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Booking your first cruise probably has you bubbling with excitement, planning what to pack, and anticipating the fun you’ll have on your voyage. Less exciting, but crucial to your travel experience, is travel insurance.
While you might think of insurance for your cruise as something you only need during Hurricane Season, even outside of this time mishaps can happen. Let’s be clear — most cruises go off without a hitch. But spending a little bit extra to get cruise insurance can give you peace of mind, while going without can make the financial consequences of a minor mishap more severe.
Why You Might Need Cruise Insurance
Although the variety of things to do offered by a cruise (shipboard fun and food plus sightseeing, shopping, and dining in exotic ports) can provide anyone in your family with the perfect vacation, it can also involve minor mishaps or even major disasters. As a recent article from CNBC noted, “Cruising hits all the major areas where comprehensive travel insurance is recommended: a big, upfront payment, international travel and higher risk of problems.”
Taking a voyage leaves you potentially vulnerable to everything from missed connections at multiple points (missing the plane to take you to your port city, or not making it back to your ship on time), to theft to severe weather to illness.
This isn’t meant to scare you. Most cruise passengers sail without experiencing any of these, but you’ve probably heard the news stories about cruise travel gone wrong. It’s because when something does happen, it can cause a major disruption.
That’s why we always advise people to insure their trip. Cruise insurance can at least partially minimize the impact if illness or accidents occur, and only a little added expense.
6 Ways Cruise Insurance Protects You
If you’re about to take a cruise, you should be excited about all the fun that lies ahead of you on your trip. But it’s wise to also consider some of the less pleasant possibilities that could happen. Fortunately, travel insurance covers many of these items…
1. Think of all the big or little things that have come up in the past, causing you to cancel plans with friends or family. What if you had to pay a penalty for not meeting those social obligations? If you miss your cruise, you’re essentially paying a big cost for changing your plans. That’s one of the reasons you need travel insurance.
Any travel insurance policy will cover you for trip cancellation. Just know that basic cruise insurance covers specific reasons for cancellation, such as major illness and jury duty. Check your policy to find out what reasons are covered. There is “cancel for any reason coverage” that costs a little more, but lets you get reimbursed for any cancellation reason.
2. What if something happens during, rather than before, your trip? Don’t worry, that’s why travel insurance almost always includes trip interruption coverage. If you have to end your trip early due to specific reasons, you can get some compensation.
3. Health emergencies can occur anywhere, anytime, even to people who usually enjoy good health. If you’re traveling to a foreign country on a cruise, then you could have to pay your entire bill right then if you’re treated at a foreign hospital. Thankfully travel insurance includes emergency medical coverage for these situations.
4. If you suffer a medical crisis shipboard or in a small port town, there may not be facilities equipped to help you nearby. Medical evacuation coverage will cover you for the expenses of transporting you to a hospital with the equipment and personnel capable of giving you the best care. That’s a major expense if you have to be evacuated from a ship in the middle of the ocean.
5. Many travel insurance policies cover pre-existing conditions (as long as the plan is bought within a certain period of booking your trip). It’s nice to know you don’t have to worry about being denied a claim if your condition requires treatment while you’re traveling. Do be sure to check with your insurance agent and read your policy carefully to make sure your insurance policy includes this coverage.
6. Although we don’t know of any insurance policy that will cover you for the time and hassle of replacing items in your lost or stolen luggage, cruise insurance will at least reimburse you for your loss. Check the limits for how far your policy will reimburse you – most policies may not completely cover expensive items like high-end laptops.
These six types of coverage are included in most cruise travel insurance policies. As with buying any insurance coverage, make sure to read the policy carefully and ask questions about anything that seems unclear. The great thing about travel insurance is that company will allow you to buy and have a “free look period.” If you don’t agree with the policy, you have a set number of days to refund it for your money back.
Also be sure to compare the benefits of different plans from different companies since coverage can vary widely. For example, some plans may only pay $50,000 for medical evacuation while others will pay up to $500,000.
Three Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Travel Insurance
1. Don’t postpone purchasing travel insurance. As we’ve pointed out in the past, “The best time to buy is as soon as you’ve purchased your cruise. This allows you all the cancellation benefits immediately should something come up between the time you purchase and the time you actually travel.” Also, buying early can make you eligible for pre-existing conditions coverage.
2. Skip the cruise line’s insurance. When you book your cruise, you’ll be offered trip protection. Buying insurance from the cruise line is simple and convenient, but we advise purchasing travel insurance from a third-party. In our experience, third-party travel insurance generally offers higher coverage rates for the same, or lower prices than plans offered by cruise lines. (For a more in-depth comparison of cruise line vs third-party insurance, you can read this.)
3. Don’t rely on your credit card’s built-in travel insurance. A full-coverage, third-party travel insurance policy will protect you from many scenarios your credit card’s insurance may not cover. For instance, many credit card policies don’t offer medical evacuation coverage — a big perk when on a cruise sailing around the open ocean.
Three Things to Do When Purchasing Travel Insurance
If you think it’s a good idea to get some travel insurance for your cruise, follow these guidelines when making your purchase.
1. Do your homework. Check out websites that let you see a comparison of different travel insurance plans. A website like InsureMyTrip.com enables you to plug in information about your cruise and receive quotes from multiple insurers. (You may also want to check out our article comparing several plans.)
2. Make sure you have adequate coverage. Remember that although cruise ships have medical personnel and equipment, they are not equipped to handle every emergency. For instance, you might have to be moved to another location for treatment, which can be expensive. As travel insurance search engine Squaremouth points out, “Medical evacuation coverage could be more important for cruises than any other type of vacation… A single incident might require an airlift from the ship, transportation to multiple medical facilities and even a flight home.”
3. Know what you’re buying. Travel insurance covers many more things than you might expect but there is also some fine print about what it will and won’t cover. When you buy you’ll receive a full policy with all the ins and outs. Be sure to review this before you stick with the policy. (You’ll have a “look back period” where you can refund your policy to give you time to review everything.
Our article here provides more details about what travel insurance generally does and does not cover. We’ve also provided a comparison of the costs of different plans here. When you choose an insurer, read the policy carefully and ask questions if there are things you don’t understand.
For cruise travel insurance, Cruzely suggests AIG Travel Guard. Our staff has personally used the coverage on past cruises and have been happy with the value. The premiums are reasonable and the insurance covers many of the common issues that can come up on a cruise. (We also like that you can get “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage, which makes things much more flexible should you need to cancel your trip.)
You can get a free quote here, see how much coverage might cost, and see everything it covers.