Travel insurance makes for smooth sailing

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By the time this article posts, my mother and stepfather should be happily on their way, aboard a seven-day Carnival cruise through the warm, tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea…first to Cozumel, Mexico…then to Belize City, Belize.. .on to Roatan Island, Honduras…and finally to Grand Cayman Island. With Arctic temperatures currently deep-freezing this entire region of the country, the timing of their winter escape could not be better.

Hard to believe that not even 48 hours earlier, because of an infection recently diagnosed in my mom’s leg, they came very close to cancelling this vacation. While it’s never a good time to get sick — and your first concern is to heal and be healthy — illness can become costly if it interferes with vacation plans. Should you need to make last-minute changes, you may be liable for cancellation penalties and fees, or you simply may lose out on being refunded any deposit you’ve already made on the trip.

Barbados: Cruise ship docks at Bridgetown harbor. (All photos by Larry Luxner)
Barbados: Cruise ship docks at Bridgetown harbor. (All photos by Larry Luxner)

It’s a good thing my folks had the forethought to guarantee their cruise vacation by purchasing travel insurance — coverage that, in the event of illness or family emergency,  would enable them to reschedule their trip without added fees or penalties. Even though they ended up not having to use it, just knowing that they had the coverage made my mom’s diagnosis and their situation that much easier to deal with.

What’s Covered

The two major cruise lines that sail from Baltimore, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Pride, offer travel insurance options at an additional cost when booking their trips. While both cruise companies’ plans offer medical expense and emergency evacuation coverage as well as protection against property damage and loss of baggage, the basic coverage waives the non-refundable cancellation provision of the cruise ticket contract, enabling travelers to get a full cash refund of up to the entire cruise vacation cost.

According to Royal Caribbean’s website, enrollment in its CruiseCare program makes this possible “should you or your traveling companion need to cancel or interrupt your cruise vacation for any one of the following reasons:

  • sickness, injury, or death of yourself, a traveling companion, or members of either of your immediate families, which is diagnosed and treated by a physician at the time your cruise vacation is terminated;
  • involvement in a traffic accident, en route to departure, that causes you to miss your cruise;
  • your home is made uninhabitable by a natural disaster such as fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, or volcano [thus causing you to cancel or interrupt your trip];
  • you are called into active duty by the military to provide aid or relief as a result of a natural disaster;
  • [you are] subpoenaed or called to serve for jury duty.”

In addition, refunds are provided for the difference in cost in the event your traveling companion may have to cancel his/her trip for any of the above reasons, resulting in a change of occupancy rate.

Jamaica: Carnival cruise ship docked at Ocho Rios. (Larry Luxner)
Jamaica: Carnival cruise ship docked at Ocho Rios. (Larry Luxner)

Carnival’s Cruise Vacation Protection plan is similar to what Royal Caribbean’s CruiseCare program offers. But that said, the restrictions that apply to both plans are similar as well.

According to Carnival’s website, the company will not waive its “cancellation fee and provide a cash refund, should you cancel or interrupt your cruise vacation for any of the following reasons:

  • a condition that first presents, worsens, becomes acute, or has symptoms causing a person to seek diagnosis, care, or treatment, or prompts a change in medication, during the 60 days before the Cancellation Fee Waiver Program is purchased;
  • a condition related to: elective abortion; use of alcohol or drugs other than as prescribed by a doctor; psychological disorders (unless hospitalization is required); or pregnancy (unless hospitalization is required);
  • business, contractual, or educational obligations of you, a family member, or a traveling companion;
  • a declared or undeclared war or act of war;
  •  service in the armed forces of any country;
  •  unlawful acts (committed by you, a family member, or a traveling companion); or
  • any specified reason cited previously that occurs prior to the purchase of the Cancellation Fee Waiver Program.”

Rates for travel insurance can vary according to the total cost of your cruise package as well as how much coverage you wish to purchase.

Bahamas: Cruise ship docks at Freeport terminal, Grand Bahama Island. (Larry Luxner)
Bahamas: Cruise ship docks at Freeport terminal, Grand Bahama Island. (Larry Luxner)

In addition, coverage for cruise vacations also is available through independent travel insurance companies. While the benefits of each may be similar, there are some variations in coverage and in cost. Therefore, whether you’re opting for travel insurance through your cruise line or through a separate company, as with any purchase, it’s important to read the fine print before buying. (For a list of additional trip insurance companies, see the sidebar.)

In my family’s case, my mom and stepdad purchased their trip insurance for $118 through the travel agent who booked their cruise.

“Yes, we bought our coverage through our agent,” notes my mother, adding her own advice, “Check to make sure you’re getting the best coverage for your insurance dollar.”

She also maintains that the $118 was money well spent.

“We were not stressed in the least, because we knew, no matter what, we would not lose our trip,” reflects my mom.

Of course, the very best news for her and my stepdad was to finally get the go-ahead from her doctor to travel, just 48 hours before my folks were scheduled to leave on a welcomed winter respite for them both.

Bon voyage!

Online Cruise Coverage Resources

For More Information

The online resource, Cruise Critic, offers a comprehensive article, “Travel Insurance Primer for Cruise Travelers,”  on the pros and cons of travel insurance. It includes the following list of trip insurance companies:

Also, read Cruise Critic’s complete article online.

One thought on “Travel insurance makes for smooth sailing

  • January 25, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    The big reason for insurance is if you become seriously injured or ill on the trip and need a medical evacuation. That is very expensive, much more costly than the comparatively minor costs of the trip itself. However, if you are one of the lucky ones who have coverage for such a medical evacuation through your health insurance, then you have a decision to make about whether trip insurance is worth it.

    If you have medical issues, or close relatives with medical issues that might cause you to have to cancel your cruise, or some other situation that makes you a high risk of cancellation, then it’s probably worth it. But if not, then look at it this way: If the insurance costs, say, 10% of the cost of my trip, am I likely to cancel more than 1 in 10 of my vacations? If you had to cancel one of the 15 trips you took, and lost the entire cost that time, you’d still come out ahead overall compared to paying 10% for insurance each trip.

    But, like I say, unless you have medical coverage, and medical evacuation coverage, overseas, you definitely want trip insurance.


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