June 19 (UPI) -- A federal judge ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot enforce COVID-19 restrictions on cruise ships.
Judge Steven Merryday of the Middle District of Florida ruled Friday in favor of a lawsuit brought by the state of Florida, granting a preliminary injunction suspending mandatory guidelines for cruise ships through July 18.
When the injunction ends, ships will be able to depart from Florida with the CDC requirements remaining "as only a non-binding 'consideration,' 'recommendation' or 'guideline' as in the case for other industries such as railroads and hotels."
The cruise industry had previously been operating under a "conditional sailing order" set by the CDC in October requiring them to ensure that at least 95% of crew and passengers were vaccinated or to commit to taking volunteers on a series of "test" cruises demonstrating how they would mitigate COVID-19 risks.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed suit in April arguing that the CDC had exceeded its authority in implementing the requirements.
In his ruling Friday, Merryday agreed with DeSantis, writing that the CDC has never implemented measures "as extensive, disabling and exclusive" as those within the conditional sailing order.
"Never has CDC conditioned pratique as extensively and burdensomely as the conditional sailing order; and never has CDC imposed restrictions that have summarily dismissed the effectiveness of state regulation and halted for an extended time an entire multi-billion dollar industry nationwide," Merryday wrote.
DeSantis praised the ruling in a statement Friday as he accused the CDC and the Biden administration of seeking to "sink" the cruise industry.
"Today, we are securing this victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented overreach," he said.
The ruling comes after Royal Caribbean on Wednesday delayed the inaugural sail of its Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship after eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19 and two passengers tested positive for the virus while aboard a voyage on Celebrity's Millennium cruise ship where all crew and passengers were fully vaccinated.
Celebrity is poised to become the first cruise line to sail from the United States when the Celebrity Edge is set to depart from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 26.