What Critical Coverage Features You Should Look For in A Cruise Travel Insurance Plan

We get a lot of support questions about selecting the right travel insurance plan for a cruise. Channel 9 television in Cincinnati ran a story about a couple that lost a $2000 cruise due to flight delays getting to their ship even though they had travel insurance.   They purchased an economical plan without looking at the provisions or having anyone explain the risks that the plan would not cover.   One of the exposed risks was travel delay of a common carrier.

Lack of coverage for travel delay of a common carrier is not that unusual.  You often see it in the coverage offered by credit card companies.  These plans offer basic cancellation coverage for things like medical problems that prevent you from traveling, but don’t necessarily cover you for many of the important risks you face during a trip that involves a cruise.

You may be thinking – wait aren’t all travel insurance plans the same, they just have different coverage limits right?    No – there is no regulated industry standard plan for travel insurance like there is for car or home-owners insurance.   Each plan is written differently, and can even differ state to state, so it is a good idea to read your plan after you purchase.   If you don’t see the coverage you need, every plan sold has a minimum 10-day free look period where you can cancel the coverage for a full refund.

Having the good sense to buy travel insurance to cover a cruise, but then buying the wrong plan is somewhat ironic.  Now that we are entering the cruise planning season, I thought we would give some advice about what you should look for when shopping for travel insurance plans for your next cruise.

Travel delays of a common carrier – this protects you in the event that your flight is late and you miss getting to the cruise on time.     Watch the time limits in the plan. Some have specific time limits on how much the delay you must experience before coverage kicks in. With this coverage, the insurance company will cover the lost day or days of your cruise as well as cover the expense to get you to the next port of call.

Cancellation of Your Trip if Your arrival on the Trip is delayed and causes You to lose 50% or more of the scheduled Trip duration due to the reasons covered under the Missed Connection Benefit.    If you are taking a short cruise out of Florida or Texas, this benefit is nice to have.   If you are going to miss most of the cruise, you can cancel and get your cancellation penalties refunded.

Hurricane coverage – this is a critical section of the plan to review.   Hurricane season is longer now than it was 15 years ago, and the storms are stronger.   If your cruise departs from the east coast, then this is critical coverage.   The provisions come is several different featuresL:

  • Common carrier Delay or cancellation due to Bad Weather
  • Destination made uninhabitable by natural disaster or flood
  • Mandatory evacuation due to bad weather or natural disaster
  • A hurricane warning being issued for your trip destination.
  • Documented weather condition preventing you from getting to the point of departure

Be careful of the definition of destination for hurricane coverage.   Most plans do not consider your port of departure for the cruise as a destination.  If you add a pre-paid hotel stay the night before departure at your departing port, then they will consider that city a destination on your trip.   This is helpful if you are concerned that a hurricane might hit your cruise’s departure city and want to make sure you can cancel.

Insurance companies generally don’t consider your ports of call destinations.   This seems odd, but they consider the ship as your “hotel” accommodations.   So even if a port of call is wiped out by a hurricane, or incurs a hurricane warning, they will likely not let you cancel the cruise under hurricane coverage.   If you have a night of hotel off the boat, at one end or the other of the cruise, then those cities a considered a destination. 

Inclement Weather that causes complete cessation of services for at least 12 consecutive hours of the Common Carrier on which You are scheduled to travel;   This is a very important provision during hurricane season.   Many ships will just change their itinerary to try to avoid a storm, but what if the storm pins down the ship before you can board.   Generally the cruise will refund their portion of the trip cost, but this provision provides coverage for the rest of your vacation plans.

Mechanical breakdown that causes complete cessation of services for at least 12 consecutive hours of the Common Carrier on which You are scheduled to travel;    Again, the cruise company will offer you a new cruise or refund for their portion of your trip if their ship brakes down and they take it out of commission, but this will help cover the rest of your vacation expenses.

Traffic accident while in route to departure. If this happens, you may not be in good enough shape or good enough spirits to take that cruise.

Bankruptcy of a travel supplier is generally not included in plans you buy from the cruise company.  It is included if you buy from a third party like TripInsurance.com

Cancel for any reason coverage is important when booking flights or other arrangements separate from a tour or special cruise.   Sometimes a special cruise may cancel due to lack of enough bookings, or they change their ports and cause you to lose your airline tickets you have purchased to get to the cruise.   Generally, travel insurance doesn’t cover a change in itinerary that happens before departure.  Cancellation of a special tour or cruise by the travel supplier is generally not a cancellation reason that will cover your other travel arrangements unless you purchase a cancel for any reason plan.

The cruise company’s cancel for any reason coverage is generally a credit on a future cruise.   If you get cancel for any reason coverage from a 3rd party insurance company then you get generally 75% of your cancellation penalties back.

Other important factors

Get at least $50,000 in medical coverage.

Get at least $100,000 in medical evacuation coverage for a carribean cruise or a western European river cruise, but at least $200,000 for a south sea, or Asian cruise.   If you are heading down to Antarctica – get at least $500,000 in medical evacuation coverage.

Missed connection coverage – $1,000 to $2500 to cover the extra expense to get home on time or get to the ship if you miss a connection

Trip or travel delay of $1,000