How do you feel about cruising from Florida right now? Tell us in our short survey.
(5:30 p.m. EDT) -- Florida is home to the largest and busiest cruise ports in the world and will no doubt play a leading role in the restart of cruise operations within the United States.
But Cruise Critic members are debating how comfortable they feel about cruising from the Sunshine State, given the news that the state lifted most restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including mask wearing and social-distancing requirements.
On September 27, Florida reported 2,795 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number infected to just under 699,000\. Over 14,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Florida since the pandemic began.
Florida's new push to ease restrictions amid the ongoing pandemic is seemingly at odds with what the cruise industry is trying desperately to do: Persuade the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that its COVID-19 procedures, which include mandatory PCR testing, mask wearing, social distancing, and the requirement that cruisers take only cruise-line sanctioned shore excursions, are robust enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus onboard.
As member HowardK asks: "One of the challenges will be getting to the ship safely. ... People need to often go through planes/hotels/Uber/taxi etc. just to reach the port. ...
"How is this going to work?"
Questions Remain From Florida Governor's Decision
Numerous questions remain as a result of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's decision to dramatically reduce COVID-19 prevention measures.
Industry publication Port and Terminal writes that DeSantis might have "doomed Florida's cruise restart to failure" as the international cruising public -- not just Floridians -- needs to be convinced that safe and healthy cruises can resume from ports of call that are also safe and healthy.
While the cruise industry seeks to make masks mandatory in cruise terminals and onboard ships, DeSantis has lifted restrictions on restaurants, bars and other business, and has banned the use of fines for those who refuse to wear masks. Businesses can impose their own mask restrictions but are not allowed to levy financial penalties on those who don't cooperate.
It is not immediately apparent how a cruise line would force people to wear masks on cruises departing from Florida ports where that mask ban can't seemingly be enforced at the terminal level.
Cruise lines, however, would have complete liberty to ban those passengers who refuse to mask up or who disregard the rules. MSC Cruises did just this in August when it prohibited passengers from coming back onboard in Italy after they broke the shore excursion "bubble" mid-cruise.
The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission estimates that Florida's homeports have already lost an estimated $3.2 billion in economic activity and 49,500 local jobs since cruising effectively shut down mid-March. The Port of Miami is the busiest cruise hub in the world, welcoming 6.8 million cruise passengers in 2019.
As of this writing, the CDC had not extended the No-Sail Order, which is set to expire on September 30.
Cruise Critic Members Speak Out
Cruise Critic members are asking questions about the order, as well as the new potential requirements for cruising, as put forth by the Healthy Sail Panel developed by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line to the CDC.
While many readers support the COVID-19 prevention measures if it means a successful return to cruise, others have raised questions about which procedures will be enforced, and how that will work for people traveling long distances to reach the port of embarkation.
It's worth noting that many of the proposed changes have been successful in Europe, where cruise lines such as MSC and Costa have resumed sailing, albeit from ports that already have low COVID-19 infection rates.
"Disney has had to remove people who won't wear a mask and make a big scene," CampNCruise74 writes. "As far I am concerned, hopefully they will drop those people off at the next port for refusal of masks or abiding by the rules,"
"Only way it will work is by setting up test sites at entry to port such as Port Everglades and not being allowed entry into cruise terminal until notified by text that you passed," RedneckBob writes. "Good luck with that. The car line may run from Port Everglades along Alligator Alley to Naples FL."
International readers express reluctance, with many posting that travel restrictions to and from the United States make flying to Florida an unwelcome prospect.
"We have cruises booked out of Fort Lauderdale in December & February. I am hoping they get cancelled as I will not be traveling to or staying in Fort Lauderdale in the present pandemic climate," UK reader windsurferfirst writes. "Far too risky for me and my family. The UK also has a travel advisory against travel to the US so I doubt we will get flights. We definitely won't be able to get insurance."
"Low infection rates are the key," Canadian reader Abercrombie2019 writes. "Florida seems to be behaving like the crisis is over (it's not) and I think the results will be catastrophic for the cruise industry. "
Other readers questioned why they would choose to take a cruise vacation, with its perceived restrictions, when the rest of Florida was re-opening with minimal-to-no COVID-19 restrictions.
"Now that Florida is going wide open, why would I spend my vacation masked up under the watchful eye of the 'fun police,' when I could visit Florida or an island all-inclusive that does not require masks," jfunk138 said. "In the past, I'd rather be sailing. I've never tried the all-inclusive, maybe this is my motivation to give all-inclusive a try?"
Other Cruise Critic readers noted that the cruise lines are within their rights to make rules governing their businesses -- and if people don't want to follow the rules, they should stay away.
"If masks are required by everyone to get the industry sailing again, then so be it," SocaCruiseGuy writes. "I am all in. If you choose not to, fine."