Travel Insurance for Cruises –
To Buy or Not to Buy
Cruise Line Insurance
Third Party Insurance
Processing a Claim
To buy or not to buy –
Buying insurance is like betting against yourself – not always the most satisfying thing to do – but almost always worth the peace of mind, not to mention the protection afforded.
Several factors need to be assessed to determine if travel insurance is a good idea – and it almost always is – as well as how much coverage you really need. Buying too much or too little coverage can be almost as bad having none at all.
In order to make an informed decision – be aware of these facts:
– Almost all cruise deposits are fully refundable
– Nothing is at risk until under full payment which is usually required 70 to 75 days prior to departure.
– The real financial risk comes in the month prior to departure, should you have to cancel. The penalty scale varies from one cruise line to another but as a rule of thumb, the closer to sailing the less the refund. For example, if you cancel 60 days prior to departure you might be eligible for an 80% refund, but within 30 days it could be 50% or less. Cancel within two weeks of departure you will probably lose 100% of your cruise fare.
(We know what you are thinking. It doesn’t matter whether they sell your cabin to someone else or not. They will…and still keep as much of your money as the fine print and the letter of the law will allow. To quote Tony Soprano (…or was it Michael Corleone?) – “It’s just business, nothing personal.”)
Cruise line insurance –
The best we can say about the coverage offered by cruise lines is that it is convenient. It is a high profit up-sell for the cruise line and they will slip it in as a line item when totaling up your final cost if you don’t specifically request that it be deleted. Unless you need the coverage and simply do not have the time to shop elsewhere, have them remove the fee and recalculate the total.
Cancellation insurance offered by the cruise line is a “one-size-fits-all” product. No customization is possible. Additionally, it only covers your cruise investment and not any other add-ons that you may have arranged on your own – such as non-refundable air tickets, cancellation fees associated with a hotel, car rentals, etc.
Third party insurance –
Highly recommended due to customization possibilities – third party insurance often provides better coverage for the same or less money. Premiums are flexible depending on:
A. The dollar amount to be covered
B. Extent of reasons for cancellation that you might need covered (from personal illness or injury to just changing your mind)
C. Ages of the travelers
Steps to purchasing third party insurance –
Determine the amount of money that you would need to recoup in an emergency or last minute cancellation. Next, realistically assess possible reasons that could cause you to cancel.
Questions to ask:
1. Do you have any non-traveling family members or relatives at risk because of disease or age where a change in condition might cause you to have to cancel?
2. Might a business reason require cancellation – change of employment status – loss of job, etc.? If self-employed or a business owner – could an unforeseen circumstance such as the departure of a key employee, etc. require you to stay home?
3. Does any member of the traveling party have a condition that could require medical evacuation or premature departure from the cruise?
4. Is anyone in your traveling party a “high risk” individual – one with a propensity for skateboarding down steep mountain roads in a thunderstorm at night?
Armed with answers to the above questions – visit a travel insurance website and use the online comparison tools to determine which policy best suits your needs. If the idea of doing research online does not appeal to you – ask your travel agent if they are licensed to sell third party travel insurance. If the answer is yes, provide them with the answers to items above and request suggestions accordingly.
Tip – Many third party insurers – offer enhanced coverage at no additional cost if the insurance is purchased within 15 days of the initial deposit to the cruise line. This “free” expanded coverage can often double the medical emergency and repatriation allowance; as well as provide coverage for “just changing your mind”. (To date, we know of no one who has tested this last reason, so read the find print carefully.)
Processing a claim –
An unfortunate reality of the insurance industry is that initial denial of claims is too often standard operating procedure. The best way to assure that your claim is valid and payable in the eyes of the insurance company is to document, document, document. Obtain corroborating documentation for everything. Take photos, if possible. Get a picture of that Orangutan that bit you. Get a cell phone camera shot of the Rickshaw that ran over Aunt Martha.
Rest assured there will be at least one doctor, several nurses and state-of-the-art medical facilities on board the ship- as required by law. However, if you seek treatment from the on board medical staff you will be billed. Big Time!
If you expect reimbursement from the insurance provider for these on board medical expenses, get the full name and title of the ship’s Albanian Dr. Kildare – even though it may be unpronounceable and look more like an eye chart than a proper surname. Be forewarned; however, the good doctor may shamelessly flirt throughout the examination – even if you are female. And, again, we know what you are thinking. Just because you agree to go to his cabin for a private viewing of his fossilized Platypus Egg collection, doesn’t mean you won’t see a line item on your end-of-cruise statement for medical services rendered.
Be sure to hang on to any invoices or receipts resulting from on board medical treatment – plus any other written materials, labels of medications dispensed, etc. Make sure they are marked “paid”. This will help immensely in securing prompt reimbursement from the insurance company.