Cruise Travel Insurance: How to Make Sure You're Covered
When you’re booking a cruise vacation, the last thing you want to think about is what could go wrong. While you can’t control things like canceled flights or lost luggage, you can make sure you’re not on the hook financially.
You’re most likely already spending a decent amount of money on your cruise vacation, so is it worth it to spend even more on cruise travel insurance?
Sara Rathner, travel expert at NerdWallet explains why it could be an essential purchase, “A lot can go wrong that would interrupt your travel plans — flight delays that cause you to miss your ship’s departure, lost luggage, or illness and injury. Any time you spend a lot of money upfront for a trip that has many moving parts, travel insurance becomes worth the expense, especially if your existing health and homeowners insurance policies don’t provide the coverage you need.”
We love to cruise, but like any other vacation, there are some things that are just out of your control. In this guide we’ll cover the following:
Before you decide whether travel insurance is needed for your cruise vacation, you need to know what it actually covers.
Your cruise is canceled by the cruise line
It’s extremely rare, but there’s always the possibility that your ship will experience mechanical problems, delaying or even canceling your trip entirely. The cruise line will generally offer full refunds for the cruise fare, but they’ll only be able to help you so much. If the cancellation is last-minute, you’ll still be on the hook for other major out-of-pocket expenses like hotel stays and other travel arrangements. Travel insurance will reimburse you for the additional costs the cruise line doesn’t cover.
You have to cancel your trip due to an emergency
Sometimes, life gets in the way and you have to cancel at the last minute. It’s bad enough that you have to cancel the trip you’ve been looking forward to, but the cancellation fee you’ll get hit with if you don’t have insurance will just pour salt into an open wound.
Cruise lines will try to sell you their coverage directly, but they usually come with a limited number of reasons that allow you to be reimbursed and don’t usually cover the entire cost of the trip including your other travel arrangements. Travel insurance will reimburse you if you have to cancel your trip for a large number of reasons.
Medical conditions are a common reason. For Cruiseline.com member, JusMe, travel insurance has helped come in handy more than once.
“Over the decades we have used travel insurance a few times. For everything from a common cold and the flu up to pending spine surgery.” Getting reimbursed wasn’t that difficult. “All 3 of the times it just took requesting a claim form along with a doctors slip stating what the illness was. It was very easy to do. For the Spine surgery I knew they could not argue that one, They had no problem paying out on the cold and flu since ships will not let ill people on them. They checked with the Cruise line, air line and hotel and paid me back anything that was not refundable. It only took a couple of weeks.” - Read the forum conversation
Delays and missed flights
If you haven’t experienced the agony of a delayed or canceled flight, then please keep it to yourself. Plenty of us have experienced this, and trust us when we say it’s terrible. Missing the cruise ship takes this awful feeling to the next level.
The right coverage can reimburse you for things like hotel stays, food, and additional expenses caused by flight issues. If you’re lucky, they might even be able to help you catch up to the ship at the first port of call. Cruiseline.com member, spinningmarty, found out there’s nothing the cruise line can do if you miss departure because of a delayed flight, but travel insurance sure does help.
“Due to storms at our departure airport, we missed ship sailing and had to fly to Aruba to meet ship Celebrity hotline was very helpful and is a good thing we had travel insurance as they do not refund anything or give you anything for missing the first 3 days.” - Read the full review
Problems with your luggage
If you touch down in Seattle but your luggage arrives in Los Angeles, that’s obviously a big problem. Now you have to make a decision, do you risk missing the ship to try and get all of your belongings, or, do you just set sail with what you have? Travel insurance could help you with that decision. Policies vary, but you could be reimbursed for essentials like toiletries, clothing and other personal items. Some policies will also assist in getting your luggage to the next port of call.
Even with health insurance, you won’t be covered if something happens on the ship or while you’re in port. Best case scenario is your health insurance will cover a small portion of the expenses still leaving with you a large bill. Travel insurance can help make sure you’re covered and don’t get slammed financially once you’re back home. What could happen if you don’t have coverage? Cruiseline.com member shadygrove learned the hard way.
“BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE! My aunt had a heart attack while onboard. We discovered there was an outstanding medical bill for $17,000.00 from ships medical. that is not covered by her Medicare. Port agents never followed up to make our hotel reservations.” - Read the full review
It might be rare, but situations requiring emergency evacuation from the ship can happen. If there’s a serious health problem like a heart attack or stroke that’s too serious to be treated in the onboard medical facilities and the next port is too far away, a medevac could be needed to help save your life or the life of a loved-one. So when evaluating your travel insurance coverage, Travel Journalist David Yeskel (aka The Cruise Guru) advises that you keep this in mind: “When evaluating travel insurance policies, travelers shouldn’t focus solely on the obvious coverage options for trip cancellation, baggage delay and missed connections. Those are important, but they’re trumped by what I consider to be the most critical travel insurance option of all: Emergency Evacuation coverage.”
Being airlifted will save your life, but without travel insurance, it will most definitely impact you financially, says Yeskel. “The cost for this evacuation – aboard a specially-equipped plane with a nurse and/or doctor – can run upwards of $250,000. My advice: spend a few extra bucks to bump up the medevac coverage on your chosen insurance plan. It’s well worth the peace of mind - and the service, should you need it.”
Not all travel insurance policies are the same. What one policy covers may not be included by another, or you may only be partially reimbursed. It’s crucial to do your research and read the fine print. The last thing you want is to file a claim only to find out your circumstances aren’t covered.
There are a few things we can tell you that are definitely not covered. If you have bad weather throughout your trip and weren’t able to ride the go-carts or climb the rock wall, there’s nothing you can do. You also shouldn’t expect reimbursement if your itinerary happens to change or ports are skipped due to bad weather.
This part can get a little tricky as there are different policies, conditions, and scenarios that must be taken into consideration. If you’re traveling with a group or family, they need to be added to your policy or purchase their own, although children under the age of 17 can be added for free when traveling with a parent or guardian. When your family member is your traveling partner, then your policy can cover things like trip cancellation.
What happens when your trip is canceled by a family member that is not traveling with you? If you find yourself in a scenario where you’re about to fly out for your cruise the next day but your mom is hospitalized causing you do cancel your trip, are you covered? If your policy includes trip interruption of trip cancellation benefits, you are. Travel insurance can help you get reimbursed for those non-refundable expenses.
Allianz Travel states that when looking at your policy you need to “pay attention to the part labeled, Exclusions.” Why? “Our plans, like other types of insurance, have exclusions that impact the coverage and benefits. Each plan is different, so be sure to read the documents we send about your plan.”
You can purchase cruise travel insurance directly through the cruise line, through a travel agent, or from an insurance provider. Purchasing directly through the cruise line, while convenient, can be a little pricey and doesn’t always offer the best coverage. If you’re working with a travel agent, ask them for recommendations they've probably worked with a certain company personally and can give you in-depth information on what is covered. If you’re starting from scratch, you can visit the U.S. Travel Insurance Association. They can help you ask the right questions for finding the best coverage for you.
Things can get a little complicated when filing a claim with your travel insurance if you’re not prepared. It’s imperative that you know the details of your plan so you’re not surprised when something isn’t covered, or your reimbursement isn’t for the total amount.
When filing a claim, it’s important that you follow these steps outlined by Jason Hargraves, managing editor of InsuranceQuotes.com:
Have all of your documentation. “When it comes time to file a travel insurance claim you need to have ALL your documentation at hand. Don’t throw away any receipt or doctor’s orders. You will be asked to prove why you missed the cruise. I can’t stress how important it is to have complete and accurate documentation of any loss for which you are seeking a claim.”
File as soon as possible. “Often, travel insurance companies have smaller windows for when you can file a claim. Even a couple of weeks can make a huge difference. Filing deadlines will approach quickly so you must file a claim ASAP.”
Be prepared to escalate if you’re denied or the reimbursements are incorrect. “If a travel insurance claim for your cruise is denied and you feel the company was in the wrong, then ask to speak to someone higher up in the insurance company or even consult an attorney. You don’t have to accept their initial response without any recourse.”
Join The Discussion
Do you ever buy travel insurance?