Foreign Incorporated Cruise Lines Operating Cruise Ships Registered in Foreign Countries Outside of the U.S.

The lawsuit includes allegations regarding the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cruise lines. There is no doubt that the deadly coronavirus pandemic substantially affected the cruise industry’s business. But in every lawsuit, the person or entity who brings the lawsuit must have actually suffered the harm.  In other words, you can’t sue if your neighbor is injured.

In this case, Florida alleged that a large number of its  citizens lost their cruise-related jobs and the foreign flagged cruise lines lost billions of dollars in income. There’s no  doubt that this is true, but it’s legally irrelevant to the lawsuit. There is no basis for a state to assert a legal basis for a legal case by referring to the financial losses of corporations which chose to incorporate outside of Florida in places like Panama (Carnival), Liberia, Africa (Royal Caribbean) or Bermuda (NCL) and register their ships in Panama and the Bahamas.  Likewise, the losses sustained by the ports in Florida are not Florida’s losses.

The only losses which Florida has possibly incurred are “reemployment assistance benefits” which Florida says are $20,000,000 paid to “6,464 former cruise industry employees.”  This figure is largely a “de minimis” figure considering that the CEO’s of Carnival Corporation and NCL alone were paid nearly $50,000,000 while firing or furloughing many thousands of sales agents or minimally paid crew members.

The “Facts” Alleged Read Like a Press Release and Involve One-Sided and Highly Disputed Opinions

The lawsuit seeks an injunction summarily holding that the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order is unlawful. This is based on “factual” grounds which are largely self-serving opinions from the cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and cruise fan blogs. One of the first “facts” asserted, without any referenced source, is “the country is returning to normal. Florida is leading the way and has remained more open than many other large states.” Governor DeSantis has always advocated reopening the economy and has largely supported his fellow Republican ex-president Trump’s disregard of the CDC and attempts to downplay the seriousness of the deadly pandemic. DeSantis has expressed Presidential aspirations and will undoubtedly run on a Trumpesque damn-the-CDC-let’s-open-up-the-economy-at-all-costs agenda

It is clearly in dispute whether the U.S. has or ever will “return to normal” as the lawsuit claims. It is also disputed that people are safely traveling again, as alleged in the lawsuit papers: “they are doing so safely with protective vaccines, sanitation and social distancing.” The fact is that  Governor DeSantis has attempted to rally public supports against vaccines and signed an executive order prohibiting corporation from requiring vaccine passports.

Governor DeSantis has exhibited a tendency to make public appearances, at various rallies around the state, where he makes a point of not wearing a mask, shaking hands with other anti-maskers and then rubbing his nose, which has been a spectacle on Twitter. Of course, he reportedly was maskless, along side Representative Gimenez & Commissioner Díaz, at the press conference where he announced his lawsuit against the CDC,

The Lawsuit Cites Cruise Fan Blogs As Part of Its “Factual” Background 

One of the first things that a young lawyer learns is that lawsuits, particularly requests for legal preliminary injunctions which essentially invite the court to rule on the facts alleged in the complaint itself, must contain provable facts. Opinions of fans and admirers are not facts.

DeSantis’ lawyers could not help themselves from citing only self-serving opinions of  CLIA or cruise fan blogs. The popular cruise fans site, Cruise Hive, mocked the CDC conditional sailing order  and also repeated CLIA’s false and misleading conclusions about the “resounding success” of keeping passengers in a safe “bubble” during European and Asian cruises. The truth of the matter is that CLIA, cruise executive and cruise fan blogs have all repeated CLIA’s false data and understated the true number of positive guest and crew COVID-19 cases by over 75%, as we reported.

A “Craven Political Stunt?”

Senator Blumenthal weighed in on Governor DeSantis’ ill-conceived lawsuit today, calling it a “craven political stunt pandering to cruise companies.” He is correct.

There is a reason why no cruise line official reportedly stood during governor’s press release when he filed suit against the CDC yesterday. No cruise CEO wants to be associated with this stunt when it crashes and burns.

Florida reported 7,939 new COIVD cases yesterday. There have been 560,000 COVID deaths and over 31,000,000 cases in the U.S. over the last year. The trend unfortunately is increasing, notwithstanding the availability of vaccines. Contrast these statistics with the COVID number from Singapore,  where one-third of current cruise passengers are sailing from. There is only one reported local new COVID case (reported 2 days ago) and only 26 reported imported cases in Singapore, with just 30 deaths over the last year. The lawsuit refers to the alleged “resounding success” of cruising in Asia, which primarily involves cruising from Singapore.

Any success from cruises from Singapore is not because of cruise line health protocols but due to the fact that there are virtually no COVID cases in that country in the first place.

The fact is Florida is one of just five states which account for 44% of the nation’s new COVID-19 infections, or nearly 197,500 new cases, in the latest available seven-day period. Over the past week, there has been an average of 66,118 COVID cases per day in the U.S., an increase of 13 percent from the average two weeks earlier.

The CDC will continue to be driven by this disturbing data, not the misleading allegations in DeSantis’ amateurish lawsuit.

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Image Credit: WFLA News 8 Tampa