Cruise insurance blues

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Squaremouth has explained what travellers should look out for when offered travel insurance through their cruise line, hoping to shine a light on an oft misunderstood area. The US-based travel insurance comparison site said that travellers often purchase travel insurance through their cruise line because it’s the easy thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option.

Cruise insurance is purchased either directly through the cruise line or the open market, Squaremouth explained, but although the quality is just as high and the prices are similar, the coverage can be dramatically different.

“Cruise line policies aren’t always designed with the traveller’s best interest in mind,” said Squaremouth’s claims director Brandi Morse. “Travel insurance available on the open market can provide much more coverage for the same price.”

Squaremouth highlighted that most travel insurance policies will include coverage for cancellation, medical, baggage, and travel delays, while many major cruise lines limit their medical coverage to between US$10,000 and $25,000. “Medical expenses are often significantly higher than usual on a cruise and can exceed that amount,” the site advised, “resulting in additional payments for the cruiser.”

According to Squaremouth, cruisers should check coverage amounts. It recommends purchasing a policy with at least $100,000 in emergency medical coverage, and also warned that it’s important to read the fine print of policies, as many cruise line policies exclude pre-existing conditions, leaving travellers stuck paying out-of-pocket for medical bills they thought were covered.

Squaremouth also advises cruisers to check each policy’s exclusions, and for travellers with a pre-existing condition to look for an open market policy as soon as possible after booking their cruise. The reason cruise lines have less coverage, according to the site, is that they often receive higher commissions on the policies they sell, so their coverage can be lower. 

Kate Huet, managing director, International Travel and Healthcare Limited, believes that $100,000 is not enough for cruise passengers’ medical expenses if they are UK residents. “International Travel and Healthcare has been a specialist provider of cruise insurance for UK travellers since 2009 and we have seen medical claims from cruise travellers exceed this amount with increasing frequency,” she explained. “An air ambulance repatriation from Latin America, Australia, the US, Canada or the Caribbean with a medical team will cost nearly this on its own if returning insureds back to the UK. Add to this actual hospitalisation expenses and you are quickly way above this amount.”