Norwegian Cruise Line CEO says it will stop sailing out of Florida if the state does not allow it to verify COVID-19 vaccinations

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank J. Del Rio
Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

In April, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning vaccine passports and local businesses from requiring proof of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, Norwegian Cruise Line, which will be requiring its guests and crew to be vaccinated, may have to stop sailing out of the Sunshine State.

The same month DeSantis’ unveiled the executive order, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for guests and crew aboard its three cruise lines – Norwegian, Oceania, and Regent Seven Seas – in a bid to resume sailing by July.

“We believe that through a combination of 100% mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew and science-backed public health measures … we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment for guests and crew,” Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said in a press release.

However, this mandate may directly clash with DeSantis’ executive order, which also includes “prohibiting cruise lines from requiring vaccine passports for their Florida operations,” DeSantis’ press secretary Cody McCloud told Insider in an email in April.

This creates a potential skirmish between the cruise line and Florida. As a result, Norwegian has been in talks with DeSantis’ office regarding this “issue,” Del Rio said during the company’s Q1 earnings call on May 6. But ultimately, this executive order could cause the cruise line to stop sailing out of Florida if state law applies.

Read more: COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-lifetime crisis for Carnival and Royal Caribbean, but after surviving hijackings and shipwrecks, the industry looks unsinkable

“At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers, and rudders, and god forbid we [can’t] operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from,” Del Rio said. “We can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would’ve gone to Florida.”

DeSantis previously announced in April that the state would be suing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bring back the cruise industry “immediately,” citing that the state was losing business because cruise lines had found a workaround to the CDC’s halt on cruising by sailing out of international ports like Bermuda and the Caribbeans instead.

However, Del Rio hopes the cruise line won’t have to move its ships out of the state’s “very lucrative market”: “Everyone wants to operate out of Florida,” Del Rio said. But despite this clash in mandates, Norwegian still has plans to stick with its vaccine mandate.

“We’re going to have one rule and one rule only, and that is at least at the beginning, 100% of our guests and our crew will be vaccinated,” Del Rio said.

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Cruise lines will have to mandate masks even by the pool and nix buffets for trial sailings without vaccine requirements, CDC says

Mardi Gras Sea Trial
Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras ship.

  • The CDC has unveiled the next two phases of its Conditional Sailing Order.
  • The new phases detail how a cruise’s “simulated” trail sailings should look.
  • New requirements include masking up when poolside, and the potential ceasing of buffet services.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On May 5, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines on how cruise lines should go about trial voyages, providing some insight into how cruising could look when it finally returns after over a year of no-sailing.

In the newly released next two phases of its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), the CDC detailed protocols that should be implemented on these “simulated voyages,” adding that cruise lines now have all the information needed to begin their trials. These sailings are meant to precede the COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application needed to resume “restricted passenger voyages” again.

However, cruise lines that can prove that 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated will be allowed to skip this test sailing period.

It’s one step closer to the resumption of sailing in July after over a year of no large cruise ships in US waters, but according to the CDC’s guidelines, cruising may not look the same as pre-COVID-19 times.

“These instructions reflect CDC’s reasoned judgement based on the best available current science regarding the subject areas covered in the document,” the CDC wrote in its “COVID-19 Operations Manual for Simulated and Restricted Voyages under the CSO.” “Cruise ship operators should carefully consider and incorporate these instructions in developing their own health and safety protocols.”

Read more: Carnival and Royal Caribbean salaries revealed: From $32,000 to $383,000, here’s how much the cruise industry’s power players pay some of their employees

The CDC’s “requirements” and “recommendations”

roller coaster on Carnival Cruise Line's Mardi Gras ship
The roller coaster on Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras ship.

It should be unsurprising that COVID-19 pandemic protocols are steeped into the trial sailings manual. As a result, some of the CDC’s guidelines will completely alter what traditional cruising once looked like.

The updated manual advises the typical protocols we’ve all grown accustomed to during the pandemic, including reducing face-to-face contact and social distancing around the ship. But if you long for the days of buffets and maskless lounging by the pool, cruise ships may not be the way to go.

The CDC’s mask order will be applied to the ships unless a passenger is eating or drinking for a short amount of time. or inside their own cabin. However, not wearing a mask during an “extended meal service or beverage consumption” is still considered a violation of the mask order.

This means masking up while on the pool deck as well. And while masks won’t have to be worn in the pool, water goers will still have to social distance.

This social distancing guideline will also apply to entertainment areas like show venues, casinos, and mini-golfing, and is why the CDC recommends encouraging passengers to take the stairs instead of elevators if possible.

In regards to dining, the guideline says cruise ships should consider letting passengers order meals ahead of time to limit their duration inside a restaurant, and offer prepackaged meals and single-use items like utensils and menus to limit contact. In line with this, the CDC is advocating for the end of buffet services aboard cruise ships.

The agency also recommends implementing “wearable recording technology [like] proximity bands” to create some form of onboard contact tracing that could tell the wearer when they’re not adhering to social distancing guidelines.

And when it’s time to disembark a ship for shore excursions, options may be limited. The CDC says cruise lines can’t allow “self-guided or independent exploration” at ports, and tour companies must still follow COVID-19 protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing.

“CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the CSO,” the agency said in the press release. “This goal aligns with the prospective resumption of passenger operations in the United States by mid-summer, expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers.”

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Alaska to join Florida in suing the CDC for its ‘job-killing’ pause on the US cruise industry

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy in 2019.

  • Florida announced on April 8 that it would be suing the CDC to bring cruises back “immediately.”
  • Now, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy says the state will be joining Florida’s lawsuit against the CDC.
  • Alaska lost $3 billion when the CDC canceled the 2020 cruising season due to COVID-19, according to Dunleavy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced on April 20 that Alaska will be joining Florida in suing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bring cruising back.

The CDC has maintained its pause on the cruise industry – via its no-sail order and recently updated Conditional Sailing Order (COS)– since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when cruise ships around the world initially became inundated with coronavirus outbreaks.

In an effort to “fight back” against this halt on cruising, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on April 8 that the state would be suing the CDC to bring cruise ships back “immediately.” Now, Alaska will be joining this cause in an effort to push the CDC to either remove or revise its order.

Alaska has lost $3 billion due to the 2020 cruise halt, and is projected to continue this loss as the 2021 cruising season remains in limbo, Dunleavy said in a news release.

“Alaskan families and small businesses need fast action to protect their ability to work and provide for their families,” Dunleavy said.”We deserve the chance to have tourism and jobs.”

According to the news release, the CDC doesn’t have the authority to continue this “job-killing” pause, and its COS hasn’t acknowledged that cruise ships have already been operating successfully outside of the US. The release also noted Alaska’s high vaccination and “low” hospitalization rates.

“Through this lawsuit, Alaska seeks to protect its citizens and its interests by forcing the CDC to act within the limited authority Congress granted it,” Treg Taylor, Alaska’s attorney general, said in the news release. “CDC simply does not have the authority to arbitrarily shut down an entire industry.”

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Cruise lines and Florida are on track for a standoff over COVID-19 vaccine requirements

carnival cruise
The Carnival Ecstasy docked at the Port of Jacksonville on March 27, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning businesses from requiring vaccines applies to cruise lines.
  • However, several cruise lines have already announced vaccine mandates.
  • DeSantis has been vocal about the cruise industry and previously said the state would sue the CDC to bring cruises back sooner.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida and cruise companies could be locked in a battle over vaccine requirements as the state puts a ban on vaccine passports while cruise lines continue to mandate the jabs for passengers and crew.

On April 2, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning vaccine passports and local businesses from requiring this proof of vaccination. This ban applies to cruise lines as well, DeSantis’ press secretary Cody McCloud told Insider in an email.

“The Governor’s Executive Order provides that businesses in Florida are prohibited from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business,” McCloud told Insider in an email. “Therefore, the Executive Order prohibits cruise lines from requiring vaccine passports for their Florida operations.”

Read more: The Great GOP Migration: How South Florida became a shadow capital for Trump conservatives

However, many cruise lines have already announced some form of a vaccine requirement, whether it be for crew, guests, or both. This includes Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which recently unveiled a sweeping vaccine requirement for its Norwegian, Oceania, and Regent Seven Seas brand. Other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, have held off on guest or crew requirements, instead opting to announce select “fully vaccinated” sailings.

However, major cruise lines – with the exception of those with a sweeping vaccine mandate – have withheld announcing a vaccine policy for future sailing series departing from US ports. So far, all of Royal Caribbean’s cruises operating under a vaccine order will be sailing out of international ports located in countries like Israel, Bermuda, and Cyprus.

DeSantis’ decision to prohibit cruise lines from requiring vaccines could prove to be yet another major issue for cruise companies, many of which have historically sailed out of Florida ports. But some experts have questioned DeSantis’ ability to impose such a ban upon cruise lines, according to a report from the Sun Sentinel.

This includes Jim Walker – an attorney based in South Florida with a specialization in maritime law – who told the Sun Sentinel that DeSantis may not have the jurisdiction needed to either prohibit cruise lines from enforcing a vaccine mandate or bring cruises back.

Regardless, it could be a while before we see any stand-off between the state and cruise lines interested in sailing out of Florida with a vaccine requirement.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to give cruise lines the green light to resume sailing and has shied away from enforcing an industry-wide vaccine mandate. As a result, no major cruise lines will be sailing from US ports in the near future, even if the ship is traveling with a vaccine mandate.

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Former FDA commissioner says cruises could be a ‘lower risk endeavor’ compared to other travel

cruise ships
Cruise ships.

  • Cruises could be “lower risk” compared to travel options like international trips, Scott Gottlieb told CNBC.
  • Gottlieb is a former FDA commissioner and the co-chair of Norwegian and Royal Caribbean’s Health Sail Panel.
  • Cruise lines have implemented many health protocols that could turn ships into “protective bubbles.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Cruising could be a “lower risk” travel option compared to other alternatives, such as overseas vacations, Scott Gottlieb, the former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on April 9.

Many major cruise lines have created robust health and safety protocols to make the return of sailing safer amid COVID-19. This includes Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group, which partnered to establish the Healthy Sail Panel. The panel suggests ways for the industry to move ahead safely amid virus concerns and is currently being co-chaired by Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member.

The panel has already recommended 74 protocols, from face mask use to COVID-19 testing for guests and crew.

“As you start to implement all these public health recommendations that we’ve outlined, you start to create an environment that can be quite safe,” Gottlieb told CNBC. “You can create a protective bubble around the [cruise] experience.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, virus outbreaks aboard cruise ships around the world left thousands of cruisers stranded or infected. Shortly after, the CDC put a no-sail order in place, which was later replaced by its recently updated conditional sailing order.

Read more: Carnival and Royal Caribbean salaries revealed: From $32,000 to $383,000, here’s how much the cruise industry’s power players pay some of their employees

To make the return of sailing safer, several cruise lines have implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates. This includes Norwegian, which recently declared a vaccine requirement for both guests and crew.

Shortly after this announcement, Frank Del Rio, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ president and CEO, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that cruise ships will “de facto become the safest place on earth” as more cruise companies continue to ramp up health protocols.

“I challenge you to tell me of another venue anywhere that has this kind of ironclad health and safety protocols in place,” Del Rio told CNBC’s Cramer.

Gottlieb has since echoed Del Rio’s sentiments regarding the safety of cruise ships.

“I believe you can create a safe bubble around that experience, especially when you’re comparing it to other vacation experiences where you can’t control the environment,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Princess Cruises is turning its ships into ‘offices at sea’ with WiFi as fast as land

Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises.

  • Many companies are now considering the possibility of a permanent remote or hybrid work model.
  • Princess Cruises is looking to target this segment by turning its ships into “offices at sea.”
  • All of Princess’ cruise ships will upgraded with “land-like connectivity” when sailing resumes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you’ve ever dreamed of working or studying at sea, Princess Cruises might have the perfect solution for you.

The coronavirus pandemic has obviously the traditional office structure, and more companies are considering the possibility of permanent hybrid or fully remote work models. In response to the “work from anywhere” shift, travel-adjacent businesses – especially road travel companies – have altered their products to include amenities like offices and connectivity packages in a bid to attract this growing segment.

Now, Princess Cruises is looking to do the same by introducing stronger internet connection on its cruise ships and some clever marketing

Read more: Carnival and Royal Caribbean salaries revealed: From $32,000 to $383,000, here’s how much the cruise industry’s power players pay some of their employees

Having fast and reliable Wi-Fi has become a necessity during the COVID-19 remote work period. To meet this essential function, the cruise line’s “connectivity partner” SES will be launching a new satellite constellation later this year. As a result, when cruising returns, Princess will be able to offer “land-like” internet on all of its ships, turning a boat into an “office at sea,” according to a press release.

This strong Wi-Fi connection will be accessible throughout the ships, which means guests won’t have to stay in their staterooms just to get speedy internet for work or school.

But if you’re eager to jump on board, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Presently, the cruise line has no plans to resume sailing until, at earliest, the end of June.

Are you a cruise industry employee or have a cruise industry story to share? Contact this reporter at bchang@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says his state is suing the CDC to bring back cruises

ron desantis florida vaccine 60 minutes
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state will sue the CDC to bring back cruise ships “immediately.”
  • The CDC has put a hold on the cruise industry since the COVID-19 pandemic first began.
  • The cruise industry has fought back, instead arguing for a cruising return from US ports by July.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that the state will be suing the federal government and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bring back the cruise industry “immediately.”

“On behalf of the tens of thousands of Floridians whose livelihood depends on the viability of an open cruise industry, today Florida is fighting back,” DeSantis said in a news conference in Miami.

The CDC has maintained its halt on cruising since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when cruise ships around the world initially became superspreaders. However, several major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have since found workarounds to this by offering “fully vaccinated” sailings from ports outside of the US, including Bermuda and the Caribbeans, a move DeSantis says takes business away from Florida.

“We don’t believe the federal government has the right to mothball a major industry for over a year,” DeSantis continued. “I think we have a good chance for success.”

On April 2, the CDC announced fully vaccinated people could travel safely in the US without quarantining or testing. Shortly after, the agency also issued an update to its conditional sailing order, which was first initially unveiled in October 2020 to replace a no-sail order imposed on the US cruise industry.

But despite the industry’s demands to resume sailing by July, the CDC didn’t announce a sooner sailing return in its updated order. Instead, it implemented what the Cruise Lines International Association has called “unduly burdensome and largely unworkable” requirements.

“I challenge you to tell me of another venue anywhere that has this kind of ironclad health and safety protocols in place,” Frank Del Rio, Norwegian Cruise Line parent CEO, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on “Mad Money” on Monday. “Cruise ships will de facto become the safest place on earth.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Royal Caribbean just welcomed its newest ship, the Odyssey of the Seas – see its 10 coolest features

Royal Caribbean cruise ship Odyssey of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas.

  • Royal Caribbean just welcomed its latest cruise ship, the Odyssey of the Seas.
  • The ship will have many family-friendly amenities, including a skydiving simulator and bumper cars.
  • These are the ship’s coolest features, which guests will be able to experience this year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Royal Caribbean just welcomed the Odyssey of the Seas, a new cruise ship that will begin “fully vaccinated” cruises from Israel this summer.

1616436251_20210318 090642
The Odyssey of the Seas.

This announcement comes after a year of bad news for cruise lines, including COVID-19 outbreaks at the beginning of the pandemic, an industry-wide pause throughout 2020 …

1614558427_image0017 passing autobahn
The Odyssey of the Seas.

… tumultuous responses to “fully vaccinated” sailings, and the CDC’s rejection of an earlier cruising return.

1617140303_Launch High SkyPad Architectural rt
The Odyssey of the Seas’ Sky Pad bungee trampoline.

The ship’s inaugural sailing was once set for May to October from Italy, but both the dates and location were changed to June to October from Israel.

1616438401_20210318 090519
The Odyssey of the Seas.

And unlike the previously canceled cruises aboard this new ship, these new Israel sailings will only be available to Israeli residents who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

1614558420_200089500055 4785751 waiting at Gandersum lock.JPG
The Odyssey of the Seas.

Guests under 18-years-old who don’t have the vaccine will instead have to test negative for the virus.

1606590174_Odyssey of the Seas 141
The Odyssey of the Seas.

This cruise series will then bring its Israeli guests on three to seven-night trips around the Mediterranean.

1611598068_MW S713 1DH32397 (1)
The Odyssey of the Seas.

Wondering what you’ll do for seven nights aboard a ship?

1614558420_image01 waiting at Gandersum lock
The Odyssey of the Seas.

The 1,138-foot long, 135-foot wide cruise will offer several amenities that will keep its guests and their children busy.

1571926341_RCCL Odyssey CGI07 Playmakers 06 RET 1
The Odyssey of the Seas’ SeaPlex.

This includes a “Caribbean-inspired” pool deck with two pools and four whirlpools.

1571926278_RCCL Odyssey CGI16 PoolDeck 05 RET 1
The Odyssey of the Seas’ pool deck.

But if you or your children are looking for more active fun, head to the Splashaway Bay water park or the “SeaPlex” activity center.

1571926176_RCCL Odyssey CGI17 PoolDeckAerial 05 RET CROP 1
The Odyssey of the Seas’ pool deck.

The latter will be the “largest indoor active space at sea,” according to Royal Caribbean, and will include unique activities like bumper cars, virtual reality games, and laser tag.

1571926341_RCCL Odyssey CGI07 Playmakers 06 RET 1
The Odyssey of the Seas’ SeaPlex.

If you need a break from the kids, head to the Solarium. Here, guests over 16-years-old can hang out at the pools, relaxation areas, and a bar. The image below shows the Solarium on a different Royal Caribbean ship.

1558365071_SC19 SolariumR
The Solarium on the Spectrum of the Seas.

While the parents are relaxing, their children can partake in the Adventure Ocean program full of different games and activities.

Odyssey of the Seas' Adventure Ocean.
Odyssey of the Seas’ Adventure Ocean.

Meanwhile, the teenagers can instead head to the Social180 to game, lounge, and mingle.

Screen Shot 2021 04 02 at 4.54.03 PM
Odyssey of the Seas’ Social180.

But if the whole family is looking for some more adventurous activities, head up to the top deck for the ship’s observation area …

1617140310_Launch Medium NorthStar Architectural rt
The Odyssey of the Seas’ North Star observation area.

… virtual reality-powered SkyPad bungee trampoline, and both a skydiving and surfing simulator.

1571926176_RCCL Odyssey CGI17 PoolDeckAerial 05 RET CROP 1
The Odyssey of the Seas’ pool deck.

When it’s mealtime, guests can dine at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar or Teppanyaki, both Royal Caribbean firsts for North America.

1571926398_RCCL Odyssey CGI10 Giovannis 04 RET 1
The Odyssey of the Seas’ Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar.

More interested in indoor entertainment? Go down to the Two70, which will showcase different performers and rotating TV screens to turn a lounge into an immersive theater.

Odyssey of the Seas' Two70.
Odyssey of the Seas’ Two70.

If you aren’t based in Israel but trips aboard the Odyssey of the Seas sound enticing, wait until November when the ship will head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Royal Caribbean cruise ship Odyssey of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas.

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Florida threatened to sue the federal government over the idling of the cruise industry

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday put forth new legislation aimed at protesters.

  • Florida’s governor said the state could sue the federal government if the CDC doesn’t soon allow the US cruise industry to restart.
  • The US cruise industry has remained idled even as coronavirus vaccinations and testing pick up steam.
  • US cruises are not expected to sail until May at the earliest.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Attorney General Ashley Moody said they would consider filing a lawsuit against the federal government over its ongoing restriction on the cruise industry.

During a roundtable discussion with cruise industry executives on Friday, Moody said the state was weighing its legal options against the Biden Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control for keeping the cruise industry idled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In October, the CDC announced a new framework for sailing that requires cruises to have onboard testing and carry out mock voyages and many other requirements before they are allowed to restart in US ports. The industry was shut down a year ago after several coronavirus outbreaks erupted on cruise ships.

“You can’t have an agency shutting down an entire industry based on outdated arbitrary capricious decisions and so we will take all legal action as necessary,” Moody said.

The roundtable discussion included CEOs from Norwegian, Carnival, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Disney Cruise Line, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

DeSantis, a Republican who reopened all businesses and eliminated fines for people refusing to wear masks as COVID-19 ripped through the state last year, said the cruise industry had been idled for too long.

“If you’re not going to be willing to greenlight this, then you need to explain why everywhere else in the world can do it,” DeSantis said during the discussion. “Is it okay for the government to just idle an industry for a year, with no end in sight? I mean, this was never legislated by anybody.”

The US cruise industry has remained idled even as vaccinations and testing pick up steam. Cruise lines in other countries have resumed trips and industry advocates say cruising doesn’t pose a greater risk of transmitting the coronavirus than flying.

A statement by the Florida governor’s office on Friday said the US government failed to provide relief funding to seaports “while airports and transit agencies have received assistance through relief packages.”

US cruises are not expected to sail until May at the earliest. Royal Caribbean Cruises President and CEO Michael Bayley called the situation”devastating,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida is home to some of the world’s busiest ports including Miami, Port Canaveral near Kennedy Space Center, and Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale.

Through August 2020, Florida lost around $2.3 billion in wages and 49,500 jobs because of the cruise industry shut down due to the pandemic, according to a September 2020 report by the Federal Maritime Commission.

“We’re the most crippled by what they’re doing with this national cruise lockdown, and so we get liberated from that, you’re going to be able to see maybe tens of thousands, maybe even 100,000 more people going back to work,” DeSantis said.

The CDC did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

According to the Associated Press, some experts say it’s still too early for cruise ships to operate again because of the close quarters on the vessels and other potential issues.

The cargo and cruise operations at Florida’s Jacksonville seaport generate around 139,300 jobs in Florida and more than $31.1 billion in annual economic impact, said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green in a statement this month.

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Royal Caribbean has sold its Azamara brand including 4 ships for $201 million as the company continues to push back 2021 sail dates

Azamara Question in 2017.
An Azamara ship.

Royal Caribbean has sold its Azamara cruise line for $201 million while cruises in the US remain docked during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced Friday.

Sycamore Partners, the private equity firm purchasing Azamara in cash, now owns the cruising brand and its fleet of four ships, including one that was just acquired. Carol Cabezas, Azamara’s COO, will serve as president of the cruise line, according to a press release from January when the agreement was first announced.

“Azamara remains a strong brand with its own tremendous potential for growth,” Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group, said in a statement in January.

Read more: COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-lifetime crisis for Carnival and Royal Caribbean, but after surviving hijackings and shipwrecks, the industry looks unsinkable

The ownership change also results in a $170 million non-cash impairment charge. According to Royal Caribbean, this Azamara sale won’t “materially impact” the cruise company’s financial outcomes.

Unsurprisingly, recent months haven’t exactly been smooth sailing for Royal Caribbean. In December, Royal Caribbean announced it had sold its Empress and Majesty of the Seas cruise ships. Just several months prior, the cruise company reported it had lost $1.3 billion in its third quarter, the Miami Herald reported.

This Azamara announcement and Royal Caribbean’s difficulties are only some of the shakeups in the long list of cruise industry disruptions that have happened in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. From stranded crew members to refund issues to a “wasted year,” things have been looking a bit bleak for cruise companies around the world.

However, according to Royal Caribbean, this latest deal will allow the mega cruise company to “focus on expanding” its Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Silversea Cruises brands.

Read more: Carnival and Royal Caribbean salaries revealed: From $32,000 to $383,000, here’s how much the cruise industry’s power players pay some of their employees

The sail date for these cruise lines, and other cruises around the US, still remain to be seen as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on.

Are you a cruise industry employee or have a cruise industry story to share? Contact this reporter at bchang@insider.com.

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