Last week, the Huffington Post published an article with a misleading title: Carnival Cruise Lines and Why Third Party Travel Insurance Pays. The article goes on to imply that third-party cruise travel insurance would have helped those travelers who were stuck on some of the rather epic cruise ship debacles that have occurred lately, including mechanical issues, engine fires, and propulsion problems.
The result of these cruise ship failures have left passengers stranded at sea for days without power or working toilets, and in some cases, being flown home (at the cruise line’s expense) after debarking early.
While the HuffPost article goes on to clarify that neither suing the cruise line nor expecting a lot of concessions from them is likely to get an angry cruise passenger anywhere, it’s important to be clear that travel insurance isn’t going to rescue them either.
Stranded Cruise Passengers Can’t Expect Much Help from Travel Insurance
When you’re stranded on a boat with no power, no running water, no food, and no real answers as to when the situation will end, no one could blame you for wanting to get off the boat immediately and either go home or go somewhere else. After all, vacation time is limited and a cruise vacation is relatively expensive as vacations go, so you’d expect to be able to enjoy it.
Unfortunately, travel insurance – even third-party travel insurance – can’t help passengers in situations like these, and here’s why:
- Trip cancellation claims have to be initiated before the trip starts. This includes ‘cancel for any reason’ claims too.
- Trip interruption claims – that is, interrupting your trip and going home, have to be the result of a covered reason for abandoning your trip (you can’t be evacuated simply because you want to go).
- Evacuation claims are isolated to medically necessary emergencies and, with some plans, security evacuations due to political rioting, terrorist actions, that kind of thing.
None of these coverage options fit the situation the stranded cruise passengers were in.
The Huffington Post article is correct in that insurance packages offered by the cruise lines themselves are not likely to help when the ship breaks down either. While a third-party travel insurance plan is always recommended by those of us here at Travel Insurance Review, as well as by many travel experts, even third-party travel insurance would not have been able to do much to help the travelers stuck in these nightmare vacations.
The fact that Carnival Cruise Lines also gave their passengers future credits and refunds means that the passengers were compensated, i.e., they were made ‘whole’ again. They may have had no fun, been significantly inconvenienced, and were probably downright unhappy about their cruise, but essentially the cruise line made things ‘right’ again to the level they’re required to and travel insurance won’t provide anything on top of that. After all, a cruise ticket is more than your pass to get onboard – it’s actually a legally binding contract that limits the cruise lines’ liability and the cruise lines don’t have to offer angry passengers anything at all.
When IS Travel Insurance Useful to Cruise Travelers?
Here’s how having a comprehensive travel insurance plan can help you when you’ve planned a cruise vacation:
- If you must cancel your trip before you leave – if you have to cancel your cruise trip for an illness, an accident, or other event, travel insurance will reimburse your pre-paid non refundable trip costs as long as you cancel your trip for a covered reason. The reason you’re cancelling must be covered by the travel insurance plan and the covered reasons are listed right in the plan document. If you want extra peace of mind and the ability to cancel for any reason at all, you can pay a little more and get ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage for up to 100% of your trip costs. See our review of trip cancellation coverage.
- If you need emergency medical care or an evacuation off the ship – most cruise ships have some minimal medical treatment facilities on board, but if your illness or injuries cannot be treated by the staff, you’ll want to know that your travel insurance company will arrange and pay for your medical treatment and evacuation. See our review of travel medical and evacuation coverage. With emergency evacuation coverage, an insured traveler also gets repatriation coverage which assists their family in retrieving their body if they die on a covered trip.
- If you miss your connection and the boat departs without you – air travel is more unpredictable than ever these days and if you miss a connection and the boat departs without you, you could be out thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. The right travel insurance plan will overcome that problem by helping you find alternative flights to catch the boat at the next port. see our review of missed connection coverage.
- If your luggage is delayed or lost during your trip – when your luggage fails to arrive on time, it can make the first days of your trip very difficult. Travel insurance can help a traveler by reimbursing their purchases for the essentials when their bag is delayed and replacing their personal belongings (including the suitcase) when the luggage is deemed lost. See our review of baggage coverage and baggage delay coverage.
Of course, most travel insurance package plans come with a range of benefits that can also be of use to cruise passengers as well, including:
- 24/7 travel assistance services
- Flight accident and AD&D
- Concierge services
- Identity theft services
- Lost passport and credit card services
- and more
Unfortunately, what you can’t expect from your travel insurance company – even though you might like to – is that they will rescue you off a ship in the middle of the sea when no one is having any fun.