Chances are your regular health insurance plan won’t cover medical assistance if you need it on a ship or in a foreign country. When used internationally, most domestic health insurance plans only cover events they deem emergencies, and you must pay up front, submit a form, and then … hope to receive a reimbursement check.
The last thing you want to think about when ill or injured is the cost of treatment and, while cruise ships have onboard physicians to treat minor injuries or illnesses, most are not equipped to handle major emergencies. Here are five things to think about when deciding whether to buy extra health insurance coverage:
Review your current policy.
Before you leave for your trip, it’s important to know where your regular health insurance applies and how much it covers. You don’t want to be surprised by extra charges after you’ve received treatment. Review your policy on your own, or call your provider and have a representative explain the fine print. If you think you will need more coverage than what’s included in your regular policy, it’s time to start looking at additional travel health insurance plans.
Know what medical facilities are available onboard.
Cruise ships have a doctor and nurses onboard to handle minor medical issues. If you’re worried about what to do if you catch a cold or sprain an ankle, know that (for a small fee) the team will be able to help you. Some lines, though, go beyond the basics — Holland America Line, for example, offers X-ray facilities, and Royal Caribbean International has a helipad for emergency evacuations — but these facilities carry a high price tag. Travel medical insurance covers emergency evacuations, and other treatments could be covered under the medical expenses clause.
Decide what plan meets your needs.
Basic travel medical coverage offered by third-party insurance companies — like FrontierMedex, Travel Guard, and HTH Worldwide, — includes all medical expenses up to a set limit, usually at or above $100,000 in emergency evacuations, accidental death expenses, and international consultation services. Certain plans also cover prescription refills, doctor referrals, and language translations. Add-ons, such as adventure sports coverage, are available for those who book active shore excursions. Some cruise lines, like Carnival Cruise Lines, also offer medical travel insurance, but it’s usually limited to $10,000 in medical expenses and $30,000 for emergency evacuation, without the option to purchase additional coverage.
Travel insurance can be combined with travel medical insurance.
Many third-party travel insurance providers include coverage for trip delays, lost baggage, medical expenses, and emergency evacuations all in one plan. Consider buying a plan that covers everything, and then purchase add-ons for extra coverage should you feel it’s necessary.
Consider your itinerary.
Taking a weekend cruise to the Bahamas? Travel health insurance may not be as important on this trip as it would be for a two-week voyage to a far-flung location, especially one with pre-cruise immunization requirements, like parts of Africa. Or, if you want to bungee-jump, zip-line, or rock-climb, it might be a good idea to get additional coverage.