Beaches. Sand. Surf.
Few think about all the things that might go wrong on vacation. Missed flights, lost luggage, accidental injuries, sudden illness and job loss shatter the perfect trip.
Consequently, every traveler and cruiser needs travel insurance.
What does travel insurance do for you?
Ever known someone who had to cancel a vacation because family member got sick, or had to work?
Got injured on vacation and spent most of it in a hospital? Stranded in a foreign country due to a medical emergency?
Lost baggage and suffered flight delays?
Of course these things happen, but we don’t want to think about that when planning a fun vacation.
Ultimately, travelers get travel insurance policies that cover all the crazy things that can happen.
Travel insurance covers a lot of mayhem:
- Trip cancellations
- Trip delays/interruptions
- Medical emergencies
- Medical evacuations
- Lost baggage
- Lost passport/wallet/cash/credit cards
Now, let’s take a look at this in detail.
Medical emergencies happen on cruises. For this reason, it’s one of the most important parts of a travel insurance policy.
Even if you have medical insurance (private insurance and Medicare) at home in the US, it will not be accepted overseas.
Common causes of medical emergency treatment:
Road accidents can happen traveling to the port, driving on a road in a foreign country, part of a tour group, or being hit by a car as a pedestrian.
Accidents on an excursion
Not all excursions are safe.
Some require a waiver of liability since there’s a good chance of injury. Below are a few examples. Not all are from cruise excursions, but can happen on cruise excursions.
- They were zip-lining on their honeymoon when they collided. He died, she was injured
- Flesh-eating bacteria claims Georgia woman’s leg after zip-line accident
- US ballet dancer loses legs in Bahamas boat explosion
- Couple Visiting Bolivia Became Infected With Flesh-Eating Botflies
A heart attack/stroke/other major event require immediate treatment, so medical evacuation is necessary.
Your health insurance at home does not cover evacuation. Neither does the cruise line. Neither does your credit card.
Med-evac is very expensive. According to USA today, “medical evacuation and transport costs typically start at $25,000 and can exceed $250,000.” It’s a safe bet that it will cost at least $100,000.
Ship’s medical facilities are very limited
Although cruise ships have a physician on board, they are only equipped to treat minor conditions.
Suppose your child broke an arm jumping off a table. The medical office may not even be able to take x-rays. Important to realize, your child would have to wait until your ship arrived in port, or med-evac’d to mainland for treatment at the nearest hospital.
People often cancel their cruise vacations for a variety of reasons. Next are a few circumstances covered.
You or your family member scheduled to cruise have a medical emergency (illness or accident) and have to cancel.
This happens more than you’d think.
First, many people share stories of a loved one falling ill before the cruise and cancelling.
Second, some bury loved ones who planned to attend the cruise.
Third, the primary cruiser has an accident or illness that puts them in the hospital or operating table, so there’s no way they’d be well enough to cruise.
Without travel insurance, you lose 100% of your cruise investment. Moreover, you also lose all non-refundable airfare and other non-refundable reservations/deposits you made. That’s a painful hit to take.
What if your work had an emergency and required you to stay home and miss the cruise? That’s covered if your policy includes work-related cancellations.
Other reasons to cancel
- Job loss after you made your travel reservations
- An official evacuation from the place where you’re headed
- Passport or visa doesn’t arrive before you leave
- A government-issued ban on traveling to that destination
- Natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, flood, blizzard)
- Disaster in your home, like a fire or a flood
- Travel company you booked with went out of business
- Jury duty or called as a witness
- Military deployment
Anything reason not included above would be covered under a travel policy with “any reason cancel” terms.
PRO TIP: Single supplement
If your cruise partner cancels, the cruise line may penalize you with a single supplement fee.
Single supplement is an additional fee cruise lines charge when a solo traveler books a cabin intended for double occupancy.
Travel insurance typically covers this fee if your partner cancels.
Even paradise has hazards.
Cruise planning comes with a variety of non-refundable fees. Some might include:
- Cruise deposit
- Final fare payment
- Hotel reservations
- Flight reservations
- Train reservations
- Pre-booked excursions
- Rental car reservations
- Day pass resort reservations
Travel insurance is great for covering annoying, headache-inducing delays that happen during your trip.
Some of the travel delays you may be compensated for:
- Missing flight due to weather, strikes, lack of TSA staffing, etc.
- Missed flight connection
- Accident on the way to the airport or cruise port
- Miss your cruise
- Get sick/injured during the cruise and must leave the ship
- Family member’s death
- Must leave cruise ship due to emergency at home
- Injury or illness during cruise and miss part of it to stay for medical care
- Lost/stolen passports/documents
- Kenneling pets for longer than expected
- Meals and hotel room if delayed overnight
- Reimbursement for unused part of your trip
- Arrangements to home after ship leaves you behind in a port
Travel insurance also covers lost and damage luggage:
- Actual cash value of bags and contents at time of loss
- Cost to repair bag or contents
- Some exclusions
Zip lines can be found on both land and ships.
Accidental death & dismemberment
Remember the woman I mentioned earlier who lost her legs on a boat in the Bahamas? That’s an example of dismemberment. Travel insurance covers loss of limbs.
Think about it — she’s a dancer. Namely, that’s how she makes her living. By all means, her legs are literally her income. Without them, she has no way to earn an income until she is well enough to learn new job skills.
If she had a travel policy, she could have potentially claimed:
- Accidental dismemberment
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Accident and sickness medical expense
- Trip interruption – loss of money spent on the trip (cruise fare, payment to boat operator, air fare, etc)
- Return transportation home (medical repatriation), possibly on a private jet staffed with a doctor or nurses
PRO TIP: Disability Income Insurance
How do I use travel insurance?
Most claims function as reimbursement.
In short, save and submit receipts for any covered incident when you get home.
However, in the event of expensive medical or emergency treatment, present a copy of your policy to medical personnel.
For this reason, the travel insurer guarantees payment for services rendered. Included services are emergency evacuation, emergency room treatment, tests and surgeries.
PRO TIP: Be prepared.
Bring a paper copy of your travel policy with you on the cruise.
Credit card travel benefits
Your credit card may offer some benefits, but it is not a comprehensive policy that covers everything a travel insurance policy does.
On the contrary, card benefits usually focus on luggage loss, electronics warranties, travel assistance, card replacement, rental car damage and loss, and travel accidents.
To this end, relying on card benefits alone lacks:
- Payment for trip cancellation
- Med-evac coverage
- Guaranteed payment for major health treatments
- Comprehensive medical coverage from physicians to tests or scans
- Reimbursement for loss of cash, credit cards, travel documents, passports/visas, eyeglasses, contacts
- Guaranteed transport home after a medical event
By and large, travel insurance can do all of the above and more.
Ultimately, think of credit card benefits as a nice added bonus, not primary coverage.
Cruising within the US
You might think — ‘hey, I don’t need travel insurance because I’ll be in the US the whole time.’
While that might be somewhat true for your medical insurance, it will not pay for med-evac or transportation back home for treatment. By the same token, patients have better outcomes when they’re near family and friends.
In addition, travel insurance covers baggage loss, trip cancellation and trip interruption.
Do I need travel insurance or should I just save the money?
If you don’t buy it and need it… you’ll be so mad at yourself.
That is to say, if you’re already paying $3,000 for a cruise, why not insure it with a $100-200 policy to make sure you don’t lose all $3,000?
Travel insurance gives you peace of mind so you can relax and enjoy everything your cruise has to offer.
When to buy
Purchase travel insurance as soon as you make your initial deposit.
Certainly, if booking a cruise with less than 90 days until the sail date, purchase the travel insurance as soon as you make that first and final payment.
Annual travel insurance policy
Frequent travelers, particularly international trekkers, could save money purchasing an annual travel policy instead.
As a result, annual policies offer coverage for the entire year, for all trips you make.
First, it covers you for once price through the whole year no matter where you go.
Second, they focus primarily on emergency medical care, rather than cancellation expenses.
Third, the cost of trips don’t factor in the pricing. Therefore, annual policies lack the comprehensive coverage of a single-use policy, like lost baggage, trip interruption and trip cancellation.
Finally, annual plans limits the length of your trip. Accordingly, many policies do not cover trip duration greater than 45 days.
Last minute cruise
A last minute cruise might tempt you to skip the travel insurance, since you aren’t going to cancel it.
Devastatingly, this is a false sense of security. For this reason, travel insurance covers more than just cancellation.
Notably, insurance pays compensation when there’s an interruption traveling to the port, or during the cruise embark.
In addition, a medical emergency on the ship could result in some five to six figure bills that your medical insurance will not cover. Travel insurance covers this.
Cruise line travel insurance
Travel insurance offered by the cruise line when you book is absolutely terrible.
First, cruise line travel insurance is always underwritten by a third party, like Allianz or AIG. That means the cruise line itself does not insure you. It just sells you a policy just like any other insurance agent.
Second, it only covers things that are related to the cruise itself. It does not cover your airfare or your medical or trip interruption.
Third, it’s very expensive. It’s just an expensive incomplete policy.
Take sensible precautions like using flotation devices to avoid hazards like open water.
Travel insurance through a travel agent
Travel agents sell travel insurance to earn a commission on the policy. They often don’t give you any choices–just quote you a price and ask “yes or no?”
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know if they’re offering you the best policy for your needs or the one which earns them the highest commission.
However, the internet makes it possible to do some shopping without paying a higher price.
A marketplace website allows you to compare prices between different companies or levels of coverage.
Where to buy travel insurance
There are about two dozen companies that offer travel insurance. The only difference between them are the coverage limits and the price.
Compare the exact same policy with the same limits between two different companies. You will have two different prices. Why pay more for the same thing?
There are several comparison marketplaces on the internet where you can shop. Here are two:
It doesn’t matter whether you buy from the marketplace or the insurer directly. The price will be the same either way. You don’t save any money by buying directly from the insurer.
If you use the marketplace, you will have people ready to answer your questions and help you decide between similar policies.
How to pick the best insurer
The best insurer is one with a high Financial rating. This means A+, A or A- rating for financial strength by a third-party reviewing board such as the A.M. Best organization.
Basically what this means to you is they have enough money to pay their claims. They are not going out of business anytime soon.
Consequently, you don’t want to do business with a poorly rated company. If you make a claim, there’s a good chance they may not pay that claim.
With this in mind, most insurers have identical or nearly identical policies, but they charge different rates. Why? Because they can.
Some cruisers recommend a specific brand, like AIG Travel Guard or Allianz. However, they all offer the same thing. Hence, people are just more familiar with those brands.
As a matter of fact, the brand name doesn’t matter if they’re all A-rated insurers.
Personally, I went with iTravelInsured SE for my cruises. It’s a highly rated company and they have a comprehensive policy with some of the lowest rates.
How to pick the best policy
Typically there are three different levels of trip insurance policies.
First, there is a basic coverage. It has minimal limits of liability payouts and may not cover certain types of cancellations or trip interruptions.
Second, there is an intermediate level coverage. It has significantly higher limits than the basic plan. It also covers more situations. This level of coverage is the best value.
Third, there is a top-level plan with very high limits, particularly medical. These work best for young people who take adventure-types of vacations, like skydiving, scuba diving, or mountaineering.
How much does trip insurance cost?
First, the price depends on how much the trip costs. The price for trip insurance covering a $1,000 trip versus a $5,000 trip will be different.
Second, insurance cost depends on the age of travelers. The older the traveler, the more expensive it is. Oolder travelers are more likely to need medical care than younger travelers.
Third, the cost depends on which level of coverage you want to get. I usually get the intermediate level of coverage.
Fourth, the cost depends on the duration of your trip. A week-long cruise is much less expensive to insure than a month-long cruise. However, an annual policy makes more sense for a long cruise or several cruises within one year.
PRO TIP: Include travel days
When getting a quote you want to include the dates that you actually leave home to travel to your cruise port. That is to say, if you plan to drive 2 days before embarkation, include those 2 days.