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Commissioner Sola Meets with Florida’s Governor & Attorney General on Cruise Ship Matters

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Commissioner Louis E. Sola recently held meetings in Tallahassee with Florida’s Governor and Attorney General to brief each on his Fact Finding 30 investigation of COVID-19 related impacts to the cruise industry and to respectively discuss what he envisions as ways to allow for the safe resumption of passenger vessel operations and to increase consumer protections for cruise passengers.

In a March 31 meeting with Governor Ron DeSantis Commissioner Sola articulated how vaccinations, sanitation, and coordination can create the conditions that would permit cruise ships to begin sailing again. Commissioner Sola also proposed that Port Canaveral be designated as a port where vaccines are made available to the crews of any cargo or cruise commercial vessel calling on Florida ports. Under Commissioner Sola’s proposal, vaccinations would be only offered to vessel crews once Florida realizes a surplus of vaccines.

In his meeting with Attorney General Ashley Moody, held on the same day, Commissioner Sola discussed ways the Commission, through its Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services, can coordinate more closely with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to cooperatively assist passengers with a complaint against a cruise line. Other topics covered in their conversation included the potential changes in regulations governing cruise lines refunds where Commissioner Sola has proposed the possibility of establishing a passenger bill of rights.

“I am grateful for the time that Governor DeSantis and Attorney General Moody granted me and for the consideration they are giving to the matters I raised with each of them. While the determination about when cruise ships can begin operating again is primarily a federal one, this is a matter is of great concern, and no small urgency, to states. Given the importance of the passenger cruise industry to the Florida economy and working Floridians, government, business, and port leaders are working diligently to allow for the safe resumption of cruising. I was happy to share the discoveries of my fact finding investigation to date and outline what I see as a way to safely resume operations,” said Commissioner Sola.

Commissioner Sola’s Tallahassee discussions followed meetings with local government officials and industry executives in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Cape Canaveral. In those sessions, which were part of an ongoing discussion between the Commissioner and port stakeholders, Commissioner Sola was shown the preparations already made to support resumed cruises. It was demonstrated that each port was ready to provide onsite testing; that they have protocols and plans in place to evacuate, isolate, and treat any passengers in need of medical assistance; and that they have coordinated with appropriate authorities and partners to provide vaccinations. Commissioner Sola noted that these preparations comport with his “Cruise Forward” concept, which consists of three steps that will allow for the resumption of cruising:

Vaccinations

  • Shoreside Vaccinations—Providing the maritime workforce, particularly terminal workers and longshore labor with vaccinations.
  • Shipboard Vaccinations—Vaccinating crew and permitting inoculated individuals to travel as passengers aboard vessels.
  • Destination Vaccinations—Allow vessels to call destinations where staff working at facilities have been vaccinated or where herd immunity has been achieved.

Sanitation

  • Cruise lines and ports must work with health leaders to develop a uniform set of minimum best sanitation practices and implement them.

Coordination

  • Cooperation between the cruise lines and ports of call must also exist to address evacuation, isolation, and the provision of medical care of infected individuals.

“Implementing ‘Cruise Forward’ will return people to work, stimulate the economy, and encourage investment in new infrastructure. It is a proposal of temporary duration and intended to create a path toward the establishment of safe standards and conditions for the initial resumption of cruise operations. Florida’s ports appear well prepared to do their part in meeting these goals,” said Commissioner Sola.

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