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'It's A Mistake To Skip The Test Cruises': Maritime Lawyer Says Industry Has Logistical Scramble To Make Any July Sail Date

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Cruise ships just might be sailing by July. At least that's the hope after the CDC backed off portions of their no sail order after heavy political pressure, including a lawsuit filed against the CDC by the state of Florida.

"We don't believe the federal government has the right to mothball a major industry," said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

After heavy political pressure, the CDC blinked, dropping the requirement of "test cruises" and will allow operators put ships to sea if 95% of passengers and 98% of crew on board to are vaccinated. Something several cruise lines already announced is that ships will follow the CDC guidelines, including social distancing and masks while on board.

"This appears to be good news, although less than certain exactly how this is gonna unfold," said maritime lawyer Jim Walker.

Walker, a cruise ship industry critic, is well aware of the economic impact of the no sail order. But he warns cruise ship fans not to pack their bags so soon. In the best of circumstances, it takes a month or more to get a ship ready for service.

"We have Gov. DeSantis' executive order prohibiting cruise lines from absolutely requiring their employees or guest to be vaccinated," Walker said.

Yet, for the cruise ships to sail, they need passengers and guests vaccinated. It's certainly a conflict not hashed out yet.

"I don't think legally that the governor has authority or power or jurisdiction to enact legislation that deals with international commerce involving foreign-flagged cruise ships," Walker said.

Other issues include getting the ships ready and crews vaccinated. And the pandemic provides another impact: COVID-19 ravaging India.

"Thirty percent of crew members come for the country of India. They are the cabin attendants, the cooks, the servers an integral part of the cruise," Walker explained.

And the sheer task of moving crew members back on board fully vaccinated and COVID tested is a logistical scramble to make any July sail date.

"I think it's a mistake to skip the test cruises. Practice makes perfect so to speak," Walker said. "I think it would have been an important to simply see if you have a group of compliant passengers who are willing to wear masks and come aboard and follow the protocols."

A crew trained and ready to carry out those protocols means lots of work ahead for the cruise industry.

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