What’s happening with Key West’s cruise ship debate? Did the governor sign the transportation bill that would void Key West’s voter-approved ship limits? And if that bill passes, will the city be allowed to honor its referendums at the ports it manages? Why was there a full ship schedule for July on the city’s website? And why is that calendar no longer accessible?

These are the questions being asked and debated on social media channels and in bars and coffee shops around town.

Here’s what we know:

According to Arlo Haskell, treasurer of Safer Cleaner Ships Committee, which spearheaded the referendum to prohibit large ships, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet signed Senate Bill 1194, which includes the language that would void any voter referendum that restricts maritime commerce. Haskell said the bill only applies to referendums, and the city could pass its own ordinance that includes the same cruise ship limitations as the referendum.

“That state bill is still in the same weird limbo it’s been in,” Haskell told the Keys Weekly on Wednesday, June 23. “We’re still hoping for a veto, and as far as I understand it, the governor has until July 1 to sign or veto.”

City commissioners all have stated their intention to follow the desire of most voters and prohibit large cruise ships at the port facilities that the city controls — Mallory Square and Outer Mole.

“Obviously, the privately owned Pier B is a different animal,” Key West Port Director Doug Bradshaw told the Keys Weekly. “But that also leaves more questions to be answered, such as what happens if the city brings in a small ship with fewer than the allowed number of people, but then a large ship comes to Pier B and exceeds the limit? Those details still have to be worked out.”

Bradshaw said the question about whether the city would be violating the state law, if it passes,  by enforcing the voter referendums at Mallory Square and Outer Mole is a question for city attorney Shawn Smith, who is researching the situation.

Officials are planning a cruise ship workshop in the coming week or two to address as many of the questions as possible, but no date has been finalized, City Manager Patti McLauchlin told the Keys Weekly.

As for the cruise ship calendars that were on the city’s website until recently and showed a full month of port visits for July, Bradshaw said those had been scheduled for two years.

“The calendars have never changed,” he said. “Those ships are booked almost two years out and those visits were in place before the pandemic and before the referendum.”

He added that the city no longer posts its own cruise ship calendars, but instead uses  schedules from Caribe Nautical ships’ agents. 

“So we put a link to Caribe Nautical’s calendars on our site, but then Caribe Nautical’s website got hacked,” Bradshaw said. “So to protect themselves, they made the calendar require a login. This was not the city’s decision and there was nothing underhanded about this. Caribe Nautical is currently trying to figure out a way to provide public access to their cruise ship calendars without getting hacked. I know it looks horrible.”


Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.