Key West Votes to Restrict Cruise Ships – Legal Challenge on the Horizon

Key West residents voted heavily in favor of limiting the size of cruise ships permitted to visit the popular South Florida cruise port and cap the number of passenger disembarkations per day through a series of amendments that will immediately become part of the City Charter of Key West. All three amendments proposed to voters on the November 3, 2020 ballot were favored by the people by at least 60%. Now passed, the amendments will lead to many cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Line, to search for a new port of call to replace Key West in future cruise itineraries. However, a legal battle already underway.

According to the Miami Herald, the referendums are binding, meaning they will change the city’s charter. However, there is a legal fight already in play at the Monroe County Courthouse which started well before the election. Pier B Development, which operates one of the three ports in Key West, sued the city and the Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships. Monroe County Circuit Judge Bonnie Helms, in a September 29th order, said she would schedule a jury trial sometime after the election.

This is a landslide, and a tremendous, city-wide mandate. The people of Key West have spoken loud and clear.

Statement from Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships

The Key West voters approved all three of the following proposed amendments:

Charter Amendment: Limiting Persons Disembarking

Limiting persons disembarking from cruise ships to a total of 1500 persons per day.
The number of persons disembarking from cruise ships shall be limited to a total of not more than 1,500 persons per day at any and all public and privately owned or leased property located within the municipal boundary of the City of Key West.

Key West Charter Amendments Results Limiting Persons Disembarking 20201103

Charter Amendment: Cruise Ship Capacity

Prohibiting cruise ships with a capacity of 1300 or more persons from disembarking.
Cruise ships with the capacity to carry 1,300 or more persons (passengers and crew) shall be prohibited from disembarking individuals at any and all public or privately owned or leased property located within the municipal boundary of the City of Key West.

Key West Charter Amendments Results Cruise Ship Capacity 20201103

Charter Amendment: Best Environmental and Health Records

To give priority to cruise lines with the best environmental and health records.
The City of Key West shall give preference and priority to cruise ships and cruise lines that have the best environmental record (the lowest number of environmental violations, penalties and fines) and best health record (the best scores and least number of violations in health inspections and reports issued by the Center for Disease Control Vessel Sanitation Program).

Key West Charter Amendments Best Enviromental Health 20201103

The impact to Disney Cruise Line will be limited to the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder which both list a capacity of 2,713 passengers. The Dream and Fantasy are too large for the port in terms of ship size compared to the channel width. As it stands with currently announced itineraries, the Magic and Wonder have 38 future calls scheduled to Key West, Florida.

Disney Cruise Line did not immediately respond to my request for comment on Key West’s decisive decision to restrict cruise ships as to what they will say to guests currently booked, or those interested in booking an future Disney Cruise on the Disney Magic or Disney Wonder with a scheduled stop in Key West.

11 Replies to “Key West Votes to Restrict Cruise Ships – Legal Challenge on the Horizon”

  1. Alice

    Good for Key West. They did the hard work needed to determine IF cruise lines are a net positive to their community and decided they weren’t.

  2. Sarah

    Key West is gorgeous and I loved it every time we docked there. I’m sorry to see that cruise ships may be banned in the future (pending the lawsuit). I can certainly understand why the residents did this but be careful what you wish for. You’re going to lose an enormous amount of dollars and I hope you can manage that.

  3. JoJoFLL

    Key West did enough studies to realize the cruise passengers weren’t spending any money. They haven’t been missed at all during the pandemic.

    The cruise lines are more worried about getting up and running more than they are about one small cruise stop.

  4. Kate

    Interesting. I don’t know that I’d call 60% a landslide. It seems like an odd move for an area so focused on the tourism industry to make.

  5. Alice

    The only tourism that is profitable for a community are independent travelers. They are welcomed with open arms. The money they spend stays in and supports the community. It’s well established that cruise ship passengers do not have the same positive impact.

  6. Lynn Tank

    We have stopped there on a cruise and DID spend money. We bought items at the stores and paid to tour some of the sights there. Can’t believe we were the only people from the cruise ship who did so

  7. Matt

    You have to realize that the vote was only for key west residents, most of the workers that this effects live off of key West Island. It’s to expensive to live in key west. Should the vote be open to all Monroe county you would have seen a different outcome.

  8. Alice

    IF you sought out locally owned businesses to spend your money with, then you did good. If however your vacation dollars went to one of the many many non-local shops which litter the walkable strips which surround cruise ports, or bought a tour run by a cruise line vendor, then your dollars would have been siphoned off from the local economy. I wish passengers had a better understanding of the complexities of the relationship between the cruise industry and the ports where they stop. I believe that most passengers want to support the local economy, there are just very few opportunities to do that.

  9. Paddy

    we always support the local business in ports. rarely shop or eat at chain or national shops. funny, we also see several others in these shops while in port.

    1. Scott Sanders Post author

      They have not released any new sailings since the November election that include Key West. No lines, to my knowledge have made any statements on the situation in Key West.


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